Ryan O’Brien Therapeutic Books – A Teacher’s Perspective
From the first moment that I read the series of books Ryan O’Brien, The Smallest Horse of All, A True Story I was entranced by their ability to take me on journeys that have been so familiar to me, both personally and also as a teacher of students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We all have stories to tell, but not all of us have the confidence to share them and Ryan O’Brien helps to give a voice to our own stories.
This series of six books, written by Dr. Kathleen Mary Bokey, in my opinion, has one clear cut and fundamental purpose and that is to help children and adults alike; to voice concerns, to help develop skills of problem solving, and to find answers.
Dr Kathleen Mary Bokey has brought to our attention that animals and humans are very much alike, and these true stories of Ryan O’Brien are shared with us in such a tangible way, that you can’t help but marvel at the thought provoking words and real photographs that illustrate everyday problems and discovers the answers, either on our own or with the help of friends and family who love us. They help you realize that even the smallest of us (be it actual or perceived) can make BIG decisions that will change the way we feel and see things and bring about our own success.
The print in these books is large and bold and from a teaching perspective enhances the point that the author, Dr. Kathleen Bokey, is making, that the problem is important and so is the decision making process along with the successful conclusion.
There is usually just one sentence, one idea per page, with true, real and insightful photographs, and all this together makes this series of books a delight for the reader and the listener.
The large print size allows children, from beginning readers and up, to read these books on their own and to easily read about the frustrations and disappointments of Ryan O’Brien and the journey he puts in place to help himself and others to find success and confidence.
Personally, these books are an extremely useful tool in any classroom as they help the teacher provide students with many immediate and repeated experiences that resolve some very big questions and uncertainties in life; such as feeling like you have lost your identity as a new person in a new school or classroom, (Ryan O’Brien The Smallest Horse of All A True Story – Book One), or what to do when your best friend moves away (Ryan O’Brien, The Smallest Horse of All, finds a new best friend – Book Two). The ongoing and ever present issues in schools of bullying are discussed and resolved with Ryan O’Brien, The Smallest Horse of All and Kalinski the Bully – Book Five.
The author, very cleverly, not only tells a story, but poses a question at the end, which allows the reader to further investigate their own feelings and from a teaching perspective easily transitions to the next part of the lesson, where students can freely share their opinions as part of the whole class or as individuals, as part of their journal writing.
Teacher – Pre-school to High School
Assessment of Meadow Ponies Series
With Regard to Infants’ Syllabus & Practical Guide to Use in the Classroom
By Monique van Balen, Bachelor of Education (primary) honours, University of Sydney
Learning to talk and listen
Learning to write
Communicating – COES1.1 & COS1.1
Decision Making – DMES1.2 & DMS1.2
Interacting – INES1.3 & INS1.3
Problem Solving – PSES1.5 & PSS1.5
Knowledge and understanding –
Interpersonal Relationships – IRES1.1 &IRS 1.1
Values and Attitudes
V1 Refers to a sense of their own dignity and worth
V2 Respects the right of others to hold different values and attitudes to their own
V3 Enjoys a sense of belonging
Early Stage One:
Change and Continuity
Significant Events and People
CCES1 – Describes events or retells stories that demonstrate their own heritage and the heritage of others.
CUES1 – Communicates some common characteristics that all people share, as well as some of the differences.
Social Systems and Structures
Roles, rights and responsibilities
SSES1 – Identifies ways in which their own needs and the needs of others are met, individually and cooperatively.
Change and Continuity
Significant Events and People
CCS1.1 – Communicates the importance of past and present people, days and events in their life, in the lives of family and community members and in other communities.
CUS1.3 – Identifies customs, practices, symbols, languages and traditions of their family and other families.
Social Systems and Structures
Roles, rights and responsibilities
SSS1.8 – Identifies roles and responsibilities within families, schools and the local community, and determines ways in which they should interact with others.
VAES1.1 Makes simple pictures and other kinds of artworks about things and experiences.
VAS1.1 Makes artworks in a particular way about experiences of real and imaginary things
MUES1.4 Listens to and responds to music.
MUS1.4 Responds to a range of music, expressing likes and dislikes and the reasons for these choices.
DRAES1.1 Uses imagination and the elements of drama in imaginative play and dramatic situations.
DRAS1.1 Takes on roles in drama to explore familiar and imagined situations.
DRAS1.2 Conveys story, depicts events and expresses feelings by using the elements of drama and the expressive skills of movement and voice.
DRAES1.3 Dramatises personal experiences using movement, space and objects.
DRAS1.3 Interacts collaboratively to communicate the action of the drama with others.
DRAES1.4 Responds to dramatic experiences
DRAS1.4 Appreciates dramatic work during the making of their own drama and the drama of others.
Ryan O’Brien the Smallest Horse of All
Book One – Who are you? Lesson Ideas
- Read the book Ryan O’Brien – The Smallest Horse of All
– Do you think everyone has the same big dreams?
– Do you think that the same things always make different people feel warm and fuzzy inside?
– How could you help someone to be brave like Ryan O’Brien does when Painter is afraid?
– Note vocab such as appetite and responsibility – discuss the meaning of each word.
- Discuss the question – ‘who are you?’
- Students decorate a paper person cutout with their own features and draw pictures or write qualities about who they are around inside of it. (Worksheet 1)
- Students draw a picture of themselves and complete the sentence ‘My name is_______________ and I am the __________________of all’ (see model -worksheet 2)
- Students present their drawing and completed sentences to the class
- Put artwork up around the class as a display of the class’s qualities
- Reiterate the uniqueness of each and every member of the class and reinforce the notion that all students have different qualities, but that each is just as important in contributing to society and in being an effective member of the class environment.
Ryan O’Brien finds a new best friend
Book two – Do you have a best friend? Lesson Ideas
- Read the book Ryan O’Brien – finds a new friend
– What are the qualities of a good friend?
– Does everybody always look for the same qualities?
– Who would you speak with if you had a problem and weren’t sure what to do?
– NOTE vocab including foal, wisest, galloped, verandah – discuss the meaning of each word.
- Create a class ‘Friendship Recipe’ where each member contributes an ingredient such as ‘a cup of honesty’ or a ‘tablespoon of generosity’ to display in the class.
- Play a game of ‘roll the yarn’. Students sit in a circle and roll a big ball of yarn to one student before stating a good quality about the student. The student then rolls the yarn onto someone else and does the same. Repeat until everyone in the class has had a go.
- Students draw a picture that shows all of the qualities of a good friend and how this friendship makes them feel. Create a friendship wall in the classroom.
Ryan O’Brien and the very fancy pony
Book Three – What do you prefer?
(A life in the spotlight with lots of attention, or a quieter simpler life) Lesson Ideas
- Read the book Ryan O’Brien and the very fancy pony
- Ideas for discussion:
– Why do you think Clarissa was so upset when Jodie-Lee came to the farm?
– Have you ever felt upset when a friend of yours has invited someone else to play with you too?
– Why do you think people can sometimes become jealous?
– What did Ryan O’Brien do to make sure that both Clarissa and Jodie Lee felt included?
– What can we do to make sure people always feel included?
– What can we do if we begin to feel jealous? Who should we talk to?
– NOTE vocab including palomino, shawl, browband, Tavistock – discuss the meaning of each word.
- Ask Students if they have ever felt jealous like Clarissa. Discuss how being jealous feels (if not already discusses previously) and ask students what they think it would look like you could see jealousy in colours. Brainstorm what jealousy might look like if it were a picture on paper and send students back to desks to ‘draw the feeling of jealousy’. Attach the verbal explanation of their drawing to their work.
- Discuss the differences between Ryan O’Brien and his best friend Clarissa and Jodie-Lee. Mention that Ryan O’Brien and Clarissa are very happy being meadow ponies, but that Jodie-Lee enjoys a more fancy lifestyle. Students then create three still images that depict what they would most like to be doing if they could be doing anything.
- Students discuss which pony they think they would be most like. Draw a picture of this pony and explain why. Re-iterate that everyone is different and that some people enjoy different things to others, but that just like the ponies, we all have something to show one another and can still enjoy each others company.
Ryan O’Brien and the pony who lost her whinny
Book Four – Have you ever lost your whinny? Lesson Ideas
- Read Ryan O’Brien and the pony who lost her whinny
- Discuss the term ‘whinny’ and what might have happened in Mimi La Boom’s life to cause her to lose her whinny.
- Discuss the different ways that the other meadow ponies and horses helped Mimi La Boom to find her whinny again.
- Why might people lose their whinny?
- What are things that happen in our lives that cause us to lose our whinny? Draw, write or discuss with a friend a time where you have felt as though you have lost your whinny and what you did to overcome it.
- What could you do to help a friend find their whinny if they lost it and were feeling sad?
- Refer back to the class friendship wall and look at the qualities needed to help someone who has lost their whinny. Students write sentences to add to the wall following the model: A good friend _________ E.g. A good friend listens when someone is talking. OR A good friend helps others. OR A good friend shares. Etc.
Ryan O’Brien and Kalinski the Bully
Book Five – Have you ever been bullied? Lesson Ideas
- Read Ryan O’Brien and Kalinski the Bully
– How did the ponies and horses in the book feel when they were bullied?
– How do you think Mr. Kalinski felt when he was bullying the others?
– How did the meadow horses and ponies stop the bullying?
– Was Kal really a bad horse or was he just trying to protect himself from being bullied?
- Students draw a picture of what bullying looks like. Older students can then write underneath their picture what bullying feels like from the perspective of both the bully and the bullied.
- Role play bullying scenarios in pairs:
Person one is the bully and says ‘I just did something mean, I__________’
Person two responds ‘That’s not nice, doing that will make them feel__________________’
Scenarios can include
– Hit someone on purpose
– Kicked someone on purpose
– Called someone a mean name
– Teased someone about wearing glasses
– Told someone they were stupid
– Said mean things about people behind their back
– Left someone out on purpose
– Put mean notes on someone’s desk
- Discuss the way Mr. Kalinski changed when the meadow ponies began treating him nicely. Create a class collage or word wall that displays various behaviours towards one another and the feelings this behaviour triggers.
- Listen to the theme song ‘Got to Stand Up’ and discuss the message about bullying that the song displays. Have a sing along session and watch the youtube clip for some ideas of actions to pair with the song.
There are two worksheets included with this writeup and are available by downloading the entire outline in pdf format (below).