Today, we read a story called "The Bicycle Man." The author, Allen Say had dedicated this book to a 1st grade teacher of his, Marita Sensei. We talked about how Marita gave her students words of encouragement during sports and played outdoor games with them. So, Marita may have influenced Allen in terms of morale support and teaching him new outdoor games.
After we read the story, I gave the class opportunities to share their own brief stories with the rest of the class. I asked students to first talk with a neighboring student for a couple minutes by mentioning important people in their lives that had influenced them. Unfortunately, when I had asked them, a lot of my 4th graders didn't know what "influence" meant. That was a shortcoming on my side. Then, I let them write a list in one minute about who those people were.
Afterward, I reminded everyone that a person who has influenced them would be anyone who they want to be like or who has changed how they think. After I said that, three quarters of the class' hands went up. For every student, I would ask, "Who influenced you? How did they influence you?" And, I would keep asking them questions until I had a specific story from them. Then, I would respond back just by verifying what they said. "Oh ok, so your dad influenced you by writing really neat when he was in 4th grade, so you want to write really neat like him." I did that with three quarters of my students between 5 and 10 minutes.
After I went through all of their stories, they had tons of examples to go off of. So, they had a much better idea of what "influence" meant than when I had first introduced the word.