March 7, 2018

Kinder Breakfast Bunch

I had a group of kinder friends that were not the best at being nice to others just yet. They hadn’t quite grasped that their actions are powerful and can leave a negative impact if they are not considerate of other people’s feelings.

I started a breakfast bunch with this group and it went fantastic. 
They loved playing our card sort games while they ate breakfast and I saw such a change in their behavior. They are really great kids; just needed a bit of guiding to be shown that what they do impacts others, both positively and negatively.  

We met six times, the first time we established group norms and expectations while getting to know each other a bit better. It was really cute watching them create rules for their group and listening to them discuss which rules were truly needed.

The next two times we met, we played our carrot card sort. I made the holders out of paper bags and laminated all the cards because kinder kids are always sticky!
They thought it was absolutely hilarious to feed the rabbits carrots. They giggled as they talked about how hungry the rabbits must be. Towards the end of the game, one little girl said, “Aren’t these rabbits full already?! He is going to get a tummy ache!” seriously, so cute.
The next two times we met, we played the good citizen sort game. It is made the same way with paper bags and laminated cards.
I did not laminate this set before we played and it was a terrible decision. By the end, all of my cards were bent, stained and sticky.
The kids loved it, they really like being able to decide which container the cards went it. “You’re good! You were bad!” they giggled as they thought about the described actions. The words on the cards were a bit too high level for my kinders so I read the cards to them and let them decide where it went.
The last time we met, we discussed what we learned about good choices and good behaviors. We came up with a plan for how they were going to be good people who look out for others in the future. It is amazing how much of a difference you can see in a kid once they realize the way they have been behaving, is not the best.

Download your own copy of the Carrot Card Sort Game.
Download your own copy of the Citizenship Packet.

Let's Connect:

March 6, 2018

Girl's Group (Calm Down Control)

All too often I have girls come into my office upset because of something that happened that caused them to lose their cool, or in trouble for how they responded to the situation that angered them. Sometimes they act out in anger intentionally, sometime they just don't know how to better handle the situation. 

The kids I work with are young; anger is a big emotion. Most adults do not even appropriately handle their anger, how can we expect these little ones to keep in control? Instead of punishing them for losing their cool, I want to teach them the skills to understand and manage their anger. I want to teach them skills they can take with them into adulthood that will help them to become better people overall.

Building on this idea, I created a small group curriculum for girls designed to do just that. I made it just for girls to get them hooked, excited, and feeling like they were invited to a special class by someone who cares.

 This small group curriculum is packed with 10 interactive activities designed to teach students more about their specific type of anger, how to handle situations that anger them and role-play common anger inducing situations all while they have fun making their own interactive book. 

I just finished up a small group using this resource with four third grade girls. They had a blast learning how to control their anger and keep calm while they designed their own Calm Down Control book. Each session, they created an additional page or two of their Calm Down Control book. I utilize cardstock paper instead of an actual notebook. At the end of each session, I collected the pages and keep them all until the end of our group. I then stapled the pages together and let the students take their Calm Down Control Book home.

I made a book along with the girls. Below is an outline of our sessions together and pictures of the book that I created.

I cannot wait to run this group again with another set of students.

Session #1: Group Intro, Group Norms, Get to Know Me Activity

Session #2: Anger Triggers

Session #3: Anger Types/Describing Your Specific Anger

Session #4: What Does Your Anger Feel Like?

 Session #5: Steps to My Anger

Session #6: Who Has the Control?

Session #7: Who Should Have Control?

Session #8: Keep Calm Tools

Session #9: Roleplaying, How Could You Control Yourself?

Session #10: What Works Best For You/What Did You Learn?

In the end the girls have a clear understanding of their specific type of anger, acceptable behaviors when upset, ways to handle their anger, calm down tools/strategies and what works best for them.

I’ve seen a major decrease in episodes of anger explosions with the girls in the groups that I’ve had create this book so far. I’m sure your students will learn a lot about their anger, while having fun too!

You can download your own copy HERE.

Stay Connected:

Good Citizens

I love teaching kids that their behaviors can have an effect on others and the world around them. It is fun showing them that they are a part of something bigger than just themselves. I enjoy opening them up to the idea that their actions can leave huge impacts on others and their community. Whether that impact is positive or if that impact is negative, is up to them.

This month the character word is citizenship. I decided to focus my guidance lesson on the differences between good citizens and citizens that need to try harder to help others and their community.

I start the lesson by asking what the word citizen even means. I use these posters as teaching tools to help guide the discussion.
Once everyone understands what a citizen even is, I like to read, “What if Everyone Did That?” I take every opportunity to discuss if the situations describe good citizens or citizens who need to try a little bit harder. After we read the story, I have students do the card sort game.
To make it, I use two brown paper bags as the sorting containers. They are super cheap to make and super easy to use. You could use any containers you have available. Simply print and attach the labels to the front of your containers.
I print all of the items in color and then laminate everything so that it is durable and I do not have to remake it frequently. There are fifty four cards included; I narrow it down a bit and pick out the key situations I know I want to talk about to save some time.
I let each student pick a card, either read it out loud to the class or read it to me quietly and I will repeat it to the class. They then decide if they think the situation describes a good citizen or a citizen who needs to try harder. Once the decision is made, they drop it into the corresponding container.

When that activity is complete, I like to follow up with a worksheet. I like for them to have something tangible to take home and something they can look at to reinforce the concepts. The activity is designed to challenge student's ability to describe good citizens while thinking about their own actions and behavior. 
The kids also like the time to work together and the free time at the end to color. You’d be amazed at how hard a kid will work on an activity sheet if they know they are going to be able to color when it is over.

For students who may need one-on-one or small group instruction in order to fully understand these concepts, I pull them and we work together (or as a group) to complete the cut and glue activity.

Sometimes the reinforcement and more individualized attention is all a student needs in order to excel. We work together to decide if each of the twenty-four situations describes good citizens or people who need to try harder. Once all situations are sorted and discussed, we glue them to the page. Students can decorate and keep this as an awesome reminder of how great of citizens they can be!

January 29, 2018

Friendship Challenge

Today, I want to talk about friendship. It seems like my little ones do not have the skills or the confidence levels needed to try and make friends. It breaks my heart to see them sitting alone at lunch, not engaging with other students. Or when I see them hanging out off to the side at recess, hoping someone will just come talk to them. I can tell they want to ask to join the games and be part of the fun with other kids, but they really do not know how. The idea of approaching a group of kids can be really overwhelming.

So I decided to make the 30 day friendship challenge.
This challenge allows kids to step out of their comfort zone and complete daily activities designed to help build confidence and the skills needed for lasting friendships. This challenge breaks the idea of making a friend down into manageable pieces allowing kids to complete one task a day.
All of the tasks and activities are designed to improve their ability to make friends and to help them build their confidence. Having to practice the skills 30 different times in 30 different ways really helps kids reinforce the concepts and helps them to be better equipped to try and make friends.  

The rules of the challenge are simple: 

Each morning they randomly pick one friendship challenge task puzzle piece and read the written challenge. By the end of the day, complete the friendship challenge skill that is written on that puzzle piece such as smiling at someone new, doing something nice for someone, sitting next to someone they’ve never talked to before, etc. 

   All of the challenge tasks are designed to help them step out of their comfort zone and help them become more confident as they build the skills needed to interact with new people.
   After each completed challenge, they put the piece off to the side. As they complete more and more challenges they can try to put the puzzle pieces together. 
Once the puzzle is complete, flip it over to reveal the mystery message written on the back!

It is that simple! Kids will have a blast learning how to make friends and be a better friend during their friendship challenge quest. 

This challenge is ideal for elementary aged students, I recommend first-fourth grade. Parents can use this with children who need a bit of help making friends, teachers who want to do the challenge as a whole class activity (perfect for morning meetings) and school counselors in small groups or with individual students (ideal for morning check ins). Discuss each challenge with your kids to help get the conversation about how easy or difficult each challenge was for them. Kids will love your feedback and will soak up your words of encouragement!

January 3, 2018

Kindness Letters/Staff Morale Boosters

I don’t know about you, but we are exhausted at my school. Christmas break is around the corner and we are excited for the vacation time. In the meantime, I wanted to remind teachers why they come to work every day. I wanted them to remember why they are so important and that they are changing kids’ lives every single day. The impact they have is monumental; even if they don’t feel it. 

For this month’s guidance classes, I read students “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” and then did an activity with them that will help fill teacher’s buckets. I thought the kid’s eyes were going to pop out of their heads when I told them we were filling teacher buckets. They were so stinkin’ excited.

After reading the story, I gave them one of these worksheets:

I told them to think of someone who works at our school who has made a difference in their lives. It could be their current teacher, a past teacher, someone in the office, the librarian, custodian, cafeteria worker, bus driver, someone who smiles at them and makes their day better, anyone at all that has had an impact on them. The only rule is that the person has to work at our school. The reason for that is because at the end of our lesson, I am collecting the papers and will randomly give them to the teachers to brighten their day. The kids were stoked.

I gave students about 15 minutes to complete their letter and draw a picture (if they choose to draw). I collect them all and went through them in my office. I’ve got to tell you, I myself got so much joy reading through those letters. These teachers make a bigger impact than they will ever know.

Like a magical little Christmas elf, I’ve been randomly putting one in the teacher’s mailboxes. 

I cannot believe the smiles I’ve seen as they read these letters from current and past students. I can’t believe the smiles on the cafeteria workers and bus drivers faces when they find out a kid could pick anyone from the entire staff to write to and they chose them. That a kid thought they were important and that they mattered that greatly to that child. 

It might not last long, but for now, the morale of those teachers has been boosted and they have a beautiful keepsake to refer back to on the tough days. On those days when they are questioning why they became a teacher and googling what else they can do with a teaching degree, they can pull out those letters and be reminded of just how special and important they are. I am so blessed that I have a job that allows me to do that for them. 

I even got a few letters myself to look back at on the days that I question if I am making an impact. Reading back through those letters, I know that I am. That is an amazing feeling. 

How are you boosting morale at your school? How are you promoting kindness? If you want to do this too, click HERE for the FREE download!

Let's Connect:
Follow Me on Pinterest 

November 21, 2017

What Makes You Fintastic?

I love activities that help boost students’ self-esteem. There is nothing better than the smile kids get while they explain something that makes them awesome.

This activity was designed to help students explain what makes them “fintastic”. I may have been shark week when I came up with this idea. 

It is super easy, students answer the questions,cut out the shape, 
and fold it up to make their very own shark fin. 
there are a ton of different question templates for differentiated instruction. It was so fun making these and even more fun seeing the kids enjoying it. 

Download your own copy here!

November 17, 2017

Playful vs. Mean Teases (Tease Monster)

Enduring some teasing is a part of growing up. We all had to go through it and all have had teasing that was meant to hurt as well as teasing that was done in good fun. The mean teasing is easy to identify, it hurts us and leaves a lasting impact. Playful teasing can lighten the mood, or it can be misconceived and seen as rude. It is all about who says it, and how it is said.

Kids are sensitive and sometimes what is meant to be friendly, light teasing, can really hurt their feelings. I’ve been noticing that a lot with my third graders this year. They are so quick to say that they feel someone is being mean or that they are being bullied, when in reality there is just a bit of teasing going on. I decided to teach my kids the difference between mean teases and playful teases in hopes of cutting down my peer conflict and bullying requests.

The main question I wanted them to ask themselves before visiting the complaint department (aka my office) is: Are they laughing at me or laughing with me? To accomplish this, I taught a thirty minute lesson to each class where we read Tease Monster by Julia Cook, reviewed key terms, played a fun sort game and completed an independent activity sheet.   

We started by reading Tease Monster by Julia Cook. I absolutely love her books, but they can be a bit wordy. I skipped a few parts but made sure the message was still clear. In third grade, most teachers don’t have comfy rocking chairs and reading mats, I displayed the book on the overhead and made sure all students could see.

After we read the book, I used these posters to review the difference between mean teases and playful teases. 

We talked about laughing with and how it is different than laughing at. We reviewed the mirror test and talked about how before we tease think of how we would feel if someone said it to us.

We then “feed” the monsters. I’ve got to tell you, the kids were cracking up at this part. Using two paper bags, I created two situation sort containers. One was for mean teases, the other for friendly teases.

Students pick a card, read it out loud, and then drop into the mouth of the appropriate monster depending on if they think the situation describes a friendly tease or a mean tease.

Some of the situations could be taken as mean or friendly, depending how the person it was said to, takes it. In these situations, I had all of the students give me a thumbs up if they would perceive the tease as friendly and a thumbs down if they would take it as a mean tease. This showed the class how sometimes what we mean to be friendly can really hurt someone’s feelings. It was a good visual to show that we have to be careful of the words we use.

After we finished with our sort, I passed out the activity sheets as a way to check for understanding and ensure all students were not only listening, but understand the concepts. There are two different versions of the activity sheets so I was able to differentiate instruction to an extent.

I have to admit, my third graders have been understanding each other a little bit better since I did this with their grade level. I definitely have had less kids in my office telling me about teasing. 

Download your own copy here!