April 13, 2017

Boy's Group Interactive Book

All too often I have boys 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 boys designed to do just that. It’s not that girls don’t get angry, I just see a lot of resources for girls and not many specifically for boys.  I made it just for boys to get them hooked, excited, 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 fifth grade boys. 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 boys. They said I was the only girl allowed in the group and I was invited in under special circumstances. I’m currently pregnant with a little boy so they said I was kind of like a boy and could join in. kids are seriously so funny.

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: Role-playing, How Could You Control Yourself?

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

In the end the boys 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 boys 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.

March 26, 2017

Girl's Group (Interactive Book)

At least three times a week I get complaints about the dreaded girl drama. It never fails. Girls these days are mean to each other. Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes it is on accident. Whether it be unintentional or malicious, in every grade level grades 2-5, there are multiple students guilty of this girl on girl drama.

It may sound silly. You may be thinking, “They’re so young! Just tell them to get over it.” While it may be true that some of the drama and reasons for the fighting are absolutely ridiculous, right now that’s their whole world and their main focus. These girl drama problems mean a lot to them in the moment and can leave lasting damage. It can also take away from their learning and cause classroom wide issues.

I decided that I had enough of the inflow of young girls running to my office in tears because someone was being a fake friend to them, or a “frenemy” as they called it. I decided that maybe I could help them realize how painful their actions were to the people they call their friends.

I started different variations of Girl’s Groups throughout second-fifth grades (I tried it with first but it was a little over their heads). The length of the group depended on the needs of the group and severity of their issues/drama. There are ten possible sessions, I mixed and match and skipped sessions as needed to create different versions of this interactive Friendship Book to fit each groups unique needs. Below is an outline of a group I did utilizing the full ten sessions, creating the full Friendship Book:

Session #1: Group Intro

Session #2: What is a Friend or Frenemy?

Session #3: Quality Sorts

Session #4: Situation Sorts

Session #5: Questionable Friendships

Session #6: Healthy Friendships

Session #7: How to Deal

Session #8: Role-playing Friendships

Session #9: Letter Writing

Session #10: Self Reflection

In the end the girls have a clear understanding of behaviors of a good friend, how to avoid being a frenemy, how to handle a frenemy and how to respectfully break up with a friend who isn’t the best for you.

I’ve seen a major decrease in drama in the groups that I’ve had create this book.

You can download your own copy HERE.

March 8, 2017

Worry Flipbook

Students are filled with worry and stress this time of year due to end of the school year demands and test success pressure. Now more than ever they need help with anxiety and worry. Students have been showing up in my office left and right with complaints about worry. It is nice to have a quick to make activity on hand to help them work through their worry and get back to learning.

This flipbook is perfect for just that. All together it takes about a minute to make. I double side print it on colorful paper (make sure to set your printer to flip on the SHORT side or else it won’t print correctly), line up the pages, fold the pages over and staple them together. 

Just like that, your flipbook is ready for use.

It came in handy this week when a little girl and her male best friend came to my office. She was in tears about have to take the FSA (state test in Florida). He was trying hard to make her feel better, but he himself was pretty nervous about the test too. 
I immediately thought of this book.

As we worked through it together, they realized they were also pretty worried about their friendships. They both didn’t really know how to talk to others and make new friends. It broke my heart when I saw them draw these. 

They explained that they didn’t know how to talk to other people. They said they like each other but wanted new friends but didn’t know how to make them. This was great information for me to find out because I now knew that if they learned some social skills surrounding friendship some of their extra anxiety would dissipate. I planned to meet with them the next week to help tackle that issue.

For today, we just tackled their FSA worries since that was the reason they came in and was the most pressing issue at the time. This flipbook had them explore what exactly worry means, identify their worry, recognize and explain how worry makes them feel, ways to take control of their worry, ways to manage worry and what strategies to control their worry may work best for them. 

They seemed to feel much better when we were done working through it together. She decided she was going to utilize the “write it out” strategy when she was worried. She said she was going to write down her problems and let them be the paper’s problem. He really liked the visualization technique and was going to picture himself on a beach with his family acing the test.

It really makes me happy when I can help little ones cope with their big emotions.

You can download this activity by clicking HERE.

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March 6, 2017

Turtle Flipping

“I am here today to talk to you about what it means to be helpful. Who can tell me what being helpful means?”

“It’s when you help someone!”
“Doing things that are nice to help people!”
“When someone falls you help them up!”

It’s interesting how hard it is for kids to put the definition of helpful into words.

“I’m going to show you a video and we’re going to see if the creatures in the video decide to be helpful or not.”

I then put on this video.  I do not own this video nor do I know who created it. It’s just super cute, hooks their attention and makes my point really well. I mute the volume and let it play.

While the video is playing, I start the meat of the lesson by saying, “This turtle over here is flipped over on his back (point to the upside turtle). Who has ever seen or knows what happens when a turtle is flipped over?”

Eventually we get to the answer that they cannot flip themselves back over and have to wait until someone comes along and decides to help them get back on their feet.

“That’s right, he’s upside down and helpless. He needs someone to come help him get back on his feet, he can’t do it by himself. How do you think that turtle feels?”

I get a wide array of answers such as scared, sad, mad, frustrated, upset, hopeless, etc.

“He’s probably pretty sad, wishing he hadn’t gotten himself into this situation hoping someone is nice enough to come help him get back on his feet. If we saw a turtle flipped over, it would be super easy for us to flip him back. We would use our hands and just pick him up. Turtles don’t have hands. The only tool they have is their head. Imagine if I fell on the floor right now and the only way you could help me get up is by using your head. How easy would that be?”

They usually get wide eyed and whisper about how they would break their necks if they tried that. I have to add that I am eight months, beyond super pregnant right now, so it is even funnier to see their reactions to this question since I have so much extra weight to throw around.

“It would be really hard right?! That’s exactly how hard it is for this guy to help him. How easy would it be for him to give up and walk away?”

“Super easy!”

“It would be! Look at him, he already needs a break!”

Usually we’re around minute two in the video and at this point the turtle really is taking a break.

“He needs a drink and a snack and probably wants to go hang out with his other turtle friends who didn’t get themselves into this situation! Let’s see what he does.”

I skip through the video by 30ish second intervals making a big deal about how hard he is still trying. When we get to minute four, I take a vote to see who thinks he’s going to be able to do it and who thinks he’s going to give up.
They watch in anticipation and every class I’ve had starts to cheer the little turtle on. One class even chanted, “You can flip him! You can flip him!” and clapped loudly and applauded when the turtle landed on his feet.

“Yayy! He did it! His turtle friend is now on his feet and ready to go. How do you think he feels now?”

I get a mix of happy, excited, calmer, etc.

“What I want you to remember about this video is that it was difficult for this turtle to accomplish this. He had to work really hard, but in the end it was totally worth it because he might have saved the other turtle’s life. It may not always be easy to help someone else, but it is almost always worth it.”

I then move into my situation card game.
“I have some cards here that have situations on them that challenge you to help out, to be turtle flippers, just like the turtle in our video. Let’s do a few together.”

I read three or four situations and let them answer in a class discussion format. We then give every student a card and have them utilize the stand up, hands up, pair up Kagan Strategy to partner up and discuss their cards.  

They each stand up, put their hands up in the air, find a partner and put their hands down. Students who still need a partner look for someone with their hands still up. Once they are all partnered up, they read their card to their partner and their partner answers. The other partner then reads their card and waits for an answer. After a few minutes, I say, “switch cards, hands up, pair up”. The students switch cards and are off to find a new partner.
When ready, I collect all the cards and have all the kids go back to their seats.

We then start on our activity sheet. I put the sheet up on the overhead and have a student read the sheet and then we talk about what they are supposed to do with the activity sheet.
After they understand that I want them to draw a picture and write a sentence about how they can be helpful, I pass out the sheets and let them get to work.

It is so fun to see where their minds go!

When finished, I let them keep the worksheets as a fun memory of our time together. Some teachers have decided to collect the sheets and put them in the student’s leadership notebook. I love that I am doing a lesson the teachers feel is worthy to include in such an important notebook.

Download your own copy of the “Will You Help Flip the Turtle?” cards HERE.

Download your own copy of the “I Can Be Helpful” activity sheet HERE.

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March 4, 2017

I Am Special Because...

Kids are extremely honest. Sometimes way too honest. They can easily hurt each other’s feelings and not even realize it. At times they say things that can have a lasting impact and damage someone’s self-esteem. Kids are also extremely resilient; sometimes a quick confidence boost is all they need to completely change their day.

Here is how I did that for a few girls that were feeling particularly down about themselves.

I took a piece of paper and drew a tree map on it. I wrote my name at the top and underneath I wrote the sentence, “I am special because” I labeled the three parts of the tree map “I can, I like, I’m good at.” I drew three blanks under each category and used this as a model for them to copy.
I grabbed the girls, we chatted for a bit and then I gave them each a blank piece of paper. I put my model in front of them and they created their own copy.
It was so fun watching these three friends pump themselves and each other up and talk about how awesome they all are.  I loved hearing them say things like, “You’re really great at singing!” and “You’re always super helpful!” or “Remember when we played on the trampoline? You’re so good at jumping!”
We only spent about fifteen minutes together, I cannot believe how much their confidence soared in that time frame.

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March 1, 2017

Friendship With Yeti

Use “Friendship with Yeti” to help your students make new friends!

In this world of video games, tv taking over and internet consuming us, all too often I have students come to me because they have no "real" friends. They can give me the screen names of their online friends, yet have no friends in class. After a brief chat, it is clear to me that they do not know how to communicate in real life with other kids. They haven't yet learned the social skills that allow them to make friends. They could potentially be the best friend someone could ask for, but no one will ever know because they do not know how to set the stage for friendship. This resource attempts to change that by teaching children how to make friends by following the moves to the "sifting dance".

I first show them the posters to help explain each step of the “sifting dance”.

S- Say Hi
I- Introduce yourself

F- Find out what they are like

T- Talk about something fun
I- Invite them to do something with you
N- Name something fun you can do together in the future
G- say Goodbye

I like how it breaks apart each step into understandable pieces that can be displayed students to utilize. You can also put them on a ring and create a book out of the posters for easy storage!

If I have a lot of time, I then move on to the twelve conversation starter cards.

These cards include common scenarios that could lead to friendship such as a new student in class or a game being played at recess the student may want to join, as well as thought provoking questions such as "what do you do to make friends?"

It helps me to understand their thinking patterns and opens up some great conversation. It also allows them to think about how they would approach each situation and role play what they may say. 

Once students are more comfortable, we work through the “How to Make a Friend” workbook (if I don’t have a lot of time, I go straight into the workbook activity and skip the conversation starter cards).

This workbook allows students to dive deeper into each step of SIFTING by breaking apart each step into easy to manage components. It helps them create a plan and learn the steps to making a friend! In the end, students will fully understand how they can approach someone to start a potential friendship.

Before they leave, I give them each a Takeaway Card they can use as memory joggers to refer to long after they leave my office.

After utilizing these activities, my kids have a much clearer understanding of how to make a friend and more confidence to put the skills into practice.

Download your own copy HERE.

February 26, 2017

Dangerous Dozen, 12 apps all parents should be aware of

Technology can be an amazing tool for our young ones for learning, researching and connecting. It can also be a parent or educator’s worst nightmare. Although the internet and apps can be a great way for our students to explore and learn, it can also quickly turn dangerous.

In this ever changing world, we have to be vigilant to make sure our kids are safe on the web. It is so easy for kids to connect and communicate in ways that were not available when we were young; with the quick changes in technology it can be hard for adults to keep up and keep them safe.

In an attempt to minimize online dangers, we can monitor what our children are doing online and try to keep up with the latest apps and online trends. The better we understand the world of apps and online communication, the better we can protect our children.  

Here is just a few of the most popular apps (for now) among elementary school kids:

1. Youtube
Youtube itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, but without appropriate filters and parental controls kids can quickly be exposed to a plethora of inappropriate content that they are not ready for. Enabling YouTube’s Safety Mode Feature will filter out most of the inappropriate videos and comments left by other users.

2. Video Games
Children playing on Xbox or Playstation may seem harmless enough, however, kids are able to easily communicate with people all over the world through the click of a button on a headset. Many adults that mean to do children harm use this feature as a way to groom vulnerable children in an attempt to meet them in real life. The same dangers are present in interactive games such as Clash of Clans. We assume they are harmlessly playing with other children but sometimes this is not the case. The best way to avoid this is to hang out with your kid once in a while when they are playing and make sure they are staying safe. 

Pay special attention to if your child is playing Robolox. Perpetrators are using this game in specific to target children due to the characters in the game having the ability to be very sexually explicit. 

3. Snapchat
Children think this app is safe because they can send content to friends and strangers that “disappear” in about 10 seconds. It makes children feel secure in sending pictures and videos they may not normally send since the content cannot be saved or shared directly from the app. Children being as smart as they are, have found a work around for this feature. They screenshot the private content, have someone else take a picture of their phone and there are even apps now that allow you to save the pictures and videos without the sender ever knowing. 

4. Instagram/Facebook
The problem with Instagram and Facebook is that many kids are in competition with each other to see how many “likes” they can obtain. Not only does this cause them to leave their profiles on public, (public profiles have a higher probability of being followed by strangers leading to more likes) but it also allows predators to easily access their information and know exactly what to say to them based on their interests and posting patterns. Based on the child’s settings, both of these have location services that will potentially tell the world exactly where your child is posting their photos and status updates from.

5. Musical.ly
This app allows users to create their very own music videos. They can lip sing and dance to the latest hits and then share their creations with the world. As always, it isn’t as innocent as it sounds and kids have used the interactive component to cyber bully each other. Many hurtful messages are posted and shared through this app. If used correctly, it can be very fun and entertaining, just make sure your child isn’t using it to be mean behind the screen.   

6. Live.ly
This is made by the same people who made musical.ly. This app allows users to stream live video content to friends and strangers. The ability to live stream content has flooded this app with predators meaning to do children harm and proposition them in real time.

7. Kik Messenger
This app is referred to simply as Kik and is a free instant messaging service much like text messaging. This is a kid’s go-to app for cyber bullying since you can create an account and send messages, photos and videos completely anonymously to either one person or as a group message. Even if they do create an account in their name, it is easy to send messages and hide them from parents who go through your texts.

8. Whisper
People post messages known as whispers, and receive replies completely anonymously. People post confessions, information about other people, gossip, etc. Once you make a post, someone cannot contact or respond directly to you because they have no idea who posted it, they can only respond to the actual post.  This is a hotbed for cyberbullying because it is virtually untraceable making students feel invincible and able to post anything without repercussions.

9. House party
House party is a way for people to be together even when they are apart. Kids get together through the app and “live chill” from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Kids can live chat and see each other in real time. Beware of who your children are “live chilling” with and if they are people you’d want them to chill with in real life.

10. Ask.fm
People can anonymously ask and answer questions posed by other used. There is no way to increase the privacy settings, if you block someone they can still access your profile and view all of your interactions. This app has been labeled the worst app to communicate bullying, abusive, sexualized content and has been linked to the highest number of suicides among these type of apps.

11. Omegle
This is a website and an app and its entire purpose is to connect you with strangers. Its tagline is “talk to strangers”, that alone should tell kids not to download but alas, they still do. People can chat through text or video with people they have never met before. Beware, just because they start out as strangers behind a screen doesn’t mean they stay that way for long. Predators use this site frequently to befriend and potentially harm vulnerable kids. 

12. Calculator% and Poof
As if all these apps aren’t scary enough and this information alone makes you want to search your kid’s phone with a fine tooth comb deleting every app you see, there is an app to hide all these apps from you. The two most popular are calculator% and poof. Calculator% is used to hide photos and videos that kids do not want parents to see. Poof is used to make apps disappear entirely. 

You can download a brief PowerPoint presentation of these apps, including pictures of what they look like when downloaded on a phone, table or computer HERE

I presented this information to the SAC/PTO at my school and they were shocked by what their children might be exposed to. Together, if we stay vigilant, we can work together to keep these kids safe. 

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