April 4th, 2011 by jennyha
After successfully introducing the bucket concept to students, the school librarian reinforced the idea by reading books to each class. The staff was excited and amazed at how quickly the students picked up the concept and started to apply it. The analogy of filling or dipping into buckets really worked! The school principal began to routinely ask the students in morning assembly to think about “How full is your bucket today?” I made a bulletin board using bucket graphics from the book and visually demonstrated how a bucket could be empty, a little full, half full, mostly full, and full by using a clear bucket and squeezy balls. I gave examples of events and thoughts that added or took away drops from my bucket that week. I was sure to include thoughts and actions I could do to fill my own bucket. For the older grades, I also integrated synonyms for the levels of bucket fullness (empty – vacant, barren, void; full – complete, bursting, overflowing) as well as fractions for math ( a little – 1/4, half – 1/2, mostly – 3/4). Math vocabulary words were also include: more/less/maximum/minimum.
February 14th, 2011 by jennyha
Last year our staff participated in a professional development using the book StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath and its assessment tool. This tool identifies each staff member’s 5 top strengths, so the community can capitalize on each others’ abilities. My supervisor also showed me another book by Tom Rath titled How Full is Your Bucket? In this book version for adult readers (written in 2004), Donald Clifton and Tom Rath suggest that we all have a bucket that needs to be filled with positive experiences, such as recognition or praise. When we’re negative toward others, we use a dipper to remove from their buckets and decrease their positive outlook. When we treat others in a positive manner, we fill not only their buckets but also our buckets. The authors illustrate how this principle works in the adult relationships (work, parenting, marriage) covering a 40-year span. While acknowledging that most lives have their share of misfortune, the authors also make clear that how misfortune affects individuals depends largely on their level of positive energy and confidence–which touches on a common theme we want to teach kids in school–resiliency.My supervisor had a great idea to share this book with staff and students at our school. When I went online to look at resources I was pleasantly surprised to see there was a companion book for children by the same authors as well as many other schools who have implemented bucket filling.
Also, another author Carol McCloud, offers a similar message in her two books Have Your Filled A Bucket Today and Fill a Bucket: A guide to Daily Happiness for the Young Child. McCloud is an early childhood specialist and president of Bucket Fillers, Inc., an educational organization in Brighton, Michigan. Her team mission is to create bucketfilling schools, families, and communities, where everyone is respected, honored, and valued. Her web page offers many ideas and bucket filling resources–journal pages, coloring sheets, reflection sheets, and certificates. Also if you google “bucket filling” you will see many examples of how teachers have implemented this concept, some even share developed lesson plans.
I presented this borrowed idea at our morning assembly using a powerpoint featuring our mascot and his bucket. I thought the kids would need to read the book to really get the concept. So I gained support from the school librarian and she agreed to read the different books to each class. I found out that I had no idea of how strong this metaphor was for the children. Kindergarten students immediately picked it up from the two minute powerpoint. The library lesson only solidified their understanding and desire to be more conscious in their actions.
Morning Assembly Powerpoint
January 7th, 2011 by jennyha
Elementary schools must often intentionally develop opportunities for the students in older grades to have opportunities to develop and display leaderships skills. I’ve found that it just takes a few ideas to jump start many opportunities for the “seniors” on campus. While some schools have long traditions of leadership strategies, a new school like UTES has to brainstorm ideas and also borrow things successful at other schools.
I’ve also found resources such as the publications from the Developmental Studies Center to be helpful for cross-age activities. They produce several publications through their Caring School Community curriculum resource. These publications offer many ideas of “Buddies” activities–partnering activities for students of different grade levels. They report that teachers have found that as a result of these activities they see more spontaneous helping behavior, less teasing, and more acts of kindness. These behaviors can only add to making a more positive school community and provide a sense of belonging to older students providing care and the younger students receiving it.
Buddy classrooms can start by having the older students read to younger students. Before our school morning assembly we may see older students sitting with students from younger grades reading or helping them with math flashcards. This year our principal began having older students help at dismissal time. Some schools may call this safety patrol. Our school is located a on a busy street and efficient dismissal makes a big difference in our community with traffic. To ensure safety and show care, every student is walked to their car and now fifth grade students are helping with this process by walking students to safely to their car and making sure they get in safely. Of course they are closely supervised by adult staff. Older students are also great greeters for important school events, fantastic helpers for award assemblies, and when consulted have great solutions for school-wide problems.
November 11th, 2010 by jennyha
“SHHH! Not talking in the library!” Of course that is the quote that comes to mind when we think of voices in the library. But when talking about student voice in SEL we are typically thinking more about how to give students the ability and empowerment to develop their self-awareness and share in an acceptable way so it can be heard by others. An earlier post on this blog discusses different ways primary teachers provide opportunities for students voice their ideas and opinions. Below is an example of how the librarian also gave her students a chance to voice their opinions about good books.
After finishing books, students were given the opportunity to share their opinion of the book and rate it. Given our state flower is the bluebonnet, the librarian chose it for the name of the review. Many students see books with labels of acclaim, but do they really understand or know why these books have awards? Students completing these reviews gives them the opportunity to see why they liked the book, why others may like it, what makes a book appealing to a certain audience or many audiences, and perhaps a stronger understanding of author purpose.
November 8th, 2010 by jennyha
Recently at one of our all staff meetings we reviewed the steps of problem solving involved in conflict resolution. We reviewed the steps put in place by our school, how to present them to different grade levels, how to utilize in and out of the classroom, and how to reinforce these skills. We did some role plays and talked about successes and difficulties with this tool. The next day I incorporated the conflict resolution steps into our school-wide morning assembly. I had four teachers volunteer to play a game testing their knowledge of these steps. Two teams were created and together they would have to reorganized jumbled up steps. To make it a little more interesting for the kids and difficult for the teachers, I blindfolded one of them. The un-blindfolded had to communicate with their blindfolded partner to write the corresponding number in the write square to indicate the order of the steps. The kids are encouraged to cheer the teachers on while they race through the game. A predetermined word (in our case it’s our mascot Bevo) is said to quiet the students at the end of the game. Then the teachers and students are asked some questions to reflect on the experience. What made it difficult to communicate? What strategy made it easier? Do you ever have times it is difficult to communicate with a classmate? What do you do? What can you do if forget the steps of conflict resolution? Hopefully these quick interactive games can plant seeds for kids to ponder and classroom to practice throughout the rest of the week.
October 31st, 2010 by jennyha
While many schools have made it policy for kids not to dress up for Halloween, our school does allow children the option to dress up with some basic rules (e.g., no masks, no weapons even if fake). We usually give kids some themes, like dress up something related to science or your favorite character from a book. Last year several people from staff dressed up like characters from The Wizard of Oz. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to link SEL ideas in a fun way during Morning Assembly. Not to mention teachers enjoyed dressing up and taking on the role of book character.
The Wizard from Emerald City asked the students to help him help the different characters. They came up with solutions to several of the character’s problems. What can lion do to feel more relaxed and not scared before a test? What thoughts can the Scarecrow focus on to feel more confident and better about his skills in math? What cues can the Tinman look for to help him be aware of his feelings? Why do you think the Wicked Witch of the West is mean to others? How can she try to make new friends? If you were Dorothy, who would you go to in your community for help?
This year at the Halloween morning assembly we chose the book Charlotte’s Web and discussed with the students ideas about friendship. The character Fern visited with the students and introduced her friends Wilbur (the pig) and Charlotte (the spider). Students were asked questions about how they were similar and how they were different. The students explored how friends can come from different backgrounds and how being open to new experiences brings unexpected opportunities.
Using children’s literature as a SEL resource is quite common in today’s SEL practice. So many books for children and young readers focus on concepts covered in SEL practices. They are a natural resource to bring SEL to life while strengthening literacy skills.
October 24th, 2010 by jennyha
While some savvy youngsters may bring up child labor laws when teachers assign class jobs, they may actually be surprised at the value it adds to the classroom. I must admit when I first started visiting elementary classrooms as a student in college, I thought the job lists were “cute”. Now I realize how these jobs can serve a purpose. In some cases these jobs may aid the teacher while he or she juggles the many tasks in his/her classroom, but it many cases it can provide a student with a task that seems important and significant to the student. Some tasks may be preferred and some may be easier. Some may be less exciting or more difficult. Either way these daily tasks can help students become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Also, these jobs in a small way can mimic future jobs and roles in their future community. Classroom jobs can help students become aware of how their role effects their class community. How does this job make the class better? Does the job make things more efficient, or does it make people feel welcomed? What would it be like if someone didn’t have this role? Would it be missed? Would it be a loss for the class community? For some adults the idea of being “door holder” would not create such need or loss in their worlds, but for some people a caring hand with warm greeting can make an enormous difference in any world.
October 17th, 2010 by jennyha
While walking down many school hallways or entering a classroom, a visitor may notice a bulletin board showing work or a poster filled with lists of student responses. To some people it may seem like an excessive list–asking each student their response of a word, a phrase, or sentence! But to others it is the opportunity for each member in their community to share. What’s more, sharing can also have the goals of developing students’ vocabulary and language skills. It also helps children learn about each other and be known to their peers. How are we alike and how are we different? Many spontaneous lines of inquiry can occur when students read or hear other student’s responses (Responsive Classroom Level 1; Northeast Foundation for Children, 2007). Many teachers use this as part of their morning meeting, but it can also occur throughout the day.
Teachers can take their students responses to the next level by categorizing them or showing them in a graph. Graphing the results helps students work on objectives under the math curriculum – developing and interpreting data in a graph. Also, teachers that plan ahead can incorporate these ideas into themes required for language arts, social studies or science. These pictures are examples I saw teachers using in their classrooms in the primary grades, but more advanced questions could be adapted to older grades.
October 10th, 2010 by jennyha
Many schools have developed lessons during the day or included community members during the weekend to beautify their school. In some cases the reasons behind these projects may be to simply improve the physical environments for which we work, learn, and play. For some schools in may an idea to support community involvement–students and teachers improving their space or families and community members giving back to the school in their community. And for others it may be that the weekend is when we can fit in these projects with a broader community. Whatever your school’s reason, these school improvement projects can be a fun experience for all
and another way to layer SEL learning objectives into something your school already takes pride in doing. Like many schools, UT Elementary has developed several Beautification Days throughout the year. These Beautification days are designed to improve the physical spaces while providing school and community members with an opportunity to provide service. Not to mention have some fun, maybe get some exercise, or possibly channel some creative energy. UT Elementary is a group of portables with an adjoining wooded deck. Despite the temporary nature and somewhat institutional look of portable buildings, the UT Elementary community has tried to make this environment a beautiful place to learn. Many people created murals and painted the outside of the portables in bright and friendly colors.
This year students help decorate pots and plant decorators for plants around the school. Adults helped this kids hang new plants and clean up outdoor community spaces. Again like many schools, UT Elementary adopted a school garden. Please see the UT Wellness blog to learn more about all of “the players” in creating and sustaining this beautiful garden as well as how it is used in daily learning and afterschool programs. While this garden has been in place for many years, a new garden committee was created this year to help organize classes, volunteers, planting, and harvesting. The Beautification Day was a perfect time to get the garden beds ready for planting. The before and after pictures shown here say it all!
October 3rd, 2010 by jennyha
Like many schools, UT Elementary meets as a school community every morning. The morning assembly provides a consistent place for students and staff to reconvene and start the daily routine of fun learning. The principal usually leads morning assembly and starts by providing announcements, a joke or two, and various meaningful connections to current events. Different classes take turns leading the school through the routine of taking a moment of silence, saying national and state pledges, the Do My Best snap, the Peacekeeper’s Pledge, and recognizing birthdays. Sometimes classes or students also present to the school on various topics or tell a joke, thus practicing Speaking skills. And of course the students in the audience are working on listening and focusing skills. I also get the change to do quick weekly presentations during morning assembly to model SEL skills for staff and students. Lately we have been reminding ourselves the words of Peacekeeper’s Pledge so we not only remember the words but make meaningful connections when we recite it every day, and make personal choices. Just like academic skills we have to provide opportunities for students to learn and practice these skills with the big goal of automaticity and higher critical thinking skills towards actions. Earlier this year I had some of the older students write down the components of the pledge as quickly as they could. Students like to cheer them on as quickly work. To reinforce these skills and recognize our students’ positive actions, staff give out Peace Tickets when students exemply Peacekeeping skills. This week we began to take a closer look what each line of the pledge means with examples using our school mascot Bevo. Teams of students across grades were given novel size tickets and had to connect them to the lines of the pledge each ticket represented.