Monday, February 1, 2016

Random Acts of Kindness 2016

First, let me just acknowledge that I have been silent for a LONG time.  A lot has happened.  I teach third grade now, specifically math, science and art.  Completely out of my OLD comfort zone, but it is amazing how comfort zones grow. Ha!  I have a larger family, and I am busier than ever before.

But, I wanted to take a moment to share this little character education printable, because if there is one thing that hasn't changed in my teaching practice it is the understanding that the HEART comes first.  You can't challenge a child's intellect without first tending to his or her emotional needs.  A little kindness goes a long way.

This year, I have been inspired by this awesome post I pinned several years back.  If you don't have time to read it, I will summarize for you.  The blog's author listened to her children speaking one day, and heard her son explaining to his sister that there IS magic in the world- it is in all the kind things people do.  Talk about "out of the mouths of babes"!  So beautiful!  Inspired, this mom asked her children to make magic "kindness wands" and they left them in public places with a challenge for others to do 3 random acts of kindness.

I love this idea!  However, I don't think we have time in the schedule this year to make wands.  But, I want my students to focus on kindness in February, and wanted to give them some ideas for random acts of kindness kids can do to make a difference!  I made this little calendar for them.

My students will be challenged to complete as many acts of kindness as they can before Valentine's Day.  I will provide in-class time for students to discuss the kind acts they are performing, and how it makes them feel.  On Valentine's Day,  we will discuss kindness and I will be providing a sweet, heart-shaped treat in return for all the sweet things they have done for others!  (Kindness has this habit of finding its way back to you...)

You can go to my TPT store and download a copy of this printable for free.

I'm so excited to see my students' excitement over what they can do for others!  Kids love to make others happy.  This kind of magic truly changes the world!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas Books 10-15

The last week and a half before Christmas was a BLUR!  I barely had time to kiss my children hello before I was kissing them goodnight!  (And, if I am honest, sometimes the goodnight kiss WAS the hello kiss!)  But, I have been blissfully resting for the past 7 days after Christmas, taking a break from everything worthwhile, including blogging.  And now I feel utterly useless, so it's time to come back.  I thought I'd begin by sharing the rest of the Christmas books, in case anyone else hopes to do something with them next year.   Then, come back later for some goal setting for the new year!

BOOK 10-  The Polar Express

I am sure you have TONS of activities you already do with this story!  My class used it as part of our retelling unit, to discuss beginning, middle, and end.  After reading the story, we completed a train-themed story map, using pictures and sentences.  Students showed beginning, middle, and end on their trains, as well as all the story parts we have discussed so far.  (I had students draw pictures the first day, and the next day we wrote sentences using the words "First, Next, Then, and Last.")

  I did not make the train on this worksheet.  It was given to me by a teacher friend on PT years ago:

This is my first attempt at embedding a google doc.  If anyone has a better way (I know there is one!) and you want to share, feel free to leave a comment below!

BOOK 11 -  Christmas Makes Me Think

In this story, a young boy shares all of the fun things he thinks about at Christmas.  But then, he starts to think about how it must be for those who DON'T have the fun times he has... the trees, animals, and homeless people.  He thinks of ways he can care and share.    My students were entranced by this book.  I could tell it really got them thinking!

I used the book as a tie-in to a writing lesson.  Here's how it went:

* Read story to students
*  Brainstorm "what Christmas makes me think of" (We wrote our ideas on chart paper.  I wrote student names next to their ideas.)  Students were asked to make a "mind picture" before giving their idea.
*  We practiced writing sentences on mini- white boards,  so that we could practice using a capital and period, and where to look for words we don't know.
*  I showed students their Christmas gift books for their parents (little books sharing the class's thoughts on Christmas - very cute!) and told them we were going to make the center page.   We used a plain sheet of student writing paper  for first grade, that went horizontal, to add it to our book.  (Picture on top, lines on the bottom).
*  Students wrote a page using the sentence starter "Christmas makes me think of_________" and illustrated it.

I was so happy many of my students wrote about things other than presents and Santa Claus!  This was a GREAT book to get them focused on caring and sharing during the holiday season.

BOOK 12-  Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

This is a delightful little book, that kept all of my student's interest to the very last page.  Mr. Willowby buys a Christmas tree that is too large for his mansion.  He cuts the top off to throw away.  Another family takes the top to make their tree, but it is just a bit too large for their home.  So, they cut the top off and throw it away.  An animal family discovers the top and uses it for their tree, but it is just a tad too big, so they cut the top off and.... you get the picture.  This happens over and over throughout the story.  The kids loved it!

When we finished, we practiced our verbs with some fun Christmas action cards from one of my favorite blogs.. Oopsey Daisy.   Here is the link to Alison's Google Doc:

Book 13-  Santa's Snow Cat

This story largely appealed to my girls and cat lovers.  (Every year I have at least one child who ADORES cats - not sure why!  But, I do try to cater to my cat lovers and provide some cat stories now and then!)  Snow Cat is Santa's favorite cat, who gets lost during Santa's travels one night.  She looks everywhere for the real Santa, and finds a lot of fakes.  Eventually, Santa finds her.   I thought it was a nice one for kids who are doubting, to help them know that not all the Santas they see are real and they don't have to believe that shopping mall santa is real if they don't think he is.  

We were going to make these cool snow flakes from Family Fun, but we ran out of time that day!  The story alone was enough fun for the kids.  Here is a picture I got from   They also have directions for the activity here.  My own children and I will be making these for our "snow day" at home tomorrow!

BOOK 14-  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

We read the classic Rudolph story with this fun shape-book.  Afterward, we sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and played "reindeer games" for math.  We did a fun I Have... Who Has  game with place value!  Then, I let the students play their math center games, many of which are reindeer and Christmas themed.

BOOK 15-  If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

I had a lot of fun activities planned with this story, but there just wasn't time in the schedule!  Maybe next year!

I hope you all had happy holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book 9: The Little Fir Tree (& a little math!)

If you are looking for another touching Christmas story to share with your kids, look no further than The Little Fir Tree, by Margaret Wise Brown.  

This story brought tears to my eyes as I was reading it to my class!  A little fir tree is all alone in a meadow.  One winter day, a man comes and digs him up, roots and all, and re-plants him in a box to be the Christmas tree for a little boy who cannot get out of his bed.  Each year, after Christmas, the man returns the fir tree to the forest.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but this book is a keeper!

When we were done reading, we made pine cone tree ornaments as gifts for the parents this year.  (I like to make several gifts, and let children choose which to give to their parents.  It helps those with blended families and the like.)   I am not the creator of this project.  I discovered it through Pinterest.  The original can be found here.

Pine Cone Christmas Trees:

The easy steps:

(1)  I mixed some tempera to be a lighter green by adding white.
(2)  Students have fun painting the entire pine cone green.
(3)  When paint is mostly dry (but maybe not all the way) have students use bottle glue to decorate the edges of each section of pine cone (Not sure what those sections are called!).
(4)  Students choose a glitter color, and glitter away!

(5)  Students painted a wooden star with yellow tempera
The next two steps are best done by the teacher, using a hot glue gun:

(6)  Glue on some gold ribbon

Glue the star on top of the ribbon.

These turned out so cute, I had my own two kiddos come back to school with me at night so we could make a couple for our own tree!  It's great when you can get double-duty out of a project!

We also learned how to do +/- 10 math problems on Friday!  If you haven't been to Teacher Tipster yet, you should.  He has an awesome idea about brain chains.  I added these into my classroom this year, and I really do think they made a difference!  I'll include the video here, to make it easy to find:

I bought a bunch of shoe laces, parents donated the beads, and we have been using the brain chain as part of our calendar routine all year.  I added in brain chains for the students on Friday.  We practiced building numbers, and then I took his brain chain worksheet (which is no longer on his site, I guess?)  and added it into my own to create the one below:

10 With Brain Chains

He is right.  The brain chains are a very effective tool!  My students were able to demonstrate their knowledge of Place Value easily, and it provided a valuable "bridge" between recognizing place values and manipulating those place values.  Having something visible and tactile was a great help to some of my little strugglers, and I felt like most of the children understood the concept of adding or taking away 10s with very little one-on-one support.  Hooray for "Brain Chains"!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book 8: The Night Tree

Have you ever read this darling book by Eve Bunting?  My class just LOVED it, and so did I!  I thought it was a great addition to our theme of caring for others at Christmas time.  (And, by the way, I think the GRINCH was a great way to start this theme, if I do say so myself!  We've been able to talk about how he changed to care for others at Christmas.  If the Grinch can do it,  we can show care for others, too.  Even the animals!)

In this book, a family finds the same Christmas tree in the forest every year, and decorates it with food for animals:  popcorn wreaths, apples, oranges, and some ornaments made out of millet, honey, and nuts.  The family celebrates outside, then go home, where the little boy imagines all of the animals that might be eating from the tree.  It was a charming story, and I'm so glad I read it!  

We followed up the story with my favorite kind of craft -  the ones that take 15 minutes or less!  I got this idea from another blog somewhere, but I can't find it now to give the owner of the idea credit.  Anyhow, I wanted to make an ornament that students could put outside to feed animals.  We have all made the fun pine cones with peanut butter and birdseed, but now with all of the nut allergies in school, that is not a good idea.

So, we made cheerio ornaments (which my husband assured me are perfectly safe for birds and squirrels to eat),  out of cheerios strung on pipe cleaner.  It can't get much easier than that!  Since they were for animals, we didn't even add any ribbon.  The kids shaped the ornaments in whatever shape they liked, added cheerios, twisted, and voila! 

I told the kids to find a tree somewhere to hang the ornaments.  Some kids came in on Friday all excited..."Some animals have already eaten some of my cheerios!"  So sweet.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book 7: Great Joy

Today, my students got to read the story Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo.  I just love all of her books, as I think she has such a way of getting to the heart of characters, and pointing out what is truly important in life.  (Some of my very favorites - The Incredible Journey of Edward Tulane, Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux.)  This short picture book was no different.  A girl named Frances has a hard time feeling the joy of Christmas until she is sure that the man on the corner is happy, too.  I thought it was a great book to talk about the joy of doing for others, and being kind to strangers.

I had to be absent in the afternoon, so my wonderful co-worker and friend, Mrs. Saunders, read this story to my class.  I can't wait to hear how the discussion went!

I plan on adding this story starter to my writing center tomorrow.  I usually laminate and hang them with a magnet from the metal writing center shelf. 

I want to do a service project with my class,  and I think this would be a great intro. to that.  During our class meeting on Friday, we are going to brainstorm random acts of kindness we can perform as a class, and choose one.  It will have to be small this year - something we can do for staff members or students. 

Some ideas I already have
  • surprise a class with a quarter for everyone on popcorn day
  • an anonymous letter to someone who works hard for us, letting them know how much we appreciate him/her
  • Sharpen a set of pencils for another teacher's classroom, and leave them ready to go for the next day (Wow, would I love getting that one!)

** I would like to plan ahead better, and do something bigger with next year's class.  My son's class makes fleece tie blankets every year as a gift to a shelter.  I love this idea because it is easy for kids, and useful to someone else.  Parents do have to donate the fleece, though.  I bought two yards at Walmart and it cost about $10.00.  It might be do-able with donations or doing a project to earn money. 

That's it for today's ideas! Do you have some more ideas, or better ideas for random acts of kindness in a school setting?  Things kids can do??  I would love to hear your ideas!