It's that time of year. . . . My students are in the middle of a big growth spurt, academically, physically, AND socially.
I enjoy seeing the growth and changes they have made in a few months' time. It's wonderful and exciting to watch, but getting older also means growing pains in the area of social skills. It frequently calls for an adjustment of attitudes to ensure that the classroom feels safe for everyone.
Mrs. Manners — Our school counselor, Kim Lawson, has lots of tricks up her sleeves (and maybe under that hat!) to keep students on track and remembering to be thoughtful and courteous to each other. Last month, she appeared as Mrs. Manners during lunchtime in the cafeteria to gently remind students to be thinking about what they do and how they behave with other people.
Helping Hearts Project — My daughter, Brittany Edwards, has used this idea for several years. I decided to try it this year, for the month of February, and my students are really enjoying it. I copy pages of hearts on different colors of paper, hand out sheets to each student, and ask them to help me cut them out. It is about 15 minutes of work with everyone helping. Each student then chooses about 20 hearts and puts them in an envelope, along with a note from me asking parents to write their children's good deeds on a heart and sign it. We are quickly covering a wall with the hearts that they are bringing back to school! Parents are more than happy to help us with the project, and students are spending time thinking about ways to help others.
Respectful/Disrespectful Talk: Word Sort and Discussion — Hundreds of hours spent in a room with the same 20 people can lead to a disregard for others' feelings. If problems aren't addressed promptly, they can destroy the effectiveness of the small group skills you have worked so hard to teach and the atmosphere of the room. I use a word sort (click on the image to the right) that teams of two or three complete together before a class discussion. We then come together and discuss each card as they are projected on the interactive whiteboard. The discussion is very enlightening. We talk about what disrespect sounds like and whether we would want those words said to us. There are several cards that teams quickly go back and change when returning to their sort.
Small groups sort phrases into the categories of respectful and disrespectful words.
Taking the Time to Say Thank You — During "School Counselor Week," all five 2nd grade classes got together to thank Ms. Lawson for doing so much for them. Each child decorated a card shaped like a car and wrote a little note to her on the inside. A road was "constructed" from black paper outside her office and the cars were attached to it. This was a quick and easy project that reminded our students how easy it is to say thank you.
"Thank you for helping to keep 2nd grade on the road to success!"
Share Your Heart — Some 4th graders mapped out their hearts with a drawing divided into different areas and labeled with things that are important to them. Sharing and comparing their hearts with classmates allows them to find similarities, builds a stronger bond between members of the class, and helps them find a deeper understanding of each other.
I use a similar strategy during writer's workshop and let students fill their hearts with things close to their heart that they might want to write about sometime during the year. They keep their writing topic hearts in their writing folders.
Love Bugs — Ms. Rollings had her 2nd graders create love bugs. She asked them to write about a special person in their life to put on their bug.
These are just a few of many great ideas for keeping kids on track, socially.
What are some of your favorite ways to support kindness, courtesy, and polite behavior?