Monday, September 29, 2014

Kindergarteners are Great Listeners

Listening skills are essential for children to build cognitive and behavioral skills.  Children need to grasp solid listening skills at an early age in order to develop the ability to interact and communicate with the world efficiently.  The bustling kindergarten classroom is a great place to build the foundation of listening skills by having students practice paying attention to what they see and hear around them.  In kindergarten we watched Howard B Wigglebottom Learns to Listen on The We Do Listen Foundation's website. They have a variety of animated storybooks featuring Howard in case you cannot find a print copy of the book.

After the video, we talked about what skills we need to practice in order to be great listeners at school and at home.  Students helped me label Howard with different ideas that show you are really listening with your body.  We labeled raising our hand to talk, ears listening, eyes watching, mouths waiting, hands in your lap and legs criss-cross apple sauce. 

Then I had students cut and glue the things they should be doing to show their whole body is listening.  I found the free downloadable handout here on F is for First Grade's blog.

Donors Choose

Hi Friends,

I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed. So I’ve created a classroom project request at, an award-winning charity.
I’m asking for donations of any size to help my kids. For the next four days, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100). If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank yous from our class.

Here’s my 2 classroom requests:

To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the promo code INSPIRE on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through October 2.

My students and I greatly appreciate your support.

Ms. Sepp :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Interrupting Chickens in Kindergarten

Children have a lot to say, you just wish they wouldn't do it while you are talking.  The tugging at your shirt, the repetitive "Mom?  Mom?  Mom!" and the blurting out in the middle of your conversation with someone else are all commonplace when you're around young children.  Never fear, they will grow out of this!

Your child isn't trying to be rude when they interrupt.  They honestly don't know any better.  Developmentally they are just starting to learn that there is more going on in your life outside of them.  Short term memory is still developing in young children so even though you may have told them over and over to not interrupt, they honestly might not remember.  Additionally, young children have no concept of time.  What may have actually been 3 minutes feels like 3 hours to a child with something burning in their mind to share.  Everything is exciting to them as they are sponges soaking up everything the world has to offer.  It is hard for them to prioritize what is important to tell you now and what can wait until later.

To help reinforce the concept of interrupting, I read Interrupting Chicken written by David Ezra Stein to our kindergarten classes.  This hilarious story features a young chicken who makes storytime before bed an exciting event with her unique twists to each story.  Children quickly learn that the young chicken is having a hard time with controlling her interrupting behaviors and laugh at her "additions" to the traditional tales.

After the story we discuss the difference between interrupting and being respectful (our character trait of the month at Lee!).  We use our background knowledge on feelings to think about how others might feel when we interrupt them.  Then they helped sort different scenarios that could happen throughout the day as something an "interrupting chicken" would do or a "respectful student."  I found this great activity on Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade blog.

After sorting, I asked students to draw a picture of what behaviors they would see an "interrupting chicken" doing and a picture of what behaviors they would see a "respectful student" doing.  Here are some samples of their work:

Talking vs Raising My Hand
Talking while an adult is vs Sitting quietly and working at my desk
Talking at the same time vs Waiting for my turn to talk

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rumors & Toothpaste

In third grade we read one of my favorite stories this week, Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna.  Yes, Madonna!

Mr. Peabody's Apples tells the story of how one small assumption can ruin a reputation and take endless hours to fix.  Students opinions of the characters in the story shift as they too believe the rumor, then learn how damaging those few words have been.  After the story we discussed the following questions:
  • What could Tommy have done differently when he first saw Mr. Peabody take the apple?
  • What do you think the author wants us to learn from this story?
  • What did you learn and how will it influence your choices?
  • What does the phrase "jumping to conclusions" mean?  How does that apply to this story?
  • How do rumors hurt people?
I found a great activity on Fourth and Ten's blog that uses toothpaste to demonstrate the power of our words.  I split students into groups, handed them a plate & tube of travel-sized toothpaste and told them that before we start the activity we are going to need to empty all the toothpaste out of the tube.  We discussed working together and taking turns in order to make it a cooperative task.

Once students emptied all of the toothpaste from their tube, I then told them I wanted them to put it all back inside the tube.  WHAT?!?!  The ah-ha moments could be heard coming from each group.  I gave them a few minutes to attempt this difficult task, then we debriefed on the purpose of the activity with our minty fresh hands. :)

Our words are like the toothpaste, we have to be careful what we say.  It is not easy to take them back, just like the difficult task of trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube.  Students reflected on the power of their words by filling out the following organizer from Fourth and Ten's blog.

I had students explain their learning in two ways: what I learned & positive words

Itchy Itchy, Scratchy Scratchy: Tattle Tongue!

One infamous request from our second grade teachers at the beginning of the school year is Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook.

This is a hilarious story that helps students recognize the differences between tattling and reporting.  Through the missteps of Josh, we learn when we should speak up and when we can handle the problem on our own.  We are introduced to the Tattle Prince who goes through the 4 rules for tattling - rules for tattling?!?! - yes, there are even rules for tattling.  These rules and helpful charts are posted for students to use and be proactive about solving their conflicts:

Students demonstrate their knowledge of the difference between when to report and when it would be tattling by reading potential scenarios and coloring them appropriately:

Then they decorate their own Tattle Tongue bookmark to reinforce the skills:


Monday, September 22, 2014

Personal Space Camp

In first grade we read Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook.  Many times when students are transitioning to another space, there tends to be a lot of collisions!  In this story, Julia Cook reinforces how we can be respectful of each other spatially.  She uses outer space as a creative way to challenge students understanding as we follow Louis' hilarious journey through "Personal Space Camp".

Personal space is the amount of space you need to feel comfortable.  This changes based on the environment and population that is around you.  When you're around family members and close friends, you might need less space.  When you're around strangers, you might need more space.  When we're at school, we have to be respectful of each other so everyone feels comfortable.  I bring a bottle of bubbles with me to demonstrate this.  Each bubble represents how we each need a different amount of space to feel comfortable around each other.  When we get too close, we pop!

After the story, students sort out different scenarios to figure out if they demonstrated personal space or not.  We all were rolling around laughing at some of the choices, such as "putting my nose on people" and "licking people."  You can download the organizer I created here and the scenarios I used came from an activity packet created by Lisa Parnello on TeachersPayTeachers you can find here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Habit #1 Be Proactive

In fifth grade, the classroom teachers and I are piggy-backing off of each other to reinforce Sean Covey's The Seven Habits of Healthy Kids.  This book emphasizes 7 habits that help children be happy, successful individuals in our world.

The 7 habits include:
  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw
Each week the teachers read a different chapter of the book and discuss the habit with their students.  The following week I come into the classroom and reinforce the habit through a series of activities.

The first habit we began with was "Be Proactive." 

You're in Charge

I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods. I do not blame others for my wrong actions. I do the right thing without being asked, even when no one is looking.

I came in carrying two bottles: a soda bottle and a water bottle.  I started by saying that sometimes things go wrong, and we feel shaken up.  For example, I might hit snooze on my alarm clock and arrive tardy to school (shake soda bottle).  I might drop my school books while I'm switching classes (shake soda bottle a little more).  I might forget to bring my homework back to school (shake soda bottle even more).  All of these things could easily knock us off of our game.  As a result, we might explode on someone or something (pretend to open soda bottle).  After all the "ooooo's" and "aaaaaa's", I explained that this is called being reactive.  Has this ever happened to you?  What happened and why?  Was this a good way to let go of all of your feelings?  Why or why not?

Next, I went through the same scenarios but instead with shaking a water bottle.  When I went to open it students immediately know nothing was going to happen.  I explained that this is called being proactive.  When we are proactive, we make a choice about how we will react to the things that happen in our lives.  We might get shaken up or mad, but we stay calm and don't explode.  Is it hard to stay calm (like a water bottle) even when things don't go our way?  Why or why not?  What steps can we take to be more proactive and calm when things aren't going well?

I then passed out a short quiz to help students figure out if they tend to be more reactive or proactive. 

We discussed ways to be more proactive, one of which being aware of what we have control of in our lives.  When we focus on things we CAN control, we are being more proactive.  When we focus on things OUTSIDE our control, we are being more reactive.

I gave students a blank organizer and they brainstormed the many things they do and do not have control over in their lives.  After sharing out, our discussion focused on changing how we handle things.  We can make a choice to be positive and focus on those things that we CAN change.