Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Lose All Your Friends

In first grade we have been working on social skills.  One very important social skill is learning about friendships: what we want in a friend, how to keep friends, what we bring to a friendship, etc.  I usually read the book How to Lose All Your Friends written by Nancy Carlson, but this year I found a cute video that reinforces her story.  I chose to show the silent movie and I read it aloud so we could pause to discuss at different points.

The students found the video hilarious and they quickly understood that this video is all the things NOT to do if you want to make and keep friends.  Together we brainstormed a list of what we look for in a friend and what we bring to the table as a friend.

Then we made "Wanted" posters to show and describe what we want in a real friend.  You can download the template here.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Our SEL Department developed a Peace Path that students can use in the classroom to help resolve conflict with their peers.  You can take a look of how it works as part of our Peace Areas at Lee Elementary here.  While this is a great tool for students to use while they're in the classroom, students are left stranded out on the playground when they have conflict.  After campuses inquired about how to translate these skills to the outdoor playgrounds, our SEL department created stencils to create a sidewalk Peace Path (thank you, thank you, thank you)!

Here is a quick video I took walking through the Peace Path so you can see each of the steps.

It took 3-4 hours over 2 days to create the finished product with two people, myself and Joelle Andrew - an amazing parent volunteer/super hero.  :)  

Our playground Peace Path provides students, teachers and our entire campus a space and a method that is safe, sincere, and easy to follow for conflict resolution.  It is another effort towards student empowerment to self-regulate and solve their problems.  Ours is strategically placed between 2 of our playgrounds and has already been a huge hit with the Roadrunners!

Once completed I took out each class to teach them how to use it.  We began by brainstorming common problems that happen with our friends out on the playground:

I had students pair up and brainstorm a "problem" to resolve with their partner, real or fake.   Then we headed outside to practice!

Our Peace Path has been a huge success!  Not only are teachers on board and helping students through conflict resolution steps at recess, but children are initiating its use during our aftercare program and kids have even been caught & featured on Instagram!
Here are some individual shots of each step:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fairness & Compromising

In kindergarten we read You Get What You Get written by Julie Gassman.  I could hardly get past reading the title without students shouting out, "And you don't throw a fit!"  This short and sweet story shows how one little squirrel follows this rule at school but has a difficult time following the rule at home.  He accidentally lets "the cat out of the bag" with this school rule, and his family jumps on the opportunity to implement it at home as well.

We brainstormed what fairness is and many students felt that it is everyone getting the same thing.  (The blue pen represents changes we made after the different activities)  I asked them if they've ever said, "That's unfair!" before and how they knew that something was unfair.  We talked about our feelings that bubble up when we think something that happens isn't fair.

I then introduced a few activities to challenge their idea of fairness.  I had everyone sit around in a big circle around the carpet.  Then I chose 4 volunteers to create a "fishbowl" for modeling.  I had them sit inside the larger circle in a smaller circle that everyone could observe.  I passed out 12 different erasers unevenly (on purpose) to each of the students.  Some of the students ended up with only a little and others with a lot.  I asked them if the way I passed them out was fair.  They had lots of qualms about how I divided it up.  I asked them to redistribute the erasers in a way that they felt was fair.  After many attempts, they eventually came up with a solution and we debriefed how it went.

I asked them questions such as,
  • What did you think of the activity?
  • Did you have more or less erasers then you had at the beginning?
  • By the end did you think it was fair?
  • Is it always possible to share things fairly?
I introduced the concept of compromising.  What our 4 volunteers just did is called a compromise.  Compromising is something we do when different people want different things.  Compromise is finding a win-win solution.  I asked them about a couple of scenarios to test their compromising skills:
  • You want to watch a cartoon, but your brother wants to watch a movie
  • You want to carve a scary Jack O'Lantern, but your sister wants to give it a silly face
  • You want to go swimming, but your friend wants to ride bikes
I then started a second activity to further expand their knowledge of fairness.  This time I asked 3 volunteers to come up to the front of the room to be my actors.  I told each of them that they were going to act out a different injury.  The first student had a broken arm (so they held their arm with a pained look), the second student had a scratch on their arm (so they looked at that part of their arm) and the third student had a sore throat (so they coughed and asked for water).  I then pulled out 3 band-aids.

I told them that I wanted things to be fair, so they were each going to get the same medical treatment.  I put a band-aid on the broken arm, the scratched arm and the sore throat.  Then I asked the class, was this fair?  They were rolling around in laughter about how ridiculous I was.  I reinforced that they said fairness means everyone getting the same thing, so I gave them each the same thing - what was wrong?  After a little more discussion we came up with a compromise that fairness isn't about everyone getting the same thing, but rather everyone getting what they need.  Sometimes this might mean different people will receive different things.  We also learned that Ms. Sepp would not be a very good nurse. :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Counselor Appreciation Week Feb 2-6

I have been so SPOILED this week!  I've felt extremely appreciated and I've loved receiving notes from staff members, homemade cards from students, books, posters, lunch, iced tea, candy, videos, songs, hugs, collages and so much much more!  I am so lucky to work with each and every one of you at Lee Elementary and I want to thank everyone for supporting me and trusting me with your kiddos.

Here are a few pics from the week:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teamwork in 3rd Grade: Cup Stack

In third grade we've spent a lot of time on building positive relationships with each other.  We've noticed that the majority of conflict with these kiddos continues to happen outside at recess in less structured activities.  After our last lesson on being good sports, I decided we needed to strengthen our teamwork skills.  And what better way to do this than with the Cup Stack Challenge!

We began by clearly defining what we thought TEAMWORK is.  Then I broke the news that I was going to give them a very frustrating challenge today.  But, if they utilized the teamwork skills we just discussed - then they would find it less frustrating and be very successful.  They had 2 separate sculptures to build with 6 cups, 1 rubber band and 4 strings.  The only thing they could touch was their string.  If the cups rolled off the table, they went down to the ground as a group and used teamwork to get it back on the table.  If their elbow accidentally bumped cups already in formation, they had to pick that cup back up using only the manipulation of their groups strings.

After about 15 minutes most groups had created the first sculpture, and a couple groups were finishing their second design.  I left time for us to debrief on the experience since it is always an activity that brings up a wide range of emotions.  I ask them to rate their group on how well they worked together using the ideas we wrote at the beginning of the lesson.  I ask them what went well for their group.  I also ask them what didn't go well for their group.  We talk about different strategies and ways we an handle ourselves when things don't go the way we want them to.  Throughout the activity I walk around and facilitate positive communication, so I usually have a few examples to help springboard the discussion.