Monday, March 30, 2015

Grumpy Cat Visits Ms. Sepp

One of our 5th grade students came up with such a creative idea that I had to share!  We were talking about some of the other silly animal pictures with puns I have outside of my office and how it'd be fun to find one about Grumpy Cat seeing the counselor.

A few days later a large poster arrived in my office, created by the same 5th grader I had chatted with previously, and I was amazed by her creativity and initiative.  Check out what is now hanging outside my office:

S.T.E.P. Problem Solving Method

As part of our SEL curriculum through Second Step, students learn about the S.T.E.P. method for solving their everyday problems.  The last 7 lessons in 4th grade are all about problem solving.

In these lessons students learn that following steps can help you solve problems and be successful at school.  When you say the problem without blame and take responsibility for their part, problems can be resolved in a respectful way.  Some solutions to problems are complicated and need a plan.  Plans help you break down a big ask into smaller, more manageable parts.  You are better able to resolve conflicts when you are able to calm down and use the Problem-Solving steps.

Students were placed into small groups and each described the steps they would use to solve common problems that occur during their school day.  Here are the posters they created:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Don't Break the Ice with Worries

Over Spring Break I was able to attend one of Pam Dyson's trainings on "Play Therapy for Grieving Children" through the DFW Center for Play Therapy Training.  I was truly inspired by all the directive techniques I could add to my toolbox for students at our school.  One such idea was the incorporation of the game "Don't Break the Ice" in such a simple and easy way.  Inspired by Sueann Kenney-Noziska's idea on Play Therapy Corner, Pam created an activity for children that helped open them up about their grief. Children knock pieces of ice out of the ice rink and answer questions based on which ice piece fell.  At this training the game was targeted at children opening up about their grief and loss, but I thought I could easily tweak it for my anxious kiddos.

It's extremely easy to create your own version and add therapeutic value.  The first step is taking all of the "ice" pieces and adding a colored sticker to the bottom of them.  Pam used those gold foil star stickers, I chose to use bright colored Avery circle labels because I had plenty of those on hand.  There are 32 total ice pieces and 1 large ice piece for the skater.  I decided upon 4 different prompts for our discussion about worries, so that evenly divided up the stickers into 8 per color.  On the large ice piece I put 1 of each color so they could pick.  When the ice is turned over for the game, students cannot tell which color is underneath the piece of ice.

Then I created the question card.  Instead of making 32 individual question cards, I chose to simplify our discussion to 4 prompts that could easily be answered numerous times.  You could definitely make a variety of questions and color-code the stacks of cards.  I thought about which 4 prompts would help students share/vent about their worries, discuss what happens in their body, receive validation, brainstorm helpful techniques for coping and also discover that other students had similar experiences.  This is what I came up with, you can download a copy here (don't forget to add colored stickers that are on your ice pieces):

The game was such a success we played it numerous times.  Students even came up with fun variations on the rules for when more than one ice piece fell.  Incorporating games into your work with children creates a safe and engaging platform to help them feel comfortable in opening up.  I hope you have as much fun with your children as I did!

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Marshmallow Test

I stopped by the first grade teachers team meeting last week and asked them which social emotional skills their students are struggling the most with.  All 3 teachers, almost in unison, replied with "SELF CONTROL!"  So, I began searching for the best lesson in self control I could find...and I stumbled across an old favorite, The Marshmallow Test.  It was a fascinating study done in the 1960s at Stanford University (if you google it there are tons of articles about it) where they had preschoolers sit in a room alone with a marshmallow for up to 20 minutes.  If they ate it, that was all they got.  If they waited until the researcher came back, they earned a second marshmallow.  This longitudinal study predicted higher SAT scores, lower BMI scores and various other themes when they followed up with the students that waited for the second marshmallow.

I wondered how our first graders would do with this marshmallow test.  Who would eat the marshmallow?  Who would wait?  I had to do it.  First, I  checked our student's allergy list.  Then, I came into each classroom and I simply explained the marshmallow test.  You could choose to eat it now, or you could choose to wait until the end of my lesson (in 30 minutes) and receive a second marshmallow.  I passed them out and began the hilarious video below:

While the video aired and students laughed, I watched to see how they were doing.  Some were playing with their marshmallow, some hiding it under a tissue, one even zipped it up into their binder.  After the video I introduced the topic: Self Control.  What is self control?  How do we know when we have self control?  Is self control easy?  We brainstormed ideas to help us with self control and I showed them this poster (found here):

I went through each step carefully and students modeled how they have shown self control in the past.  Then I put them through a challenge to see how well they could show self control (in addition to those yummy marshmallows sitting on their desks).

I explained that we were going to play Red Light, Green Light.  But with a twist.  We were doing it in the hallway.  Yep, the hallway!  A place where you are not allowed to talk and you are only allowed to walk.  Their eyes grew big.  Would they be able to play Red Light, Green Light and have the self control to stay in the game by following our hallway rules?

Each class performed differently, but overall it was a success and we didn't make too much racket.  When we came back into their classroom we celebrated by watching Cookie Monster's video about self control and had a mini dance party, with our marshmallows of course.

When the time was up their eyes were anxiously looking up at me.  Would I fulfill my end of the deal?  Were they able to exhibit self control?  The results were in as I walked around passing out a second marshmallow.  All but 2 students were able to wait.  One surprised me, one did not.  Not too bad roadrunners...I'll get you next time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Teamwork & Sportsmanship

In second grade we worked on teamwork and sportsmanship this week.  By introducing this topic early, I hope to be preventative in the increasing number of playground conflicts that happen as they develop.  I found this great video that shows 3 different examples of teamwork:

We brainstormed ideas that we saw in the video.  How did the animals show teamwork?  How did the animals show great sportsmanship in their challenges?  How can we show these skills when we're playing with each other or learning in the classroom?

After our discussion, we played one of my favorite games, Transformation Rock Paper Scissors!  I recently played this with third grade, you can check it out here.  I can't take all of the credit, I stumbled across this fun game here.  

I left a few minutes at the end of the lesson to process how we each did with teamwork and sportsmanship.  What went well?  What do we need to work on for next time?  Are there any rules we should take out or add to make the game more successful?