This month we focused on responsibility- from responsible decision making, to being responsible for our belongings, words, and actions to being responsible for our Earth. In kindergarten through second grade we read What If Everybody Did That? While reading, we discussed how our actions- big or small- can have a major impact, either for the good when make responsible decisions or for the bad when we act irresponsibly. After reading the book, we played a game to act out, ask questions and brainstorm ways of showing responsibility. In 3rd grade we discussed tools and strategies to reduce test anxiety in preparation for STAAR.
March's life skill was Problem Solving. In each class we read Rulers of the Playground as a fun way to launch our discussion of problem solving. In Rulers of the Playground, both Jonah and Lennox want to be king and queen of the playground. They conquer the playground until there is nothing left to take over and no friends left to play with. Jonah and Lennox realize that conquering is complicated and it is much more fun if everybody can play where ever they want!
As part of our Second Step (SEL) curriculum, we use the STEP model for solving problems: Say the problem without blame, Think of solutions, Explore consequences, and Pick the best solution. To help support students in using these STEPS and to effectively communicate with one and other, we use a tool called the Peace Path. We introduced the Peace Path in kindergarten through third grade. In fourth and fifth grade we use the same strategies as the Peace Path, but it's used in the form of a script, rather than a path.
The Peace Path is a tool to help children communicate more effectively with their peers in the event of a conflict. Students walk down the path and use the script provided on the path to help them communicate their feelings and articulate the problem using assertive language. Click on the links below to take a look at the Peace Path & Script!
February's lifeskill was integrity. In each class, we read the book The Empty Pot. This story is about a boy, Ping, who is a talented gardener and is faced with a problem: When it comes time to grow the most important flower of all- the seed won't sprout! Should he use the flower from a different plant or show up to the Emperor with an empty pot? This story explores what integrity looks like, and how uncomfortable and challenging it can be at times. Above all, this story illustrates how much courage it takes to have integrity and that doing the right thing always turns out best!
After reading the story, students explored a number of scenarios and had to determine whether or not students were showing integrity. Students in fourth and fifth grade viewed this video of Jack Sock displaying true integrity through sportsmanship. We discussed how integrity doesn't always lead to reward and glory, but that we must do the right thing even when there is not incentive.
Third through fifth grade students also spent three minutes in each class practicing mindful thinking time. We used the Tao Mix 2 app to listen to calming sounds while we reflected in silence. Students utilized this time to clear their minds and/or focus on positive thoughts. We introduced this strategy as a way to help manage stress and train ourselves to slow down, relax and feel comfortable alone in our minds.
This month, our lessons focused on Social Awareness and, more specifically, Empathy. In kindergarten through second grade, we read We're All Wonders, a picture book written by R.J. Palacio and inspired by her bestseller (and now movie!) Wonder. Throughout the story, students identified opportunities for kindness used perspective taking to put themselves in the shoes of the main character.
In third through fifth grade, we read the book The Potato Chip Champ. This book emphasizes the impact our perspective has on how we treat others and appreciate the things we have. Students identified opportunities the characters could have practiced empathy, as well instances of empathy in action.
We reviewed the Mood Meter and used it to help identify a wide range of feelings. Students then played a game allowing them to use their social awareness skills. Students looked at pictures of young people expressing different emotions and tried to use their social detective skills to interpret how they were feeling. We discussed the three clues we have to figure out how someone is feeling: facial expressions, body language and the situation.
Throughout the month of December, we visited each class to read the Principal’s Book of the Month, After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again. As we visited each class, we discussed the importance of perseverance and always moving forward. The choice to focus on perseverance at this particular time of year was very intentional. Often as we approach the winter break, students find it challenging to stay motivated. Fun parties, performances, schedule changes, impending travel plans, and thoughts of gifts and celebrations, though exciting are also distracting and exhausting. Kids and grownups alike find it hard to maintain focus this time of year, so it’s especially important that we practice perseverance.
When we lack perseverance and start to give up, we can also start to grapple with self-doubt and negative thoughts. We discussed with each class how we can shield ourselves from giving up and motivate ourselves to persevere by using positive self talk. Students created "Positive Self Talk Shields" by brainstorming positive affirmations they can give themselves to stay motivated!