Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learning the Language of the Apology

When kids spill their snack, they say, 'I'm sorry'.
When kids forget their homework, they say, 'I'm sorry'.
When kids call each other names on the playground, they say, 'I'm sorry'.
When kids hit each other when they get frustrated, they say, 'I'm sorry'.

Something about that bugs me.
There's got to be a difference between apologizing for something that was small and apologizing for a deep hurt.  There should be a distinction between apologizing for small slights, such as bumping into someone...and actually hitting someone.
When there is intent to wound, whether verbally or physically...I work to help my kids understand how to apologize in a way that starts the healing process and builds back community.

Apologizing in a way that is deep and meaningful is a skill.
Not every child will apologize the same way, but they need to learn how to do it well to maintain community.  Being good at apologizing will help them at home, at school, and some day in their work place.
No one is perfect, so, it's something that they will need to be good at for the rest of their lives.

This year, if you read my blog, you'll see a variety of different post that evaluate the idea of empathy and how it relates to character development.  I'm really digging into that this year in my own practice, so, I thought I'd share some of that with you!

Work with students on being aware of their surroundings and the reactions of their peers.
If you're telling a funny story about something that someone did, and everyone is laughing, but the subject of the story is's possible that they are not comfortable with that particular story being told.  When kids are playing together, and then one isolates...that may be an indication of some hurt as need to SELF-MONITOR for signs that their peers are uncomfortable with their behavior towards them.  It takes a TON of practice...but I'm all for helping them get that practice through role play and teachable moments.

When working with students on these kinds of interpersonal issues, I often encourage them to ask questions about why another person is hurt by their actions.  This is a tough step for the person who CAUSED the hurt and must be done carefully.  It takes discipline and self-restraint to stand and listen to someone point out your faults once you give them the opportunity.  Students must learn how to bear this discomfort to get to the end result which is restitution.  They need to be LISTENING for where they went wrong so that they can empathize.  The best way for them to see this type of behavior is at home with parents, but...they will occasionally have these opportunities at school and we should capitalize on them!

This for me is a key step.  In order to really KNOW if someone is listening to what I'm really saying...restating helps with that. As teachers we can model that in the classroom informally.  There are tons of opportunities to do that.  For example:
'So, if I'm understanding you correctly, think that the main character is courageous because he was sacrificing himself for his friend?'
'So, what you're saying is, you are having trouble getting your homework done because you are worried about things at home?'
Get your students to restate the particular thing that is causing the problem.
And make them wait to hear from their peer if that is indeed the issue.
Once it's confirmed...then the student needs to consider how to frame the apology.

Students need to be direct in this communication.  This is tough, because this is the beginning of accepting responsibility for behavior that was unacceptable. If you've created an element of trust between yourself and the student, it will make this more manageable for sure.  

Don't be afraid to reaffirm what you heard from the offended student.  Make sure that the student who caused the harm is clear, and then cue them to begin an apology with their own words.  

The best way to start to bring about healing between two students is when the one who did the wrong thing accepts responsibility.  Throughout the year, as you team build and create community...remind students that unity is paramount!  Getting along, working together well makes you happy.  This is one of those times where sometimes, students must learn that building character will sometimes require them to sacrifice a bit of their own autonomy for the greater good of the class.

In cases where there can't be specific restitution, such as with property loss...students can at least offer the promise of not doing the behavior again. Where I can have students give something up to replace what they damaged, I try to do that.  It helps them to understand the idea of loss.  Since something precious was taken from their friend...losing something of their own to replace what was damaged or lost will help them understand, in part, the feelings they might have brought about in their peer.

This may seem to be a time consuming strategy, but...with lots of modeling and role play, when there is actually an opportunity to live this out...the events unfold rather rapidly for students who are already aware of the end goals!

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy a companion post on a few tips that I consider in building classroom community with an emphasis on character development.
Click HERE for that post.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Peek At My Week: The first week

Hello everyone! :)
I'm excited to begin a new year of sixth in first grade! :)
I love the back to school season!  Everything is so clean and fresh! :)
I get to meet all the kids and feel all their wonderful 5 & 6 year old energy and it is the perfect cure for summer blues!  There's nothing like the joy of the students to remind me that I really do live for these nine months I have with them...and it's wonderful that I get one more opportunity to love on a whole new bunch of wee folk! :)
Click HERE to visit DeeDee's Blog!

On Friday, we had Meet the Teacher.  I got a chance to take a selfie with each one of my precious littles! :) Here's a quick video of the cute that is a part of my classroom this year! ;)

I got a lovely package from one of my new students after Meet the Teacher!
She gave me a shoe box with three envelopes.  Each one was to be opened on a different day over the weekend before school started.
Friday's gift was a chocolate bar.
Saturday's gift was a Starbucks card.
Sunday's gift was this poem!
I have to admit getting a bit misty after reading it!  It's on my fridge as we speak! :)
Here's me at Sbux picking up my breakfast on the first day of school!

Now to the activity of the week!
This is our first week of school and so we're going to be easing into everything and having lots of fun together!  After the students and I got their supplies all sorted out, I let them color their pirate pictures!

 They looked great out in our hallway!
I was super proud of my little pirates!

 photo PirateColoring_zps20653d1c.png
Download these from a previous back to school post by clicking HERE.
Next up, the getting to know you scavenger's hunt!
Want these for your class?  They are in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  Click HERE to go to the set!
One of the toughest standards to cover in a primary classroom is getting kids to ask questions.
This type of activity gives kids a framework of topics to discuss, and an illustration to support non or emergent readers.  My kids absolutely LOVED it! :)
After my modeling, I set them out to partner with one another.  They knew that they could only get one person to sign per box and they did a fantastic job! :)

We talked about following the rules and had a good bit of fun while we did! :)
I love to tie literacy or other content structures to my integration of rules, habits and procedures.  I think it makes the learning 'stick' much better than just reading a list of things or showing a powerpoint.

Click on the book if you'd like to check it out on Amazon!

Try out Pete the Cat with emergent readers and then do this great cafeteria craft! :)

Loved this from Rowdy in Room 300.  I use it every year.  You can get it by clicking HERE.
I have an original story that I wrote about bus rules and I share that with my kids before we do a super simple craft to write about what we remember.

Bus Procedures Mini-Unit & Craftivity for Firsties & Seconds

You can get this craft HERE.

I love to use Rachelle Smith's ABC's for Back to School.  I use it every year too! :)
I just came across this really fun book this year! :)  It is called This is the Way we Go to School.  Have you read it yet?
It's one that talks about the ways that different students all over the world get to school.
It's a great book to integrate other topics into! ;)
I'm so excited about  how it's been going in the classroom so far, and I can't wait to share it with you in a fuller post next week...but for's my cover! ;)

I've integrated both math and social studies content with quality literature and the students have really responded well to what I've been up to in the classroom!

Here's how I laid out my first week.
I'm excited to get started with my ideas for next week.
I hope you'll come on back and check in with me!
Thanks again to DeeDee for hosting this fun linky! :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What to plan for during preplanning

The one week each year that inspires both joy and anxiety, all in the same thought.
I love coming back every year, but...I DON'T love cleaning.
I don't love meetings.
I don't love minutia!
It seems that one of my favorite times of the year is always cluttered with these things, and this year, I was not letting it steal my joy! :)
I was going in...with a PLAN!
A plan for pre-plan?
Yes. Exactly that.
I've got to tell you, it really worked and I'm excited to share it with you on the off chance that you've not yet started...or that you can hold on to for the next school year.

1. Major on the majors.

My dear friend, Daina over at Sticky Notes and Glitter and I are doing a series of Facebook posts called #lemmejustsay.  They are #realtalkteacher tidbits for the classroom teacher.  This one from Daina really resonated with me.  Sometimes, cute can be the enemy of practical.  Because I'm a naturally creative person, I'll spend hours working on one file to get the optics 'just right'.  I'll work on one bulletin board for WAY too long just to make sure it looks nice for my blog.  I'll buy knick nacks for my room that are great in September and are the bain of my existance by January. This is the exact type of thing that stresses me. I KNOW that there are some teachers that it DESTRESSES to make your room pretty.  If that's you, this point isn't for you. You go on and do you.  For me though, cute is either too much work sometimes...or too expensive. :(  I have to start with the big things...and then if I have time and money at the end...I'll see how much cute I can do!

2. Think about long range plans and procedures early.

This year, I worked on my long range plans over the summer so that I had an idea of where I was going. I refreshed my thinking on procedures, with my 127 Management Questions Freebie. Instead of coming back the week before pre-plan to do a bunch of decorative things, I spent the last week of my summer hanging out with my husband, meeting up with friends, and generally powering up for the year by RELAXING.  When I walked in the door, because I'd refreshed my procedures, setting up the room arrangement was really easy.  I had time to deep clean my room.  Everything is so shiny!  After the first day, I was really happy!  And guess what...I didn't spend a dime I didn't have! :)  Don't you love that story?

2. Cut back on the chit chat.

I'm super social. I love people, but in a week where there are so many things that are a drain on my time, I've got to prioritize.  Leaving most social conversations for team lunches seems to work best to make sure that I have time between meetings and training to get stuff done that de-stresses me.  I make lists of things that I think I might need outside of my room...for example, if I want to ask the grade chair about something, or ask my administrator for time off to do a training...things like this.  Tracking people down takes time. :(  Once I'm done with what I have to's easier to go down my list of things that I do outside of the classroom. It also keeps me accountable.

3. Got a big job?  Recruit help!

This year, I have to clean out my crazy closet.  At the end of last year, I just dumped everything in there to keep it off the floor. It's a disaster.  I even took a picture to share it with you...but it's so bad...shame prohibited me from exposing it! LOL!  I HATE cleaning.  Most years, my mom comes up and helps me with the cute touches and light cleaning.  This year, Mom can't make it.  So...enter...#thehubs.

He came in on his day off and got my computers all set up!  He was also my accountability.

4. Set boundaries

Make sure your self talk is right! :) It is really okay to go home when the day is done.  I used to work at school until 5:30 or 6 and then still come home and work on stuff that I would put on TPT.  I put an end to that last year, and I can honestly say...I am SO. MUCH. HAPPIER.  I leave school right around 3:45.  I try to grade my papers during lunch or during bus dismissal.  I streamlined the amount of paper I require too, to help me major on the majors with my kids.  Paperwork that I'm not going to really look at closely and give meaningful feedback to is not necessary.  I cut it out.  I can come home, have a nice dinner with the hubs, and then work on curriculum that I'm writing for TPT for a bit before I hit the sheets.

Hope your pre-plan week goes smoothly!