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“Sticks and Stones may Break My Bones, But Words Can Never Hurt Me!” November 18, 2017

How many of us learned the above rhyme as a child, and how many of us still believe it is true?  For many of us, it is the names we were called that have caused us long-lasting hurt.

In the Children’s House, we focus on simple lessons of grace and courtesy and a safe place to practice these skills~ how to say please, thank you, sorry, accept an apology, accept or decline an invitation, offer to help, accept or decline help, how to invite a friend to play, how to ask to join a game, how to introduce yourself, introduce someone else, shake hands, greet someone, welcome someone . . ..

While the above lessons are still important in the elementary community, the focus of grace and courtesy extends to include the elementary child’s mission to discover for himself what is right or wrong, what are the rules of society, and how to develop a just and caring community, and find his or her place within it.  The children are developing their moral compass.

At the school where I work, the teachers and I are planning a series of lessons to help children develop their own inner moral compass.  The lessons offer opportunities to contribute to the well being of others, such as sewing and stuffing stockings for the local foodbank, to be distributed to other children in need.  The lessons will offer opportunities to participate in a Martin Luther King Junior project.  Students will be invited to participate individually or in groups to write or design a poster that shows how we can welcome someone into our classroom community.  The lessons will celebrate friendship, with a focus during February on celebrating random acts of kindness.  Lessons will include classroom meetings which offer opportunities to group problem solve, without blaming or shaming.  Other opportunities will include sorting actions into different categories, such as rude behavior, mean behavior and bullying behavior.

We introduced this focus on grace and courtesy with a discussion of the common saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.”  At first the discussion was around who had broken a bone and how the bone was fixed, until someone in the group said, “Well, I’ve never broken a bone, or been hit with a stick or a stone, but I’ve had my feelings hurt with words.”

Another child added that hearing very mean words left her feeling damaged.

This was the perfect opportunity to introduce our activity – bullying an apple!  I demonstrated then invited children to take turns coming up to an apple and saying something mean to the apple.  Here are some of the words used:

“I don’t like your color.”

“I just don’t like apples.”

“I don’t like your shape.”

“You are too small.”

“You are a wimp.”

“Grapes are better than apples.”

“Apples are no good.”

“I hate apples.”

There were a few giggles, but then the conversation turned serious as we realized everything that we had said to the apple, we had heard said to people.

Next we turned our attention to another apple, and this time said something nice about the apple.

“You are beautiful.”

“Apples are so good for you.”

“You are just right.”

“I like apples.”

We all agreed that we felt better ourselves saying nice things, so we talked about how when we say mean things it can make us feel mean inside, but when we use friendly words, we feel kind inside.

Lastly, we cut the apples in half.  I had secretly dropped the apple we bullied several times on a hard wood floor, so when we cut the apple in half, it looked bruised on the inside.  The other apple was unharmed.  Of course, after the kids response of, “WOW!”, I explained what I had done, and that this was a demonstration, to make a point, not an experiment to see if we could damage an apple with our words.  The kids were still impressed and got the point.  Words can hurt someone inside, even if they don’t leave an obvious bruise on the outside.

There were immediate requests to “Do it again, please,” but it was time for lunch!

This lesson, to me, is similar to toddlers practicing gentle touches on a flower.  It is a reminder, and an experience we can refer back to.  In the future, when children use mean words to one another, we can ask, “Do you remember when we bullied the apple with our words, and how we discussed how words can hurt us inside?”

I would love to hear from others on ideas they have used to help elementary children develop these important social skills.

I got this idea from a facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/newsnercom/videos/924570201043625/

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Friendship Tea February 7, 2017

February at our school is all about the heart!  We are celebrating love and friendship.  Friendship Tea is one of our favorite activities in the preschool.  One child initiates the activity, setting up the beautiful table with everything neccessary for sharing a pot of chamomile tea with a friend ~ cups, teapot, teabags, hot water, tongs for transferring a teabag to the pot, and a timer to time the steeping of the tea.  The host then invites another child from the class to share a pot of friendship tea.  The idea is to invite someone whom you do not know very well, in order to share conversation and get to know each other better.  During a group presentation, the teachers model conversation starters that the children can use while the tea is steeping.

“Do you have a brother or sister?”

“What are your favorite games?”

“What do you like to do at school?”

“Do you have a pet?”

After tea and conversation, the host is responsible for cleaning up, and the guest for thanking the host for the invitation.

This is such an amazing activity in so many ways ~ practicing grace and courtesy, social skills, language skills, and practical life skills.

During this month, I will be writing about other prosocial ideas.

 

 

Sharing of talents May 19, 2016

Today I had the pleasure of attending a very special Performance Day in our elementary classroom.  Once a week, throughout the year, the elementary students are invited to demonstrate and share a talent in front of a live audience of their peers – their classmates!  Today, towards the end of the school year, parents and teachers were invited to attend the performance.  This is a very kid friendly and kid organized event, so the definition of talent is very broad and very entertaining ~ whistling, twirling, showing off a new ballet move or karate move, singing a song, drawing a picture, telling a joke, reading a book, reading a story you wrote, counting (forwards, backwards, in another language, by fives, by tens . . . ), demonstrating a magic trick, explaining a science experiment, playing an instrument – cello, guitar, violin, keyboard, recorder, demonstrating some signs you know . . . the list is varied, endless and changes from week to week.  A demonstration of how to clap loudly, or how to make a special sound from blowing on a blade of grass held between your thumbs, or jump rope , or blow up a balloon. . . you betcha these are talents in the eyes of the children!

I was so impressed with the poise of the children.  The children introduced themselves, told the audience what they were going to perform, performed, took a bow, thanked the audience and then sat down.

The children learn and practice so many worthwhile skills from Performance Day.  They develop confidence in being able to stand up and address a group.  They practice their audience manners, an age appropriate grace and courtesy skill.  They work on developing respect for one another and themselves.  And I think most importantly, they recognize the unique gifts and talents of each child in their community, and so develop their appreciation for both diversity and community.

The final performance of the afternoon included a small group performance of ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ on violin, cello, recorder and keyboard.  Second time through the tune, the quartet was joined by the voices of the children and audience members.  It was very special indeed.

Thank you, Ms. Sudha, for sharing your amazing and unique talents as a teacher!  That is what you performed today as I watched your children share their talents.  You have created a community of children who are confident in their own skills and contributions to the community, as well as appreciative of the talents and contributions of others.  This embodies all of our school values – community, diversity, love of learning, dignity and child centered!

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Day, 2016 ~ An invitation to work May 6, 2016

Oh my goodness, today was a busy day at school, with our school  hosting three Moms’ Day teas!  I wear a fitbit, and today I tracked 19000 steps, almost eight miles and thirty flights of stairs! I took an hour nap when I got home today.  I know that I wasn’t the only one who was this busy.  Thanks, teachers.

The children were also very busy.  An event like this is an invitation to work ~ invitations and name cards to write, decorations to make, gifts to make and wrap, songs to learn, poems to write, flowers to arrange, furniture to move and rearrange, muffins to bake, strawberries to slice, tables to set, tea to pour and then a lot of clean up chores and dishes to wash.  I think of special events like our Moms’ Day teas as invitations to work ~ a joy filled opportunity to work hard for a specific purpose.

So far, it has all been very worthwhile ~ 100% turnout by Moms, lots of hugs, laughter, joy, love, excitement and special memories and traditions being made.

This is also building our school’s sense of community and traditions.

 

Making Peace November 15, 2015

I love the concept of peace being an active process.  It is something we can make, and we can actively model how to do that so the children in our classrooms can work together to achieve a peaceful community.  Learning how to resolve conflicts and coexist peacefully may be some of the most important skills our children can acquire.  It is important to remember that like any other skill, children need time to practice in a safe environment, and that with practice, the skill gets easier and more automatic.  The more we ride a bike, the easier it gets, and the less we need to consciously work on balance.  The same is true of using conflict resolution skills and making peace ~ the more we practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Montessori education uses various tools to help children practice making peace.

With babies and toddlers, the focus is on establishing a peaceful and loving environment, in supporting their emotional and social development, and in developing strong and trusting relationships.  This allows our youngest children to develop a positive and trusting attitude.

In the children’s house, the peace rose is an aid to helping children take turns using their words to solve a problem.  When you hold the peace rose, it is your turn to talk and the other child’s turn to listen.  We model how to use this format:  I feel ____________ when _________________ because ______________ and I would like ______________________.  “I feel hurt when you run away from me on the playground because I feel left out and I would like you to let me play in your games.”  “I feel mad when you knock down my tower because it took me a long time to build and I would like you to respect my work.”  The rose is then passed to the other child.  “I want to play with lots of friends.  I don’t like it when you want to play with only me.  I want to play with you, but I want to play with my other friends, too.”  “I am sorry.  I won’t knock down your tower again.”  This process encourages active listening, and active problem solving using words.  This is so much better than hitting, calling names, pouting, sulking, or throwing a tantrum.

At the elementary level, the children participate in classroom meetings, focused on acknowledging the contributions of one another to the classroom community, and then engaging in group problem solving.  The older children can run the classroom meetings, gaining practice in leadership skills, too.  Problems discussed might include children not reshelving their books in the library area, hogging materials for a long time so no-one else can use them, being too loud and preventing other children from concentrating, leaving children out during playground games . . .  The children may keep a peace journal to record their own and others contributions to the peace of the classroom community.  This is a beautiful way to help children become aware of peace being an ongoing process, needing careful tending.

What I love about these peacemaking activities is the focus on being open to discussing problems and actively working together to find solutions.  We could all learn from our children.  They are so generous in accepting an apology, in owning up to a mistake and saying sorry.

Our children are the hope of our future.  Let’s help them grow in tolerance and acceptance.  Let’s help them grow to be leaders in making peace.  That’s what our world needs!

Photos below:  Peace journal, a step by step guide to making peace for the elementary aged child, children successfully solving a problem about sharing building materials (Just look at their happy faces – this was a win/win problem solving session), the peace rose in action in the classroom.

IMG_2254IMG_2253making peace 1peace rose 2

 

What Moms Can Do May 8, 2015

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We recently celebrated Mom’s Day at school, and what an invitation to work this was for the children! Gifts to make and wrap, cards to draw and color, name tags to write, songs to learn, decorations to make for the windows and walls of the room, centerpieces of flowers to arrange, shortbread to bake, cream to whip and strawberries to slice, tables and chairs to carry and move, tables to set, and finally, lots of clean up. Our elementary aged students provided a lot of community service to the school by working as servers at the teas for the younger students and their Moms.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One Mom told me that her child counted down the days until the tea. “Mom, only two days to go.” “Mom, only one more day!” He told his Mom that he wanted to dress up, including wearing his church shoes and tie, and asked Mom to dress up, too.  The children were all buzzing with excitement – and the Moms were, too!

The children were provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their grace and courtesy – remembering to say please and thank you, to pass the small bowls and plates of cookies, whipped cream and strawberries around the table, to use the tongs and small spoons for serving, to drink from china or glass tea cups. to take turns conversing . . .

One of our school’s values is ‘community.’ This was a true community effort, with all of the children, teachers and classes pitching in to help. And when I saw Moms and children lingering in the afternoon sun, sitting on benches outside of the school and conversing, I realized that the tea helps build community by providing parents an opportunity to meet and converse. The tea also builds our communal memory of shared events.

The children in the classes for 3 – 6 year olds even wrote two community poems. Each child contributed a line to the poem, based on ‘What Moms can do.” I love the way the children have captured the very essence of what it means to be a Mom ~ all of the love, caring, fun, learning, strength, responsibility, and yes, even vulnerability. For sure the poems show that the children are watching and appreciating what we do!

Enjoy!

What Moms can do

By Aspen Class – spring 2015

Grocery shop

Feed me

Give me food

Pack lunches

Bake fish

Cook us breakfast

Make me pancakes

Bake yummy stuff

Clean the dishes

Take me to school

Take me to the park

The pirate park

The playground

Take me bowling with my family

Take me to Zeppoz for the very first time

Color with me

Write

Tape my pictures up on the wall

Buy me new toys

Play with me

Build an igloo

Plant flowers

Snuggle me up in my bed

Snuggle with me

Snuggle

Tuck me in

Give me goodnight kisses

Take care of me when I am sick

Wake me up

Give me hugs

We thank you for all of the wonderful things you do!

Mom, I love you!

“What Moms Can Do”

Willow Classroom

Spring 2015

Sew and needle.

Knit me a scarf

Wash dishes

Clean the walls

Cook dinner

Make something that I want

Teach me how to write

Write things for me

Help me do arts and crafts

Play piano with me

Put on a show and put on music

Turn on “Rooftops step in time”

Play a game with me

Let me play with my toys

Wash the car on hot days

Pick up a couch with my dad

Ride her bike with a helmet

Put the recycling out

Use a pitchfork

Juggle anything

Some things are too heavy for her

My mom can get sick

My mom can come back to me

and she can kiss me

My mom can

My mom loves me

And I love my Mom!