Creating a Classroom Community that promotes kindness


Let's flash back to January of 2017, shall we? I was 7ish months pregnant with a high risk pregnancy that had left me drained emotionally. Then, I got the flu. The flu. That drained me physically. If you've never had the flu, I can only describe it as feeling like your body is shutting down. I remember laying in bed one afternoon, literally contemplating if I should just pee myself because getting up and walking the 10 feet the the bathroom seemed like an impossibly exhausting task. (TMI? That's my specialty.)

Here I was, broken tired. And while I was laying in my bed, believing that this was what death felt like, I got a few emails from parents informing me of events that had happened in my class. I can only describe them as "mean girl" issues. I couldn't deal. 

First, I cried (did I mention super pregnant, and super overwhelmed?) Next, I pulled out my computer and typed out the only thing I could think of, "Kindness: The only thing more contagious than the flu!" That was actually the first draft of this bulletin board, y'all! Probably not what people want outside their walls, so it quickly morphed into what you see here.
Encourage a classroom community built on kindness with this FREE interactive bulletin board!
When I came back from being sick, I reviewed our community expectations with my class. We discussed how we treat others, and how we respond when we see others being treated disrespectfully. We talked about being bold. A word we used all year long. We have discussed being bold as doing the right thing, even when it's hard, even when we know it won't be popular. We are a class that does the right thing, and by doing the right thing, we will make our classroom, our school, and our community better.

So I challenged my kids to be bold. Then I challenged them to look for others showing the character values that we spent so much time practicing all year. And not just to look for them, but to notice them. And when they noticed them, to write them down on these notes, and pin them to the bulletin board. On these notes, they got to highlight who they saw showing kindness, but they did not sign it. This was not meant to be a popularity contest. It was not meant to be friends lifting each other up. I wanted genuine, anonymous responses.
Encourage a classroom community built on kindness with this FREE interactive bulletin board!
My heart leapt for joy, when within the first few days, our board was already covered in the sweetest notes. My kids were asking if they could spend their recess writing notes of kindness that they witnessed. Kids from other classes started asking if they could write down things that they saw. It was beautiful. My kids were even shouting out teachers, cafeteria workers, and the custodian probably had more notes than anyone. I tried to keep tabs to make sure everyone was being noticed, but our board covered up so quickly that notes were getting pinned on top of each other.

Dummy me, I left for maternity leave without taking a picture of it all beautifully filled, but it's amazing what kids can notice when we provide them with the opportunity!

Want to do this activity in your class? It's a FREEBIE! :)
YOU CAN FIND IT HERE: 
Encourage a classroom community built on kindness with this FREE interactive bulletin board!
OR PIN IT FOR LATER:
Encourage a classroom community built on kindness with this FREE interactive bulletin board!

Create a Meaningful Class Birthday Gift



Help your students feel special on their birthday with a class created book that they can keep for years to come. Students will sharpen their letter writing skills as they write about each birthday student and why he/she is special. These books are easy to create, easy to assemble, and are sure to be treasured by both students and parents!

I'm a summer baby, which means that in all of my school years, I never got to have a school birthday party. I'm obviously not over it, since I'm in my early 30's and still feel sad about missing out as a kid!

My first year of teaching, I decided two things. One, every child, even those summer babies, was going to get a party in my class. Everyone deserves a day to be celebrated! And two, I was going to create a handmade gift for each student that showed them how much our class cared about them! I also was a poor teacher, drowning in student loans, teaching at a private school. I needed something cheap, if not free! So I decided we would make a birthday book for each student on their birthdays!

I did this every year that I taught Kindergarten. On each student's birthday, as a whole class, we talked about reason why the birthday kid was special, things we appreciated about him/her, and discussed adjectives that described them. We would make an anchor chart and leave it up all week! The birthday kid always got to color the cover of their birthday book while they listened in as our whole class bragged about them. They usually acted embarrassed (wouldn't we all), but they beamed from ear to ear all day long!
Help your students feel special on their birthday with a class created book that they can keep for years to come. Students will sharpen their letter writing skills as they write about each birthday student and why he/she is special. These books are easy to create, easy to assemble, and are sure to be treasured by both students and parents!
After discussing all the adjectives, characteristics, etc about the birthday kid, I had my class create a page to be added to the birthday book. Depending on the time of year, and the ability of the kid, I game them different tasks. Early on in kinder, I just wanted them to write one word; by the end of the year, I expected a sentence or more, depending on where each student was. After collecting all the pages, I compiled them in to a book. The book book was super simple to assemble. I used a large 12x18 piece of construction paper, folded in half, with the student created pages stapled inside, and the cover that the birthday kid drew glued to the front. About as simple as you can come, right?!
BirtHelp your students feel special on their birthday with a class created book that they can keep for years to come. Students will sharpen their letter writing skills as they write about each birthday student and why he/she is special. These books are easy to create, easy to assemble, and are sure to be treasured by both students and parents!
I always scheduled the parties at the end of the day. *I ain't no fool...I know what sugar does to kids!* We would read the birthday book while eating our cupcakes (and then immediately play a movement game to burn off sugar!). As soon as the birthday kid's parent came to pick them up, they were begging their parent to read their birthday book to them! It was beautiful to watch them be so excited about something so simple (and cheap!). I can't promise that the book was treasured forever, but it was certainly impactful in the immediate!

What do you do to make your students feel unique and special on their birthday?


CHECK OUT THE BOOK I USE BY CLICKING HERE:
Birthday Book TpT 

 OR PIN IT FOR LATER:
Help your students feel special on their birthday with a class created book that they can keep for years to come. Students will sharpen their letter writing skills as they write about each birthday student and why he/she is special. These books are easy to create, easy to assemble, and are sure to be treasured by both students and parents!

Why I Still Teach Cursive, and You should too!

Learning to write in cursive has many cognitive advantages. Help students master cursive handwriting with this fun handwriting unit. There are over 120 pages of activities to help sharpen handwriting, including uppercase & lowercase practice, word writing, paragraph writing, and search and graph. Use the pages as standalone practice, or turn them into a handwriting book that can be used all year long!

A few years ago, my school was contemplating giving up cursive in exchange for keyboarding. I'm all about those 21st century skills (actually, I'm a huge proponent of it...I wrote my masters thesis on technology integration!). There is no denying that we live in a technology driven world where digital literacy, keyboarding, and coding are imperative skills for students to learn. Unfortunately, these are replacing handwriting in many schools. Many policy makers, administrators, teachers, and parents believe that handwriting is a think of the past, an art form rather than a necessary skill to aid in the education of a child. but ya'll, there is actually a plethora of research behind the importance of kids learning cursive! Cursive is absolutely still relevant!

So here are 5 reason that I still teach cursive, and you should too!

1. Quality handwriting increases brain function. Brain research shows that kids with good handwriting activate brain regions associated with cognition, language, and executive functions more than kids with poor handwriting. Quality handwriting comes with practice. Cursive is especially important, because it is a quicker form of writing than print. As kids develop fluency with their writing, they are able to put their thoughts onto paper quicker and more efficiently. (And before you argue that you can type faster than you type...read the next point).

2. Information is processed and retained better when written. There has been an abundance of research that studies the rate of retention for information written versus typed. While students are able to type information quickly, it is an automatic, thoughtless process. As students write, they have to form their own thoughts, by summarizing, paraphrasing, and organizing information. When it comes to retaining information that has been typed or written, students who wrote information perform higher than students who typed information.

3. Cursive is an art form. This is often said as though it's a bad thing. As if art has no place in academia. Art is essential for brain development. It allows kids (and adults alike) to be creative, to express themselves, to be unique, and to take ownership of something personal. Art can also have a calming effect on our brains and help relieve stress. As kids practice cursive writing, they must focus on the fluid motions of the letters, the connections, etc, and this activates different parts of their brain.

4. Cursive helps develop fine motor skills. This goes along with the previous point. Handwriting, and cursive specifically, requires us to use and develop different hand muscles than keyboarding would. Additionally, as these muscles are used, they send signals to the brain, similar to whey you learn to play an instrument. The signals sent between your hand and your brain when writing are stronger and more developed than with typing. Research has shown that students with good handwriting also have more confidence and perform higher on evaluations.

5. So kids can read artifacts of the past  Ok. this might be a completely selfish point here, but I want for kids to be able to interpret historical documents. I want them to be able to read cards from their grandma. I want students to be able to sign documents. I want for students to be able to connect to the past! In our never-ending quest to move forward, we shouldn't completely forget about the past!

Honestly, I love teaching cursive. When I was a kindergarten teacher, my students were constantly begging to learn cursive, so when I moved to third grade, it was a dream! Except, the only cursive curriculum I could find looked like it belonged in 1983!

Like any rational person would, I grabbed my computer and took on the challenge of making a cursive handwriting book that looked like it belonged in this decade! I'm pretty excited with how this turned out! You can check it out by clicking the pictures below. :)

Learning to write in cursive has many cognitive advantages. Help students master cursive handwriting with this fun handwriting unit. There are over 120 pages of activities to help sharpen handwriting, including uppercase & lowercase practice, word writing, paragraph writing, and search and graph. Use the pages as standalone practice, or turn them into a handwriting book that can be used all year long!Learning to write in cursive has many cognitive advantages. Help students master cursive handwriting with this fun handwriting unit. There are over 120 pages of activities to help sharpen handwriting, including uppercase & lowercase practice, word writing, paragraph writing, and search and graph. Use the pages as standalone practice, or turn them into a handwriting book that can be used all year long!

Do you think cursive is a thing of the past or do you think that it still has a place in schools? Let me know in the comments!