Setting the Tone for a Kind Classroom

I know we aren't supposed to pick favorites, but I have one...

A teammate first introduced Have you Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud to me when I was teaching kindergarten back in 2012, and I have been obsessed with it ever since. In my opinion, if you teach elementary, this book should, hands down, be one you read the first week of school (and a couple times a year as a reminder).

The message in this book is simple enough that kids fully understand what it is describing, but deep enough to make a long term impact on their hearts. A few years ago when I moved from kindergarten to a 3rd/4th blend, I thought it might be a bit too "little kid-ish", but my big kids fully embraced the idea of bucket filling every bit as much as my younger students. 

So what is a bucket filler

A bucket filler is someone who makes positive influence on the world around them by saying or doing kind things. Bucket filling can be as simple as a smiling at someone, or more bold such as complimenting someone or inviting them to play at recess. As we use our own words and actions to "fill others buckets", we often find that our own bucket is also filled, simply by showing kindness to others. 

Every year, I read this book during the first week of school. It helps to emphasize the class culture that I want for us, but it also allows students to have a voice in the class culture they hope to experience by giving ideas of how to "fill buckets". As we share ideas as I class, we create an anchor chart showing some of these ideas we have created together. It turns out something like this in the end.

My favorite way to follow up this book is with an interactive bulletin board. This allows students to really look for acts of kindness from their peers and see that no act of kindness is ever too small. 

We start by creating our own buckets. For this, I just fold and cut pieces of construction paper in the shape of a bucket. (I staple the sides, while leaving the top open so that we can "fill" the buckets later). Then kids decorate them as they see fit. It turns out like this:

As students observe acts of kindness, they fill out little cards with a quick note and "fill" someones bucket with it...literally and figuratively. I usually have a variety of pre-printed notes available, but also allow students to write their own. You can download these notes here.

This activity serves a couple purposes. 
1. It has kids actively looking for the good around them. It's amazing how much kindness you can see when you are intentional about finding it!
2. I can watch the buckets for patterns...who is getting a lot of notes? Who is getting few? This allows me to make early social interventions as a teacher without being invasive or kids even noticing. How can I partner up friends to promote more inclusivity? 
3. It sets a tone for our class culture. Bucket Filling is a message that everyone can understand. I love hearing kids say phrases like, "Thank you for sharing your marker. That filled my bucket." It's in small moments that I can see the message has struck home. 

You can grab my Bucket Filler Interactive Bulletin Board HERE or by clicking the photo below.

You can grab Have You Filled a Bucket Today and all the other amazing books in the series by clicking the photos below.

Want to get ideas for other books you should use the first week of school? Check out my Back to School Must Have Read Aloud Books blog post HERE

If you found this blog post helpful, I would appreciate you pinning the image below and helping me spread the word. 


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