Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Respecting Differences in Kindergarten

In kindergarten I have started a 2-part lesson to help our students learn that we each are unique and special.  Diversity is an important concept for students to understand in our world.  We each look different, speak different, act different, and are given different opportunities.  Instead of an outlook of "I'm right" and "you're wrong," students can see how our unique talents work together to make a community.

I began my reading Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni.  This book features two main characters, a fish and a tadpole who believe they are the same.  As time passes, more and more differences become apparent and they learn that they can still be friends.  After reading this story, we discussed the differences between the two friends and how each one is unique.  Just as fish is fish and frog is frog, Ms. Sepp is Ms. Sepp, Brain is Brian, and so forth.

Then students began working in their own books on how they are unique.  The book is titled, "I am special: A book about ME" and can be download here from the website:   The book takes students through who they are, the size of their hand, their interests, their family, and finishes with an inspiring poem.

During my next visit, we read I Like Myself written by Karen Beaumont.  In this story we meet a young character that enjoys being silly.  She reinforces that no matter how she looks or what others say, she is always herself.  Self-confidence is the main theme of the story and this is captured through her secure statements.

Students worked on the next couple of pages in their book about themselves by cutting out pictures of things they like, drawing pictures of their families, and recording their favorite color.

Magnet School Information Session

Parents and students are invited to attend an information session, to learn more about the Lamar Fine Arts Academy, Fulmore Magnet, Kealing Magnet, and Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders programs, for Fall 2013 enrollment.

Directors / Principals from all four schools will be at the Kiker Elementary cafeteria [5913 La Crosse Avenue, 78739; (512) 414-2584] on Wednesday evening, December 5th, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

From 6:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. George Llewellyn, Principal of Lamar M.S., will share information about the Lamar Fine Arts Academy.

From 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Debra Price, Director of Fulmore Magnet, and Beth Cooper, Director of Kealing Magnet, will share information about the Fulmore and Kealing Magnet programs.

From 7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Jeanne Goka, Principal of Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, will share information about the Ann Richards [girls only] program.

For more information contact Randie Fraser, Counselor, by email at or cell phone [512] 680-7244.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Teamwork: Cup Stack

I stumbled across this idea on Pinterest and thought it would be perfect for my third and fourth graders!  I often hear complaints from students that although others "allow" them to play games at recess, they often do not "include" them in the game.  For example, in football they are on the team but the ball is never passed to them.  I used this as a springboard for discussion on what teamwork really looks like.

The Cup Stack is a great activity to facilitate teamwork.  Some groups are able to complete the task very quickly while other groups must keep trying and trying to complete the task successfully.  It's hard not to give up when things get frustrating, and this is a valuable lesson for children to learn in a safe environment.  All you need is cups, rubberbands, and string.  I decided to put my students into groups of 6, so I tied 6 equally spaced strings (about 1-2 feet long) around a single rubberband.  Each group was given this device and 6 cups.

The challenge is for the group to build a pyramid out of the paper cups (3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, 1 on the top - can be adjusted for more cups).  Group members cannot touch the cups with their hands or any other part of their bodies, even if a cup falls over or on the floor.  Each person holds onto one of the strings that are attached to the rubber band and they use this device to pick up the cups and place them on top of each other (by pulling the rubber band apart and then bringing it back together over the cups).

Some groups took 2 minutes to accomplish their goal, some 10 minutes, and some never successfully built their tower.  I had groups that finished early watch the remaining groups to add a little "pressure."  Afterwards we debriefed with the following discussion questions:
  • Was anyone frustrated at all during the activity? If so how was it handled?
  • What did you learn about yourself or others?
  • Why was teamwork so important for this activity?
  • What is so hard about teamwork?
  • What did you do today to contribute to the teamwork on your team?
  • What are some skills needed to be good at teamwork?
  • Are you every in a situation where you must use teamwork? Is this always easy for you? Why or why not?
  • How can we use what we learned through this experience in situations outside the game?   
 Check out Teamwork: Cup Stack Take 2! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lee Thanksgiving Dinner

You are invited to our Thanksgiving Dinner, Thursday, November 15th. We will follow a revised lunch schedule to allow more time for everyone to be served. Students will eat with their regular classes. The price for lunch is $2.25 for students and $3.00 for adults, which includes an entree and two sides. Additional sides are available for $.65 each. The cafeteria accepts cash only and exact change is appreciated. Please do not use your child’s lunch account as it depletes their account.

                K - Manning        10:30-11:05                         3 - Wright            11:35-12:10
                K - Gonzales       10:35-11:10                          3 - Mullane         11:40-12:15
                K - Stanfield        10:40-11:15                         4 - Rolling           11:50-12:25
                1 - Thomas          10:50-11:25                         4 - Cox               11:55-12:30
                1 - Green             10:55-11:30                        4 - Jones            12:00-12:35
                1 - Zarker             11:00-11:35                        4 - Supak            12:10-12:45
                2 - Szilagyi           11:10-11:45                          5 - Clinchard       12:15-12:50
                2 - Nokes             11:15-11:50                         5 - Sands             12:20-12:55
                2 - Chichester      11:20-11:55                         6 - Brown             12:30-1:05
                3 - Harper            11:30-12:05                         6 - Hubbard          12:35-1:10

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tattle Tongue Strikes Again!

I have been receiving many counseling requests from my students in second grade.  After looking through their slips, I found that many of their problems could be easily solved using Kelso's Choices and other strategies we've practiced in guidance.  I thought reading A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook would be an appropriate intervention (see previous post).

I went over two posters with students that they can go to for help (which I found on Pinterest).  Teachers posted these in the classroom as a visual aid.

These reinforce to students the criteria for when it's considered reporting or tattling.  Then, students read through the prompts on a tongue and colored each spot purple if it would be tattling or red if it would be reporting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Geography Day

A yearly tradition at Lee Elementary is GEOGRAPHY DAY.   Teachers and parents transform the classrooms into 6 different countries. Each grade level is responsible to create one of the countries. Each year the students vote on the country they'd like to visit, and spend the day in a different country to add it to their passport. Students are mixed up in grade levels K-6.  They learn about games and traditions, listen to music, and try foods from those countries.  Students will also learn about the history, geography, and culture in one grade level.

First Grade is Italy:

Second grade is Uganda:

Kindergarten is the Rainforest:

Fifth grade is Ireland:

 Third grade is Australia:

Fourth Grade is Greece:

Sixth Grade is Japan

Special events for the day include a Japanese Classical Dance by Tsubomi & Austin Folk Dance Group, Irish Band - The Tea Merchants, Taiko Drummers, an Italian Opera Singer, Irish Dancing Lessons, UT Kendo Club, Irish Bagpipers, Italian Glass Blowers, Greek Dance Group, Australian Football, Irish Hurling by the Celtic Cowboys, Chocolates of the Rainforest, Herpeton Exotinc Animals, and Pan Flutes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Magnet Middle School Information

AISD Middle School Choice Fair
Featuring Kealing & Fulmore Magnet Schools and Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders- Saturday December 1st from 9-12 PM at Ann Richards School 2206 Prather Lane Austin, TX 78704 (512) 414-3236.

Kealing Magnet Showcase
Parent and student information session on Thursday January 10th from 6-8 PM at Kealing Middle School- 1607 Pennsylvania Ave. Austin, TX 78702  (512) 414-3180. Application deadline 2/8/13. ( If you want to shadow/visit, application must be turned in by 1/25/13).

Fulmore Magnet Showcase

Parent and student information session on Tuesday January 8th from 5-7 PM at Fulmore Middle School- 201 East Mary Austin, TX 78704  (512) 841-4916.  Shadow request forms due 12/21/12.  Applications due 2/8/13.

Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders Showcase
Parent and student information session on Saturday January 26 from 10-12 PM at Ann Richards School 2206 Prather Lane Austin, TX 78704 (512) 414-3236. Applications due 2/8/13

Lamar Middle School Fine Arts Academy
Invites 5th graders to a free FAA application and audition workshop with our Lamar Fine Arts Academy faculty on Saturday December 15th from 10-11 AM @ Lamar CafĂ© 6201 Wynona, Austin, Texas 78757 (512) 414-3217.  Art, Band, Choir, Dance, Orchestra and Theatre

**APPLICATIONS FOR THESE SCHOOLS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT  go to “schools” to find the school, and the applications are on the main websites of each school.  

Talking It Out: I Messages

Talking it out is one of the hardest ways to solve our conflicts.  It takes patience and a calm demeanor.  Starting out with the word "You" creates blame, defensiveness, and often causes the listener to ignore you.  We spoke about how each person needs to explain their side while the other listens, then switch.  This choice will only work if the two are willing to listen to each other.  "I Messages" are powerful when you have good eye contact and use the name of the person to gain their attention.

In 4 easy steps, students can let others know how they are feeling, what behavior is bothering them, what they want to happen, and use manners to solve the problem.  Here you can download my template, I Message.

Wrong Way to talk it out: "You interrupted me! You never let me talk!"
Correct Way to talk it out: "I feel frustrated when you interrupt me because I want to share what I'm thinking.  Can you please stop?" 

The benefits to using "I Messages" are that it creates healthy boundaries, improves communication, and works for any age (even adults!).  An "I Message" clearly states that you own your thoughts and feelings - other people do not control your thoughts and feelings, and I do not control their thoughts and feelings.  Communication improves because you prevent the person you are talking to from being on the defense.

In second and third grade we role played the incorrect way to solve a problem and the correct way using an I Message.  Some problems we acted out were: someone is throwing eraser pieces at you, there's a pencil found on the floor and 2 people go to pick it up at once, someone keeps chasing you at recess and yelling out your name, a classmates is whispering to you when the teacher is giving instructions, someone keeps kicking your desk when you're trying to work, someone cuts in front of you in line.

In first grade, students made their own Kelso puppets to help solve problems by talking it out.  Some problems we practiced with our puppets were: the person in front of you is fooling around at the pencil sharpener and won't let you have a turn, a student is following you around at recess copying what you do, a friend won't let you play with them at recess, a friend takes your scissors and won't give it back, a classmate cuts in front of you in line.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Practicing Listening Skills in the Early Years

We've been practicing self-control in the younger grades, but listening skills are a lifelong challenge for all of us.  This week we read Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen written by Howard Binkow and Susan Cornelison.  There is a very helpful website with many resources (videos, activities, coloring pages) at the We Do Listen Foundation.

Before I began reading, we all wiggled our bottoms on our carpet spaces to get out any extra energy.  Throughout the story, Howard gets in numerous situations where listening would have been helpful.  Students see the hilarious outcomes of him not listening, and learn how to have whole body listening.  We discussed that whether we're sitting on the carpet, at our desks, or waiting in line, there are ways to show adults that our whole body is listening.  Our eyes are looking, ears are listening, mouth is quiet, hands are down and still, and feet are down and still.  Students drew a picture of them showing whole body listening and we wrote a sentence together describing the skills they were using to listen.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Supportive Staff

I really want to thank everyone for being so welcoming when I come into your rooms.  I appreciate your patience, and love the displays you're making to help students solve their problems and make good choices.  I feel so supported by everyone and can't find the right words to express my gratitude for helping your kiddos become great leaders.

A fourth grade teacher at our school displays helpful tips for students in her classroom.

A third grade teacher at our school has created a space in her classroom where students can go when they need help making good choices. 

A second grade teacher posts students responses to SEL (Social Emotional Learning) lessons.