Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Children's Media Use in America 2013

CommonSense Media created this insightful infographic on our children's use of media in 2013:

Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids

I loved this article written by Joshua Becker titled, "Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids."  Give it a shot and see what happens...

The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation.” – Ray L. Wilbur

Toys are not merely playthings. Toys form the building blocks for our child’s future. They teach our children about the world and about themselves. They send messages and communicate values. And thus, wise parents think about what foundation is being laid by the toys that are given to their kids.
Wise parents also think about the number of toys that children are given. While most toy rooms and bedrooms today are filled to the ceiling with toys, intentional parents learn to limit the number of toys that kids have to play with.
They understand that fewer toys will actually benefit their children in the long-term:

  1. Kids learn to be more creative. Too many toys prevent kids from fully developing their gift of imagination. Two German public health workers (Strick and Schubert) conducted an experiment in which they convinced a kindergarten classroom to remove all of their toys for three months. Although boredom set in during the initial stages of the experiment, the children soon began to use their basic surroundings to invent games and use imagination in their playing.
  2. Kids develop longer attention spans. When too many toys are introduced into a child’s life, their attention span will begin to suffer. A child will rarely learn to fully appreciate the toy in front of them when there are countless options still remaining on the shelf behind them.
  3. Kids establish better social skills. Children with fewer toys learn how to develop interpersonal relationships with other kids and adults. They learn the give and take of a good conversation. And studies have attributed childhood friendships to a greater chance of success academically and in social situations during adulthood.
  4. Kids learn to take greater care of things. When kids have too many toys, they will naturally take less care of them. They will not learn to value them if there is always a replacement ready at hand. If you have a child who is constantly damaging their toys, just take a bunch away. He will quickly learn.
  5. Kids develop a greater love for reading, writing, and art. Fewer toys allows your children to love books, music, coloring, and painting. And a love for art will help them better appreciate beauty, emotion, and communication in their world.
  6. Kids become more resourceful. In education, students aren’t just given the answer to a problem; they are given the tools to find the answer. In entertainment and play, the same principle can be applied. Fewer toys causes children to become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. And resourcefulness is a gift with unlimited potential.
  7. Kids argue with each other less. This may seem counter-intuitive. Many parents believe that more toys will result in less fighting because there are more options available. However, the opposite is true far too often. Siblings argue about toys. And every time we introduce a new toy into the relationship, we give them another reason to establish their “territory” among the others. On the other hand, siblings with fewer toys are forced to share, collaborate, and work together.
  8. Kids learn perseverance. Children who have too many toys give up too quickly. If they have a toy that they can’t figure out, it will quickly be discarded for the sake of a different, easier one. Kids with fewer toys learn perseverance, patience, and determination.
  9. Kids become less selfish. Kids who get everything they want believe they can have everything they want. This attitude will quickly lead to an unhealthy (and unbecoming) lifestyle.
  10. Kids experience more of nature. Children who do not have a basement full of toys are more apt to play outside and develop a deep appreciation for nature. They are also more likely to be involved in physical exercise which results in healthier and happier bodies.
  11. Kids learn to find satisfaction outside of the toy store. True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents. Instead, children need encouragement to live counter-cultural lives finding joy in things that truly last.
  12. Kids live in a cleaner, tidier home. If you have children, you know that toy clutter can quickly take over an entire home. Fewer toys results in a less-cluttered, cleaner, healthier home.
I’m not anti-toy. I’m just pro-child. So do your child a favor today and limit their number of toys. (Just don’t tell them you got the idea from me.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lee Mediators - Part 2

Our second lesson in being a mediator began with reviewing what we discussed last time about conflict and the feelings associated with conflict.  I also reiterated that as mediators, we will help groups of students solve their conflict with a win/win.

I started by handing out a large index card to each student.  In the middle of each card I had them write their name, large and legible.  In the bottom left corner, I had them write how they usually deal with conflict.  In the top left corner, I had them write 3 words that describe how they felt today.  In the top right corner, I had them write something they hope to learn as a Lee Mediator.  Finally, in the bottom right corner, I had the write how they want others to treat them and how they are willing to treat others.  Here is an example of the layout:

Afterward, I asked students to move around the room holding their card in front of them so that others could read their information.  They were to do this without speaking to each other.  After they spent a few seconds with one classmate, they were to move on to another until they have interacted with everyone.

We processed this activity with the following questions:
  • How many of you found it difficult to be silent during this activity?
  • What makes it difficult not to talk?
  • How do we most often communicate, with words or without words?
  • What did you learn about each other from the cards?
  • How can you use this in mediation?
Students realized that by silently reading the information, they really "listened" to others opinions and ideas - rather than thinking of how to respond in their own minds.  They also were surprised to see what they had in common with other students when handling conflict.

Next we created an Expectations chart to share what we each wanted to learn about mediation by sharing the top right corner of their index card:

Finally we created a Norms chart to share what behaviors would allow them to feel comfortable and safe by using the bottom right corner of their index card:

Cyberbullying Prevention Tips

CommonSense Media is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a digital world and tackle the issue of cyberbullying.  They have begun a new campaign, "Stand Up, Don't Stand By," that provides parents and educators with the tools and information they need to teach kids about the role they might play in cyberbullying, and how they can stop it.

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is an issue in schools everywhere.  At Lee Elementary, we believe it's best to address cyberbullying and the way our kids treat each other online proactively.  We know we have a responsibility to help our kids grow and thrive in this new media world.  Through my guidance lessons, I will be teaching and empowering our older students not only to stand up to cyberbullying, but also to practice safe, smart, and respectful digital behavior every day.

CommonSense Media has developed many resources to help parents and teachers with guiding children through safe online communication.  They have put together a helpful video for parents that includes tips for teaching your children how to communicate appropriately online.  Additionally, here are 2 informational fact sheets below.

Fulmore Information Night

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Secrets are a tough thing for kiddos to keep.  What starts as one simple share between friends often spreads like wildfire in no time, with twists and additions that were not originally stated, and eventually can become harmful gossip.

In third grade I began with the telephone game.  I had the class sit in a circle and I shared a "secret" with the student sitting next to me.  They then passed it along to their neighbor, and so on and so forth, until it came all the way back around.  When the last person in the circle shared it aloud, we quickly learned that it was not at all what I originally shared.  We discussed what had happened to the original secret and how telling secrets can quickly become harmful.

I then read The Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy.  This is a simple story with a powerful message.  The characters are depicted as silhouettes to draw your attention to a red balloon that grows and follows us through the pages of the story, representing the "secret".  We talked about how difficult it is to keep a secret and explored what happens when you don't keep it.  Next I had students think about who they trust in their lives with their secrets and what they look for in a trustworthy friend.  They shared their reflections in a balloon:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Integrity: Our Character Trait for October & November

Like most parents, you might feel shocked, upset, or betrayed when you first discover your child has lied.  However telling lies does not condemn your child to a life of betrayal or serious behavior problems, it instead plays a positive role in your child's emotional and intellectual development.  The first successful lie is looked at as a developmental achievement because it marks your child's discovery of the word "no," which helps them delineate the boundaries between their own desires, thoughts, and feelings, and those of others.  Children learn to lie from those around them and there is a fine line between telling the truth and not hurting other people - which is tough to learn.  

Children lie for many of the same reasons adults do: to avoid punishment, to gain an advantage, to protect against an unwanted consequence, and even to boost self-esteem.  They may sometimes lie to demonstrate power, maintain privacy, or to protect a friend.  When children lie, they are essentially trying to change a situation, to reconstruct things the way they want them to be.  Helping your child develop morality and responsibility for their actions over the long haul is the goal.  While lying is a normal aspect of growing up, that does not mean it should be dismissed.

In fourth grade we spent time discussing character, in honor of Character Counts! Week.  Our focus was on integrity and I asked students what it means to be honest.  How do you know when someone is being honest?  Tell me about a time when you were not honest and explained what happened.  How does it feel when someone is not honest with you?  An honest person has integrity which means to stand-up for what they believe is right even in difficult times.

We then read The Empty Pot written by Demi.  This is a wonderful Chinese folktale that has a unique twist at the end.  The Emperor is looking for a successor to the thrown and comes up with a creative plan to find a child that has integrity.  I won't spoil the ending...but it definitely surprises the students and their jaws drop!  We reflected on the story thinking about how the Emperor must have felt when the children were being dishonest, how Ping (the main character) felt when he was the only one that was different, and what they would have done if they were in the same position.

Students then created flip books to explain how they show the 6 pillars of character in their everyday lives.  You can download a copy here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Character Counts! Week: Oct 20-26

During this week I will be visiting classes to talk about the 6 pillars of character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.  At the end of the week students will earn an award for having great character and a certificate to a free meal at Mighty Fine Burgers.

The week concluded with students wearing a different color based on the character trait they felt they were strongest at:
  • Trustworthiness: Blue (as in "true blue")
  • Respect: Yellow or Gold (as in the Golden Rule)
  • Responsibility: Green (as in being responsible for a garden or finances)
  • Fairness: Orange (as in dividing an orange into equal sections to share)
  • Caring: Red (as in a heart)
  • Citizenship: Purple (as in the Purple Heart)
Our school was a colorful place, and one creative 2nd grader designed his own special shirt highlighting all of the colors.

Friday, October 18, 2013

MYOB: Mind Your Own Beeswax

The second grade teachers specially requested this lesson and I moved it to a top priority.  Second grade is a time where students begin to look outside of themselves and observe others' choices around them...and TATTLE!  Last year Julia Cook's A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue was a huge hit so I gave it another try.

It chronicles a typical day in Josh's life.  He tattles on everyone, even his dog.  His mother gets fed up with his tattling and warns him that he'll catch tattle tongue if he continues to tattle on others.  The next day at school he hears about a bully threatening to beat up Edith, a friend of his.  Josh remembers what his mom said and chooses not to say anything...which in this case would have been reporting.  The Tattle Prince visits him later that night to go over the "tattle rules" - yes, there are tattle rules - with him.

Students learn the difference between tattling and warning/reporting by following these 4 simple rules.  To reinforce this concept, we created our own tattle tongue bookmarks using tongue depressors, sharpies, glue and glitter.

Students evaluated and determined which situations would be tattling and which would be reporting/warning by color-coding the spots on a tongue.  

I also posted 2 helpful posters in each of the 2nd grade classrooms for students to refer to if they were stuck.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

First Graders Are Filling Our Buckets

I reread one of my favorite books to share at the beginning of the year, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? written by Carol McCloud!  Even though my first graders experienced this book when they were kindergarteners, I thought it was a great way for them to connect to our upcoming Character Counts! Week.

They were full of observations, connections, and ideas while I read the book...I could hardly turn the page!  Afterward we shared how we can be bucket fillers by illustrating a picture and writing a sentence describing their kindness toward others.  Click each thumbnail below to see their creative ideas!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Warning: I Have a Feeling Bubbling Up

Over the last few weeks we've been discussing feelings in kindergarten.  I took it a step further this week by bringing attention to the warning signals our bodies give us.  It's important to not only understand our feelings, but also to know how to recognize what our body feels like during different feelings.  I shared with students a large poster labeled with a variety of warning signs we might feel in our body when we are experiencing a strong emotion.  We went through each of these and modeled some of them together to remember how it feels.  Students even added some of their own warning signals they experience in their body during a strong feeling.  By knowing our bodies, we can self-soothe and use self control to be appropriate in public when we are furious, saddened, disappointed, lonely, etc.

I then had students evaluate how which warning signals they experience in their bodies during strong feelings.  I gave them each a chart with 5 feelings and a sheet full of the warning signals we reviewed on the chart.  They looked at each feeling and paired it with the warning signal their body gives off.  Finally they cut it out and glued it to their paper.  I walked around to aid in the process, but for the most part they were very aware of how their bodies responded to strong feelings and we found that we are each unique.