Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Kindness Elves

I have to tell you what a blessing it has been to have the Kindness Elves visit my classroom this year!
I first got the idea for the Kindness Elves to from The Imagination Tree blog. I follow Anna on Instagram and instantly fell in love with these adorable elves. I know that many teachers use the infamous Elf on the Shelf in their classroom and I have thought of it as well but I can't. Or I should say I don't feel like it would be a good fit for my students. 
My students don't all believe in Santa. 
Half of my students aren't Christian and don't celebrate Christmas. 
Some of my students might not get gifts on Christmas.
Last, I just don't like the idea of behaving good just to get presents. 
Can you imagine what it would feel like if you behaved so good only to find nothing on Christmas morning? That is the reality for some of my students. 
When I found The Imagination Tree's Kindness Elves I was intrigued and very curious. This year my district adopted PBiS and I though "kindness" that's a perfect fit. So I order my elves and I waited. When they finally arrived (They came from London people) I was so excited. 

Here is our first week with our special Kindness Elves.

Day 1: Starting Small
For the first day with our Kindness Elves I decided to ask my students to smile and/ or wave to someone new at school. It could be a student in their class or a teacher. I shared that it feels good when someone greets us and that when another person smiles at us it is hard not to smile back. We practiced and we noticed that it made us all feel good to smile. The elves also brought us our newest center, Read It, Make It, Write It Word Work
I have to admit, my students were a little underwhelmed. I quickly found out who does the Elf at home because he went on and on about how you can't touch them. Something which I am now grateful for. LOL One of them even told me that they weren't special because they are just toys. Yes people that is the world in which I live. There is very little magic in some of these kids lives. I was not deterred though. 

Day 2: Books and a Hiccup
On the second day I decided I wanted to give my students some books, so I asked them to take their new book and read it together with a friend. Easy right?
Here was the hiccup. I have 4 groups a day, 2 First grade and 2 Kinder. My first grade groups are first in my class in the morning. I like a dummy put all the books for all the groups in the bag. When I pulled out the book for the first group they demanded, that is right demanded, that I unwrap the other gifts too. I was appalled. Seriously this was about sharing and these kids felt so entitled that they wanted to open gifts meant for others. Now I was disheartened but I didn't give up. I did talk, more like lecture, my students about how they were not being kind, how their behavior was selfish and how the elves would not be pleased. I even caught a few saying "I'm sorry" to the elves later that hour. 

Day 3: Magic Pencils
On day 3 we had a writing assessment. I wanted my students to get pumped for it and do their best. I thought some new pencils would help with that. These would be "classroom" pencils and so they had to SHARE. 
This went great, the kids worked hard on their writing and didn't fight over the pencils. They thought it was wonderful to have some "magic pencils" to have in the room.

Day 4: Picking up our trash
On day 4 the elves came and picked up all of our trash! That was so kind of them. We talked about how the custodians job is to help keep our space clean, but how it is our job to clean up after ourselves. I found a tiny solo cup and picked up some actual trash from our floor to crumble up and put in the bin. 
On this day the kids were really excited, and came in the room looking all over for the elves. I was so happy they were excited. Lately my students have been leaving quite a mess on the floor. Part of it is my fault, packing too much into each hour and rushing my students. I wanted to take a step back and remind my students that is it kind to take care of our space and pick up after ourselves. So I am making time on my end, just a minute or two and reminding my students to pick up trash when I see it on the floor. They are doing a great job of cleaning up after themselves now.

Day 5: The tale of two visits

For day five, a.k.a. Friday, the elves visited my room twice. The first time was for my Firsties. He brought us pencils to deliver to other classes in our school. It made us feel so great to give something away.
The second time they visited was for my Kinder Kids. They brought a friend to visit but like the note said he ran away, which set us on our journey around the school looking for the Gingerbread Man. Great way to end my 2 week long GBM unit. :)
With the exception of one little friend, that is afraid of the "tricky" GBM this was a hit.

After a rocky start with our Kindness Elves I can honestly say that it is now a hit! I have heard students thanking the Kindness Elves when I am not looking, and even talking to them in whispers. I have one week left with them and they are already set up and ready to go for this coming Monday. One of the best parts is watching my students learn compassion, kindness and generosity. It is exactly what I want to teach and instill in my students.

Here are a few resources I have used this week.
The Kindness Elves
25 ideas for the Kindness Elves
Kindness Elves Clipart Freebie
A note from the Kindness Elves Freebie
Kindness Elves in the Classroom Freebie
Holiday Acts of Kindness Class Project Freebie
The Kindness Helpers: Bringing Kindness into your Classroom
Oh! I have also purchased the cutest little Fairy door for our Kindness Elves to make their exit with. I hinted at it on Friday and just can't wait to it to make it's debut next week. If you want to see the pictures before I can post on here follow my Instagram account by clicking below.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Read it, Make it, Write it: A Word Work activity.

Hello folks!
Today I am going to share one of my newest centers/ workstations. It was very easy and inexpensive to create.
I have been in my new class for almost 5 months now, but I am still working finding a "good" and permanent home for all my centers/ workstations. If you have ever moved rooms, you know not everything works the same way in every room. The room I am in, while the perfect size for me, it is smaller, and so I am having to find new homes for a lot of my independent work stations.

This is true for my magnetic word work station, previously on the side of a file cabinet.
and then...
but now...
Consequently this year we haven't done much with our magnet letter and our independent word work. Sad I know. Over Thanksgiving break I really worked finding a solution, so I went to my sight word Pinterest board for some inspiration. I found a few...
I wanted something portable and small.

I picked up two cookie sheets and visited a co-worker. Sometimes you just need to ask someone else for help to get some clarity. Then I came up with my new magnetic word work station.
Materials are...
Cookie sheet, washi tape, sharpies, notecards, magnetic letters and Post-It notes. 
Sorry for the lack of pictures, I am so out of blogging practice.
I just taped off the cookie sheet in 3 sections, and added a little flair with multiple colors and sizes of tape. I used an extra strip to add the directions. I took the backing off of the Post-It note pad (1 pad worked for both cookie sheets, just split it in half) so it stuck itself on to the cookie sheet. 
Kids will pick a note card with their sight word, then make it with magnetic letters, and finally write it on the Post-It 
I made two, my students work in pairs at their workstations. I plan to have my First-ies (blue words)  write multiple words on one post it, but am not sure I will do that for my Kinder Kids (pink/red words). That is a whole lot of Post-It's so I might find a way to make it write and wipe 
And now to sit and write all my sight words, color coded by grade level of course. :)
As my students would say, easy peesy, lemon squeezy.