Kindness In the Classroom Freebie

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

On the first day of school somewhere between twenty and thirty students walk in to my third grade classroom.  They're all a little bit nervous.  What kind of teacher will they have?  Are they going to like the other kids?  Will they make new friends?

I look out at this new group of kiddos, and wonder about their stories.  Who has divorced parents and goes back and forth between them?  Who has older siblings who bully them?  Which kids are regularly taken to R rated movies and taught that foul language is acceptable and even necessary?  Who worries every day that their mom or dad will be deported?  Who has a parent read with them every day, and teach them to be kind?

My job is to turn this group of eight-year-olds into a team.  A family.  A group of friends who look out for and encourage each other.  This is my top priority, because when students feel safe and cared for, they learn.  And when they don't, well, they shut down.  Some years are easier, and some are more of a challenge.  Here are some things I can do to make this happen.

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog


Kindness sparks kindness.  I'm the grownup here, so it begins with me!  I must show my students the way that I expect them to behave.  Say please and thank you.  Apologize and ask forgiveness when you hurt someone.  Give a sincere compliment, ask a question, give a smile and a greeting.  

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog


Seriously.  I explicitly teach my students what it means to show kindness.  We have a morning meeting every day during which we share good news and bad news with each other.  This is when students learn how to appropriately respond to a classmate who is happy, and how to respond to one who is sad or angry or scared.  

The sharing ball is passed around the circle, and only the person holding it may speak.  Others respond with gestures - happy fingers to show that we are happy with them, or a hand on the heart to show that our heart hurts for them.  We have also had lots of laughter, and even some tears for each other - when a family member has died, for instance.

(If you are wondering about the time a morning meeting takes - we give it twenty minutes every day, and it is so worth it.  My principal watched and agreed that it teaches speaking and listening skills, which are an important part of our language block.)
Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog


Within the first few weeks of school, once we've gotten to know each other, we write a class motto together.  We ask ourselves three questions: 
  • Who are we?
  • Why are we here?
  • How are we going to accomplish our goals?
The students' answers to these questions becomes our motto, and we say it every day to begin our morning meeting.  Here's our motto for this year:

"We are the third graders at ___________ school.  We are a team of friends who look out for each other.  We are here to learn the third grade standards so that we will be ready for fourth grade, high school, college, and a job someday.  We will do this by asking questions, working hard, doing our homework, reading a lot, making smart choices, and having stamina for learning.  This is our pledge and our promise!"

It doesn't take long at all for this to be memorized, and hopefully internalized!  When problems arise in the classroom, I can say, "We are a team of friends..." and the kiddos will finish with, "Who look out for each other!"  This is powerful. 

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

In case you haven't noticed yet, I kind of have a thing for quilts.  I have some that my grandmother and great grandmother made, and I love their history.  Every quilt has a story.  (If you've never read Patricia Polacco's book The Keeping Quilt with your students, you should!) 

So I've made a free Kindness Quilt for you and your students.  My hope is that you will use it as a part of your effort to promote kindness on your school campus and in your classroom.  I love that it is math fact practice - three levels for differentiation - as well as being a beautiful display for your wall, bulletin board, door, or window.  Students can choose their own colors, which makes every quilt square unique.  Click on the picture below to download it from my TpT store.





Denise from Light Bulbs and Laughter blog

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know



Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

The floors have been vacuumed, and the tables cleaned.  The art work and "All About Me" banners are hanging on the wall.  Student binders with work samples are ready to be placed at each student's "home base" spot for parents to look through.

Top: Emoji Self Assessment Tools.  Bottom: Class Rules from Light Bulbs and Laughter
Click HERE to see my Emoji Products

Our student-written Class Motto is front and center, and music is playing softly in the background.  My sign-in sheet is printed, and my donation cards are ready, because it's...

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Click HERE to see my emoji products.


Back To School Night.
Open House.  Meet the Teacher.  It goes by many names, but no matter what it's called, it's one of my favorite things about teaching.


I love meeting with the families of my students!  After ten years in the same grade at the same school, many of them are old friends now, because I've taught their older children.  If they're new friends?  That's great, too.  Meeting them helps me better understand my students, and gives me a chance to answer their questions.


Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog


For two hours, I stand and talk with parents, brothers, sisters, School Board members, Administration, and the many past students who come through my classroom.

I provide a fun game for the older students, so that I can focus on current students and their parents, but even so, I would guess that I have less than two or three minutes to speak with each family.  The rest of their visit, they wander the room.


Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

What do they see?  
Hopefully, a comfortable, cheerful place in which their child will spend about seven hours a day. A place where their child can feel safe and be a part of a community.  A place to grow and learn.

And then they're gone.  They've moved on to another room, or gone home.  They won't spend much time thinking about me, or the classroom.  And that is as it should be.  They have their own lives to live, after all.


Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

They don't know how many hours I've spent writing grants at Donors Choose for that rug, this game, that white dry erase table, or those iPads.


They don't know about the hours and hours of research that have gone into best practices in math and literacy, growth mindset, student self-assessment, flexible seating, and the reasons that wobble stools and cushions really can help some students learn.


They don't know how many cans of spray paint my husband had to buy when he painted my old set of mismatched metal bookshelves this summer, or how many hours it took to label my thousands of books to fit our new reading program.

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Click HERE to see these labels in my TpT store.


They don't know that my family stopped at twelve different Target stores on our summer vacation so that their children could have book boxes with special labels.  They don't know that I've spent hundreds of dollars of my own money for Scholastic books and products on Teachers Pay Teachers to supplement our curriculum and provide their children with high quality, well researched, and engaging lessons that teach the Common Core State Standards. 


Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

They don't know that I got rid of my teacher desk because I needed more room to teach in small groups.  Or that I went to school more than fifteen days this summer to work on my classroom.  They don't know that I learned how to recover furniture just so I could take a chair that someone was throwing out and recycle it into my read-aloud chair.

They.  Don't.  Know.  
And that's okay.  I don't want them to know.  As long as they know that their child is happy to come to school, and excited about learning, I'm happy.  

Exhausted, but happy.

It's going to be an amazing year.  I hope yours is, too!




Self-Assessment Tools, Emoji Style


So this happened... I was walking through Walmart, minding my own business, and these emoji beanbags threw themselves into my cart.  Sort of.  First, I saw that they were on clearance for $7 each.  How could I resist? 

This picture shows them sitting in the back of my trusty minivan, waiting for the custodians to finish cleaning my classroom and let me in.  (My need to begin setting up my classroom begins about mid-July every summer, because I report back the first week of August.)

At first I thought they might be used by my students as actual bean bag chairs.  Um, no.  The fabric is thin, and the insides are pretty uncomfortable.  So the flexible seating idea was out (more on that idea later).  These babies are just for show.  When I walked into my room, I saw that my old TV had been removed, leaving a very high corner shelf in the front of the room.  Perfect.

My walls were completely bare this summer, awaiting the installation of a new 70 inch smart TV that will take the place of my projector.  So I got to thinking about the really important stuff that would be front and center in my room, our self-assessment rubric, class motto, and rules... and I decided to change them all.


Metacognition: get your students thinking about their thinking!  Light Bulbs and Laughter blog

 Here's the first emoji update: our growth mindset/metacognition posters.  This is how I get my kiddos to start thinking about their thinking (for the original post on this subject, click HERE).  These posters are free at my Teachers Pay Teacher's store, just click on them to download!

The next part of my emoji update is the complete set of self-assessment tools, which you can also find for sale in my TpT store by clicking on the following picture.


Self-Assessment Tools, Emoji Style.  Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
My new class motto is:
     GROW your brain (Growth mindset!)
     SHOW your stamina (Whole Brain Teaching - stamina is  being able to do something for a long time, without getting tired or giving up.)
    KNOW how you're learning (Self-Assessment!)

If you want to join me in my new emoji style, I'm working on editable class rules next!

Happy teaching,
 



Earth Day in the Classroom

How do you celebrate Earth Day in your classroom?  Here are a few fun and easy ways that we reduce, reuse, and recycle in ours.
Earth Day in the Classroom from Light Bulbs and Laughter blog

1. Have students bring empty plastic or cardboard containers from home.  Challenge them to look around their house for one special item that they think could be reused in the classroom.  Then lay them all out on a table and brainstorm ideas.  Bonus points if you give students duct tape or washi tape to match your classroom decor!

Recycling in the classroom from Light Bulbs and Laughter
These containers used to hold macadamia nuts.  Now they're stuck together with duct tape to hold colored pencils!

2. Put your classroom games into page protectors and use them with dry erase markers.  No wasted paper!  


Free multiplication game from Light Bulbs and Laughter
This game is a free download on TpT!  Click HERE to download.

3. Looking for an Earth friendly way for students to erase their games or white boards?  We use socks!  Years ago, I bought them at Walmart (in black, so they wouldn't show all the marker colors!), but now I have the students bring them from home.  No, not their best socks!  Ask parents to send in "strays" that always show up in the dryer.

Recycle old socks as erasers - Light bulbs and Laughter blog


4. Make an "extra bin" next to where students turn in their work.  This makes classwork and homework easily accessible for students who are absent or lose their paper.  It also gives students who love to "play school" at home with friends or siblings a place to gather materials.  What a great way to recycle paper!  Studies show that students who can teach others what they are learning develop a better understanding of the material.

Turn it in and Extra Bin - Light Bulbs and Laughter blog


5. Remember the days of overhead projectors?  Many schools have boxes of this transparency film sitting around, unused.  How can we recycle these?

How to recycle transparency film in the classroom - Light Bulbs and Laughter

How to recycle transparency film in the classroom - Light Bulbs and Laughter
Sharpie paint pens work the best for this project.

Use them to make a "stained glass window" for your classroom!  Find an art page that you love, copy it onto the film, and have the kiddos use Sharpies to color.  They look gorgeous with the sun coming through them.  Bonus points if they have to do math when they color!
"Stained Glass Window" in the classroom - Light Bulbs and Laughter blog
This is one of our math quilt projects.  My students love these!  Click HERE to see them all.
This is a window in the school office.  Our school secretary says she loves it, and the students are so proud to see their work displayed!  

Finally, I have the students talk to their parents about recycling.  They take home this page for homework, then bring it back the next day for a class discussion.  It's free, if you would like to use it with your class.  Just click under the picture.
What does your family recycle? - Light Bulbs and Laughter blog
Click HERE to download these free printables.
Then they color and sign their pledge to help the Earth.
How will you help the Earth? - Light Bulbs and Laughter blog
Thanks for joining me on my Earth Day/Recycling journey in the classroom!

Light Bulbs and Laughter blog