Of course we want kids to be kind in general, but why does it really matter so much in a classroom?
From my years of experience, it’s sort of like the chain reaction described in the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” story.
If students don’t understand and feel empathy, they may have difficulty with conflict resolution.
And if they are without conflict resolution strategies, you’ll likely spend all day mediating disagreements.
Then, if you spend all your time on disagreements, you may have less time and energy to teach effective lessons, and students may not complete those lessons because they’ll be too busy arguing, crying, tattling…
I’m sure you know exactly what I mean!
This year I had the most challenging group of students I’ve had in 20 years. I used not just one, but many different strategies and programs to help them stay on track! Grade 1 and 2 students are always a bit wiggly and chatty – that is to be expected. However, even by Halloween I could barely get through a lesson without some drama taking place on the other side of the carpet that took students’ focus away from the conversation.
This bunch included 14 students reading below grade level, and through my assessments I came to realize that this group of low readers were not struggling with phonological awareness problems, but rather self-regulation and a serious lack of respect and caring for others. The two things are completely connected.
How can you learn to read when you can’t sit still or focus on a book for more than 3 seconds? Or when every interaction with peers is misinterpreted and filled with conflict?
We also explored important concepts such as respect; what does respect mean, and how do we show respect to others in the class? We did several art and literacy projects to go along with these concepts, and posted them for a constant reminder (as shown below).
My most effective tool was creating a classroom where the students value kindness and contributing to a positive environment.
Here are a few ideas to build an environment of kindness in your class:
1. Read stories that promote kindness, such as “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed” by Emily Pearson. Here’s a link to part of the story on youtube.
3. During writing time with your class, have students write a “Happy Note” to the special helper of the day. Students drop their note into the Happy Bucket. Later, I collect them (to read them first) and we share them as a class. The special helper gets to take them all home – they are a cherished treasure!
4. Begin each morning with a Friendship Circle, where students sit in a circle and give a compliment to the person sitting to the right, and that person says “Thank you” until you’ve gone all the way around. The last person gets to say something nice to the teacher!
(One of my favorite memories of this was when a student had to give me a compliment, and he took some time to look at me up and down, and then finally said, “I like how you smell like strawberry jam.” Hmm! : )
5. If your special helper takes your attendance to the office like mine does, decide as a class on a compliment to deliver to the secretary as they hand over the attendance (or any other item being delivered).
We love to do this each day, and we wait for our helper to get back so we can hear what the secretary’s reaction was to the compliment. We say things like: “You look beautiful today.” or “I like your personality.” or ” I appreciate you.”
(A favorite memory of this was when a little boy named Sam told the secretary “I just love the way your hair is all grey and white and just very puffy on the sides.”
When we asked about her reaction to such a nice compliment, the student said, “She just thanked me and turned around, and I saw her shoulders shaking, so I guess she really liked it.”)
If you’re having trouble finding what you need for math, literacy or clip art, you can grab this handy Clickable Catalogue for everything available in my TPT store – a big time saver! Tuck it away for when you need it!