Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bedtime Routines

Do you ever find yourself depleted of energy and patience at bedtime? I'm sure I'm not alone in my efforts to just stay calm until they lay their sweet little heads down for the night!
I have found it very helpful over the years to add little rituals and routines to bedtime. When it seems that bedtime is falling apart, I can shape things up pretty quickly by adding some structure. Through the use of a visual routine board i can give my children just what they need:safety through pictures and predictability! Imagine it as a "to do list" for kids. Since my daughter is older now, she helped me create a routine board at the beginning of the school year. Using my phone, she went through the house taking pictures of all the steps in her bedtime routine. I simply printed them out, laminated, added some Velcro and we were good to go!



Once we finish with the bedtime routine, we take some time to connect through loving rituals. Dr. Becky Bailey's "I Love You Rituals" have really helped me be more intentional about connecting with my kiddos at bedtime.

Recently, I told my daughter to be thinking about what ritual she wanted to do when I tucked her in bed that night. She told me she wanted to make up a new one. I was delighted and couldn't wait to see what she came up with!  Here is the little poem she made up and pictures of she and I doing the ritual together. 

The next time you find yourself at the end of the day just barely hanging on the the end of your rope, maybe you can try a fun little connecting ritual with your child.  It may be just what you need so you can both go to bed and rest a little bit easier!

"Gingerbread Goodnight Ritual"

Gingerbread, gingerbread
Tucked in bed.
Now lay down your sweet little head.

See the pictures below for step by step motions!







Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Harvest of Helping Hands

Last week we had a little homework project that turned out to be a great lesson in helpfulness! Each child was asked to go home and trace one of the hands of every family member. They used some colorful construction paper I gave them. After each hand was traced and cut out, their parents helped them write one thing each family member does to be helpful. They brought the helping hands back to school the next day to share. What a fun way to encourage helpfulness! It was a great opportunity to build oral language and literacy skills too! We arranged the hands into a wreath and added a pretty bow for a nice display in the hallway!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sharing is SOUP-ER


In our Shining Star School Family we continue to plan activities that encourage kindness.  This week we are enjoying the story of Stone Soup.  We are focusing specifically on the skill of sharing.  The props in the picture above are from a Mailbox Magazine (2002).  A cute little song accompanied this activity called "Sing a Song of Sharing".  The song is sung to the tune of "The More We Get Together" and goes like this:

"The more we share with our friends, with our friends, with out friends.
The more we share with our friends, the happier we'll be.
With (say 4 children's names as you continue singing).
The more we share with our friends, the happier we'll be."

As we sang the song, we passed a small stone around the circle.  When we got to the children's names we would say the names of the children who were holding the stone at that time.  They would then come up and select a vegetable to add to the soup pot.  We continued this way until everyone had a turn.



Next, I introduced our "Sharing Project".  I took an old soup can and made up a new lable that reflected our goal to demonstrate sharing.  I couldn't resist adding special ingredients as well as nutrition facts.  :)

I explained to the Shining Stars that we have lots of opportunities to practice sharing throughout our time in preschool.  We discussed lots of examples and acted out opportunities to share.  We will also take pictures to post around the room of children sharing.  Every time a teacher sees children sharing we will add a stone to the soup can.  Our goal not to see how quickly we can fill the can with stones.  Rather, our goal is to encourage kindness.  When the can is full we will celebrate sharing with a special snack for the whole School Family!


We had a little extra time at the end of our lesson to play musical instruments.  Don't you love it when natural events allow you an opportunity to reinforce a lesson you just taught!?!  Well, I went to pass out the triangles to all the children in my group and realized I would be one short.  Instead of doing all the thinking for the children, I let the natural events take their course.  I passed out all the triangles and one child didn't get a triangle.  Almost immediately a little girl turned to that boy and said, "I'll share with you!"  Then she held the triangle and gave him the stick so he could play it!  All week long our classroom has been filled with children (and teachers) looking for opportunities to share!

To help us extend our learning about sharing and Stone Soup we have invited all of the parents to come in next week for a Thanksgiving Celebration in our School Family.  Each family has been asked to bring some type of fruit to share.  We are going to share fruit salad instead of Stone Soup.  The children will sing some songs for the parents and then we will complete a special craft as a family.  Our families will also be bringing donations for our school-wide food drive so we can continue to demonstrate to the children the power of sharing and making a difference!



Monday, November 12, 2012

How do YOU Teach Helpfulness?


One thing I love about Conscious Discipline is the fact that it isn't another curriculum add-on.  Rather, it consists of skills you can teach children throughout the day in many different ways.  Over the years, I have found many rich lessons to help teach Conscious Discipline skills right in the midst of a favorite story, movie, or other activity! 

In our Shining Star School Family we have been focusing on what it means to be helpful.  We have been reading stories and noticing the helpful acts of those around us.  We have taken photos of children "caught in the act" of being helpful.  Those photos are used to make class books, posters, and routine books that will encourage helpfulness in all children.  I am often surprised at how often even a child who is five-years-old doesn't know what it means to "be helpful".  We are expecting children to do something they really don't know how to do!  That's why we take every opportunity we can to encourage it in our classroom! 

This time of year, as we talk about topics such as families, food, and where we live, one of my all time favorite tales to share with children is "The Three Billy Goats Gruff".


Preschoolers are captivated by the various personalities of the characters in the story. (I also think they love the way Ms. Jenny changes her voice for each character)   They jump at the opportunity to act out the story using various props and taking their turn at being each character.  This year, I jumped for joy when I found the most recent publication of this favorite tale.  This new favorite is titled "The Three Billy Goats Fluff". 



Oh my goodness!  It is absolutely adorable and so very useful in our pursuit to teach the Shining Stars about helpfulness, problem solving, and emotional regulation!  The author brilliantly puts a positive twist on this old tale!    We followed our reading of Paul Galdone's version of the tale with this new version.  The children were familiar with how rude the original troll was and how the billy goats used a very hurtful plan to "handle" the troll.  In "Billy Goats Fluff" we learned that with a little problem solving help from their Safekeeper (mom) the billy goats could help the Troll AND find a way to quietly cross the bridge to the grassy hill. 


To help illustrate the contrast between the two stories we acted out the "trip trapping" of hooves across the bridge using wooden blocks.  We listeded to the blocks on our wooden bridge first without socks.  Then we listened to the blocks cross the bridge with fuzzy socks on them.  They were so quiet!  The children loved making predictions about how the "hooves" would sound.  We also used various musical instruments to further impress the difference between loud and quiet.  This activity was a great opportunity for us to learn how our voices/noises we make affect those around us. 


You'll have to read the whole story to find out more, but one of my favorite lessons from the story is when the first billy goat Fluff feels scared and runs home to Mommy.  After reading this portion of the story, we paused to relate this experience to our Feeling Buddies.  The message of the Feeling Buddy, Scared, is "find a safekeeper".  So we pulled out our Feeling Buddy, Scared, and remembered that message and how helpful it was for the billy goat.  With the help of their Safekeeper (mom) the goats were able to come up with a plan that allowed them to eat grass and help the Troll enjoy his "vacation" under the bridge.



This is a sample of what the Feeling Buddies Self-Regulation Center looks like from Conscious Discipline.  It is magical to see how well the children relate to the Feeling Buddies as they are learning how to befriend their feelings.  I plan to post more about using the Feeling Buddies in the classroom later this year!  You might like to check it out at www.consciousdiscipline.com under the product tab.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

While You Wait...



Speaking of waiting, you've waited a long time for my next post!  I don't know about you, but I have a hard time waiting.  No matter what we think about it, at some point in our lives we all have to wait.  We might as well learn how to handle it!  Whether it's at the doctor's office, grocery store, bank, or waiting for Christmas, you have to admit, it's hard to wait!  I have learned over the years to come prepared so that I have something to do while I wait.  Sometimes I bring a book or magazine or I might even find a new game to play on my phone.  When I'm waiting for a special event like Christmas I pass the time preparing for the holiday and enjoy creating memories along the way with family and friends. 

Once I had children of my own, I knew it was best to come prepared.  I never left the house without a little something in the car, diaper bag, or in the bottom of my purse that could help us pass the time if we had to wait.  Even though my children are now nine and eleven, I still keep dry erase boards and trivia cards in the van just in case we get stuck in traffic or practice runs a little long.  When I have something to do to help me make better use of my time, I am more likely to stay calm and enjoy my wait rather than become upset and allowing the "wait" to be in charge of my feelings.

I try to carry this same "always be prepared" attitude into my preschool classroom.  It pains me to see children waste time while they wait for others to finish various classroom activities.  My goal is to keep each child engaged and maximize their time with us!  In order to help set us up for success, I have arranged our schedule and special tools to help children with these transitions and "waiting time". 


This school year has been an exciting opportunity for me to fine tune more of my Conscious Discipline skills.  Arrival time was going so well, but when we transitioned to our School Family Meeting time the room errupted in chaos!  I reflected on why Arrival Time was going so well and I realized it was because the children had lots of structure and routine to help them feel safe.  This is the simplest idea, but it works like magic!  When it is time for the children to clean up the area where they were playing and transition to Family Meeting we added the following steps:

1. We set a visual timer that also gives an auditory cue by beeping when it's time to clean up.
2. Next, we taught the children to be a STAR instead of screaming or having a meltdown because it was time to clean-up.  STAR stands for Smile Take a deep breath And Relax.  Go to www.consciousdiscipline.com for free STAR printables.
3. Once they breathe, we play a song for them to clean up to.  The song is from Mr. Al and Dr. Becky Bailey's cd "Kindness Counts".  It is a calming tune and the children love singing along "It's in Every One of Us."
4. When they finish cleaning up their area they look to see if a friend needs help.
5. They go to circle and find a small fidget toy waiting on their spot for them to explore and play with until their friends finish cleaning up.  The best part is that during this time, they have the opportunity to practice sharing and interacting quietly with their neighbors using these small toys.
6.  Once everyone has arrived at School Family Meeting we sing a little song as we go around and collect the toys and begin our meeting.  The song goes like this:  "Picking up the tools and putting them in the basket, picking up the tools and putting them in the basket, picking jup the tools and putting them in the basket, it's time for circle to start."
7.  Success!  Now they know what to do "while they wait" in a classroom that is calm and peaceful!


Adding this simple routine and practicing it has made all the difference for our little class.
Conscious Discipline reminds us that pictures and routines bring safety and safety creates an optimal learning environment.  I have picture routine cards around the classroom to help MAP (Model, Add pictures, and Practice) the expectations for our routines. Here are samples of some of the pictures I have posted around our classroom. There are also routine cards for the toileting, hand washing, lining up, snack, self-selected reading time, and many more. The routines can be posted on the wall, made into a class book, added to a ring to take with you when you leave the classroom, or set to a song to aid in remembering.





I would encourage you to look around your classroom or reflect on different times in your day when it feels a little (or a LOT) chaotic.  Reflect on what routines and visuals you can add to that part of the day to help your children feel safe.  Model the routine, add visuals to it, and then practice it with your children.  In less than a week you will see dramatic results!

For more information on Conscious Discipline visit www.consciousdiscipline.com.  Check out this video of Dr. Bailey and Shubert using Shubert's Picture Rule Cards.


Shubert's Picture Rule Cards


 


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Brain Smart Start:  Activities to Connect


One thing that I have observed happening over the past few years is that in many classrooms we are telling children that they can't touch.  Often, because children haven't been taught how to touch appropriately and don't know the limits, we just tell them not to do it at all.  In Conscious Discipline, Dr. Becky Bailey emphasizes the importance of touch.  There is a large amount of research out there that demonstrates the importance of touch.  In training, I often refer to a study that Dr. Bailey shared with us that was done on NBA teams.  It was found that the teams that had the highest percentage of touch among players were the most successful teams.  How many times have you experienced the power of a gentle pat on the back or a firm hug when your spirits are down.  We all need touch!   

In Conscious Discipline we teach that in order to develop meaningful connections between children and between children and their teachers, these activities need to include four important components.  Meaningful connections are created through eye contact, touch, presence, and playfulness.

When I first started using Conscious Discipline I realized that there were many days that I didn't connect with several of my students at all.  Since I work in a classroom with children who have special needs, I often have a couple of students that need a lot of my help in order to be successful.  I was so focused on those students, that I sometimes missed meaningful moments with the other students.  Adding Activities to Connect has really created some good habits for me in the classroom.  Everyday as my students arrive at school I greet them using my greeting apron.  It is just an old tool apron from a lumber store.  I turned it over and added a couple of pieces of Velcro.  Every couple of weeks I add a new greeting for students to choose from.  I really enjoy coming up with new greetings that go along with the season or topics we are discussing in class.  Right now the class favorites are the "Pumpkin Bump" and the "Bushy Tail Squirrel".

To do the "Pumpkin Bump" you simply stand side by side and bump hips.  The "Bushy Tail Squirrel" is done by turning back to back and shaking your tails at each other like a squirrel!

I had a student that resisted coming into school each day.  He would play a game and hide from me behind the bench.  I decided to start wearing my greeting apron outside to pick him up and offer his greeting before we even got to the classroom.  Guess what!  The problem was solved!  Now everyday he eagerly lines up with the other children to receive his greeting before he enters the classroom!


Here is a sample of what a greeting apron might look like.  These aprons offer children four choices.  It is up to you how many options you offer your students.  The younger the child, the fewer choices that should be available.  The pictures on my apron are created using Boardmarker software by Mayer Johnson.  You can find images on the Internet, use die cuts, or foam pieces from the hobby shop.  Get creative and see what you can come up with!


In addition to being greeted by the teacher upon arrival each day, my students are also greeted by one of their peers at circle time each day.  Every student in my School Family has a meaningful job.  One of those jobs is the Greeter.  As a part of circle time, my greeter goes around and asks the question "How would you like to be greeted today?"  We alter the question according to the verbal ability of each student.  For a child who is nonverbal, we use a communication device and they push a button to ask the question. 
This is the greeting plate I use for my student greeter.  It is a simple colored plate divided into equal parts using ribbon.  Velcro is attached to each section for the greetings.  When I want to introduce a new greeting, I put it on my greeting apron first.  After a few days of me using that greeting and teaching them how to do it, then I add it to the greeting plate.  That way I can be sure they are successful!

You may be saying to yourself, "I don't have time to greet every child."  I have heard from many specialists such as Fine Arts Teachers, Speech Therapists, and Instructional Assistants who have a very limited amount of time with each group of children.  You may find the following video clip helpful.  This is the Art Teacher at my school.  She sees her students every six days and sees over 1000 students in that amount of time.  She attended a 2 day Conscious Discipline training that Ignite Learning LLC sponsored with LGA, Karen Hickman this past summer.  In that training she witnessed the power of Conscious Discipline and comitted to implementing as many of the principles in her classroom as she could.  One thing she began doing right away is finding a way to greet all of her students as they arrive. 

There are other activities you can add to help give students the opportunity to connect.  You might like to check out Dr. Bailey's book "I Love You Rituals".  There are many fun finger plays, games, and positive nursery rhymes in the book that you can do with individual students or as a group.  For more information go to www.consciousdiscipline.com.


There are also many songs that offer children the opportunity to build connections as they sing along.  You might consider checking out some of the songs on these Cd's.  Some of our favorites are: "Get Ready", "School Family", "Greetings", "I Wish You Well".  For more information go to www.consciousdiscipline.com.




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brain Smart Start: Shining Star Song


 At the beginning of each school year I spend a lot of time teaching my students the routines that help keep us safe throughout the day.  Research shows us that the brain functions optimally when we feel safe.  In Conscious Discipline we focus on creating an optimal learning enviornment through the elements of the Brain Smart Start.  Dr. Becky Bailey has shared 4 key components to creating a Brain Smart Start:  Activities to unite, connect, disengage stress, and commit.  For more information about Conscious Discipline go to www.consciousdiscipline.com.

As I begin to implement each part of the Brain Smart Start in my classroom, one of the first things I do is help my students unite as a school family through finding identity as the "Shining Stars".  I wrote a song for our class a couple of years ago that includes all parts of the Brain Smart Start.  I modify it slightly each year to meet the needs of each specific group. 


"Shining Star Song"
(Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

We are the Stars we sparkle and shine,
When we're together we're feeling fine!
We want our brains to work to the MAX!
So smile, take a deep breath, and relax.
Eyes and ears and hands and feet,
Use kind words with everyone you meet!


As we sing the song we sit or stand in a circle and hold hands (connect).  When we talk about our brains, we point to our brains and then on MAX we all point to the sky.  Next, we take a deep breath (disengage the stress response) together then point to each body part as we sing (commit).  Starting the song by identifying ourselves as the "Stars" is the Uniting portion of our Brain Smart Start.  See how easily you can get a Brain Smart Start in just one song???  Now that's a lot of bang for your buck! 

Here is a little video of my class singing our "Shining Star Song".  Hope you find it helpful!
video

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Penguin Math

This was an old Math Their Way activity that I used years ago.  I used some dried lima beans and spray painted them black on one side.  The result was a bean with one side black and one side white.  During this small group activity, children worked on counting and tallying the results of the game.  Each child had between 3-10 "penguins" in their cup.  They shook the cup and then spilled them out on the table.  They counted how many black ones they had and how many white they had.  Then they made marks on each side of their recording sheet to reflect their results. 

It was fun to see the various abilities of my students shine through in this activity.  Some could complete the entire activity independently.  Some needed help recording their findings.  Others needed help counting and recording their findings.  Some students just enjoyed shaking and dumping and counting their penguins.  This is a great activity that can be used with children at all levels!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Keep it Popping!



One of the biggest hits this winter was the day I brought in the air popper and let the popcorn pop all over the place.  We put a blanket on the ground and all gathered around.  Many of the children had never seen an air popper before.  They were used to having popcorn from the microwave.  I explained to them the effect of the heat from the popper and they used all their senses as they observed what happened next!
They were captivated as they watched the kernnels pop here and there and change as they reacted to the heat!  As soon as it was done, guess what they said..."Can we do it again?"  And of course, the answer was "YES!" 

I couldn't believe how much they enjoyed eating the popcorn when it finished popping.  It didn't have any salt or butter on it!  They were so intrigued about what they had experienced, they couldn't wait to eat it!

This activity was so cool because it was a great example of how essential it is to plan lessons that are engaging and use all the senses!  I didn't have to worry about behavior problems one bit during this lesson!  It was also an awesome springboard activity that hooked children into learning more about popcorn and the science behind what makes this favorite snack go from seed to snack!

So, next time you plan a lesson think of what you can do to "keep minds popping" as you hook children into learning!  Engage the senses and engage the mind!

Ice Play

It has been an unusually mild winter around here.  There has been very little snow and the temperature feels more like spring that winter.  It has been interesting talking and learning about winter while you barely need a jacket outside!
This week, we used some heart-shaped ice cube trays to make colored ice for the discovery tubs.  We also used some ice tubes that were from a tray I got at the Dollar Tree.  We added a drop or two of liquid water color to each tray of ice before they were frozen. 
We added some tools like tongs, scoops, and cups for them to use as they explored the ice. 

Some of the kids discovered that the ice made their hands different colors as it began to melt.  We got some paper and explored what would happen if we used the ice to color on paper.  They even tried using the tongs to hold the ice while the were writing.  What great hand strengthening activities!

Reserved Parking Only: Parking Lot Playmat

We made this parking lot to use in our block center the last few weeks.  We used a large piece of brown felt for the pavement.  The colored spaces are parking spots for the cars.  Each parking spot is made of felt.  We guided the children in matching their cars to the space that was "reserved" for that color car.  We added the corkscrew racetrack as a "parking garage" at one end of our parking lot.  This was very easy to make.  The hardest part was squeezing the Tacky Glue out of the tube!

Math Trays for Multi-Age Preschool

One of the challenges we face in our program is the multiple ages and developmental levels of the children we serve.  We constanly strive to meet the learning needs of all the children in appropriate ways.  One activity that we have started doing this year is math trays.  I found these baskets at Target for $1 each.  Everyday as the children arrive they complete their arrival routine and then find their tray on the table with activites that are appropriate for them.  At arrival time, we focus on math readiness skills.  This particular week we were focusing on counting skills. 
This pink tray is a ice stick tray from the Dollar Tree.  We used a permanent marker to write a numeral in each slot.  The child is then given a small manipulative (buttons in this case) to count into each slot.
This child has the written numeral as well as a visual cue to help them count the correct number of tokens for each square.  The children also enjoy playing with their manipulatives and have some free exploration time while they are working at the tables as everyone arrives and gets settled for the day.

This child is using the same tokens as the child above, but he is focusing on color sorting.  He is using a wooden tray that I found at the Dollar Tree to sort each color and give him the visual cues he needs to help him make the groups.  You just never know what fun tools you'll find at the dollar store!  The nice thing about all of these materials is that they can be used over and over in multiple ways.

As you can see in some of the pictures, we have dry erase boards and markers in each basket as well.  One of the things the children do when they arrive is practice writing their name.  According to their developmental level, they may just be making lines or working on the first letter of their name.  Some children are working on fine tuning their hand writing skills for kindergarten and beginning to write their last name as well.  I found those little dry erase boards 2/$1 at Target before school started this year.  We needed something to erase with and we found some little gloves in the classroom that weren't being used so those are our erasers.  One board and one marker fits nicely into the glove for safe keeping.  The children also enjoy trying on the gloves and it is great fine motor practice for them to try getting all their fingers in the correct holes. 

Ten in the Bed

When I was a child I remember my family snuggling in my mom  and dad's bed and playing this game.  We would say, "There were 5 in the bed and the little one said, 'Roll over'".  Slowly but surely each family member would roll out of the bed until finally only one remained.  It is such a fond memory, that I enjoy sharing this song with my preschoolers as often as I can.
These are little dolls that I made using colored clothes pins.  I simply drew on a face and glued on some yarn for hair.  I used a small piece of extra material for a blanket to cover them up.  As we sang the song as a class, each child had a chance to come up and roll one of the dolls out of bed.  They loved it and these little clothes pins were just prefect for rolling!

After several readings of the book Ten in the Bed we also took an opportunity to act out the story with our classmates.  The children all snuggled up under a quilt that I brought from home and slowly but surely they rolled out of the "bed" until the final child said, "goodnight."  It is a hit for sure!

As a part of our Night-time theme we also enjoyed several readings and activities with the Five Little Monkeys books by Eileen Cristalow.  The activity below was a class favorite!  We used a small basket with a picture of a bed and small monkey finger puppets to "bounce" while we repeated the rhyme.  At the end of the rhyme the child would give the basket an extra "bounce" and see how many monkeys fell out of the bed.  It was a great opportunity to squeeze in some math concepts by discussing how many monkeys remained in the bed.
At the end of the week, our speech therapist came in and did more "monkeying around" with the preschoolers and made a special monkey snack with the children.  They loved their little monkeys!  The were almost as much fun to make as they were to eat!
The base of the head is a mini pancake that was warmed up in the microwave.  They added some chocolate frosting "fur".  The ears are mini vanilla wafers and the nose/mouth is another vanilla wafer with a little piece broken off.  The eyes are m&m's and the smile is gel frosting.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Napping House

Throughout the month of January we have been enjoying stories and activities that have to do with Night Time.  This week, the preschoolers really enjoyed the story The Napping House by Audry Wood.  After introducing the story we added some story props to act out the story.  
We used my old lady from "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" to represent granny.  The baby doll represents the child, then we used beanie babies for the dog and cat.  On top there is a "catnip mouse" topped off by a flee.  The flee is actually a plastic bed bug from the board game "Bed Bugs".  The first time we acted out the story using a doll bed as the bed.  Each child got the opportunity to choose a character and follow directions to place it directionally around the bed (in, under, beside, behind, etc).  The next day we used a big blanket and stacked all the characters on the blanket.  When the flee bit the mouse, we all pulled on the blanket to send the characters flying into the air just like in the story!  In our final reading of the story, each child had the opportunity to pretend that they were granny and we stacked all the characters on top of them until they were awakened by the flee!

These pictures were in the Preschool Mailbox Magazine several years ago.  We used them throughout the week to help us introduce and retell the story.  Next week they will be placed in the reading center along with word cards for the children to continue retelling the story.  The stuffed characters from above will be placed in the pretend play center for the children to continue retelling the story in that area as well.

Teaching Kindness...It's Like Magic

I was at my favorite store this week, Target, and low and behold found another treasure in the $ Spot!  As a part of Conscious Discipline, we encourage children to look for ways to be helpful/kind.  I found this little Valentine Tree with heart shaped ornaments and knew right away that it was the perfect "Kindness Tree"!
Whenever someone in our house does something helpful/kind we notice it and then put a heart on the tree.  We would say somthing like this:  "You hung your coat on the hook so you could find it when we are ready to leave.  That was helpful!"  Then you put the heart on the tree.
The morning after we began using this Kindness Tree, my 10 year old son came to me and said, "What do we get when the tree is full?"  You see, in the past we have used systems where our children worked to fill a jar with marbles and then we rewarded them with  toys or a special family activity.  When he came to me with his question, my initial response in my head was "oh no, what do I say?"  Then I took a deep breath and responded like this.  "When we fill up our Kindness Tree you get to enjoy the feeling of living in a connected family where everyone cares deeply about each other and lives in harmony...just like a really pretty song."  He thought for a moment then said, "Well, I think we will have it full by tonight!"  He proceeded to go over and begin making his SISTER'S (and his) sandwiches for lunch that day.  He has never done that before and he did it with such a spirit of love and deep caring for his sister.  He even asked her what she wanted on her sandwich!   It's working already!
For more information about Conscious Discipline go to http://www.consciousdiscipline.com/

Making Commitments

This week I began teaching my first Conscious Discipline class for parents.  As a part of our "Brain Smart Start" we make a commitment.  Since Conscious Discipline is a journey, I chose to use the vehicles to represent each of the class participants.  They chose their preferred "mode of transportation", read the commitment for the evening, and then safely placed their symbol in the box.  You could do the same type of thing in your classroom or home.  This is a great way to help you and your children set goals and work toward achieving them!  

    I found these vehicle erasers at Target in the $ Spot.  The box was one I had at home and I printed out the road map to decorate the top.  Conscious Discipline gives us skills we need to safely "travel" through life learning how to handle our upset and passing those skills along to our children. We learn to discipline out of love rather than fear. This helps us establish ourselves as the "Safe Keeper" and define our new job to our children.
    At home, a commitment you might make with your children would be:  "I am going to put my dishes in the sink after dinner."  "I am going to get out of bed the first time the alarm goes off."  At school you might make a commitment such as:  "I am going to raise my hand to answer one question today."  "I am going to use my listening ears."   At the end of the day or at the end of class, we go back to our commitments and reflect on whether we did it or need to try again tomorrow.
    For more information about Conscious Discipline go to http://www.consciousdiscipline.com/.  The concepts of Brain Smart Start, Conscious Discipline, and Safe Keeper are used with permission from the Loving Guidance Inc.