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 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 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  Check out this video of Dr. Bailey and Shubert using Shubert's Picture Rule Cards.

Shubert's Picture Rule Cards