Just Sayin'

    What are your favorite character quotes?  Use these words of wisdom to spark your morning meeting discussions or as paragraph prompts; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at your students' reflections!  You can play a game with them by copying two of each quote (choose twelve of them if you've got 24 students) and passing them out to the class. Students have to find the classmate with a matching quote so that together they can discuss what they think it means and how it relates to them before they share it with the class. Then play Sort the Quotes, putting them together by virtue they address (like caring, respect, responsibility) for an extra challenge. Finally, have students bring in their family's favorites, illustrate them, and post them on a bulletin board.  What else could you do with these sage sayings?

~When one helps another, both gain in strength. Ecuadorian proverb
~The best advice is a good example. adapted from Ossie Davis
~If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.  Abigail Van Buren
~Kindness is not an inherited trait; it is a learned behavior. Katie Couric
~If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. Anne Bradstreet
~When spider webs unite they can tie up a lion. Ethiopian proverb
~An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox. Mexican proverb
~Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. Thomas Edison
~A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.  Henrik Ibsen
~Never look down on people unless you’re helping them up.  Jesse Jackson
~It’s not enough to know how to ride; one must also know how to fall. Mexican proverb
~Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing oneself.  Leo Tolstoy
~When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree. Vietnamese proverb
~Behavior is a much better barometer of what you are than words. Wayne Dyer
~Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
~A lie has speed, but the truth has endurance.  Edgar Mohn
~The honor we receive from those that fear us is not honor.  Montaigne Essays
~We pay a price when we deprive children of the exposure to the values, principles, and education they need to make them good citizens.  Sandra Day O'Connor 
~Most people see what is, and never see what can be. Albert Einstein
~No one has ever become poor by giving.  Anne Frank
~To educate a person in the mind but not the morals is to educate a menace to society.  Theodore Roosevelt
~The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.  George Bernard Shaw
~The best way to teach morality is to make it a habit with children. Aristotle
~I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  Maya Angelou
~Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.  Frank A. Clark


Will You Fill My Bucket? Giveaway

Hello Bucket Fillers! Guess what came in Saturday's mail? Yep, two copies of Will You Fill My Bucket? by Carol McCloud and her childhood friend Karen Wells, one to keep, and one to share. Penny Weber's striking illustrations in this gorgeous newcomer represent bucket-filling in action in twelve different countries and, coupled with this treasure's lyrical rhyme, will undoubtedly provide food for thought in many different arenas like during cultural studies, in reading circles, with social studies units, in art classes, and at tuck-in time. 

Soooooooo, every comment, observation or reflection  this week (today through Friday) equals one entry in a drawing for the author-signed softcover copy!  That's six chances to win, one each day; does that fill your bucket, or what?  Giveaway ends at 4 pm central time on Friday, May 4. We'll randomly select one winner from all of the entries and announce him/her in Saturday's post, so make sure to check back to see who has got this autographed copy coming their way.

Happy Bucket Filling!

This giveaway is now closed; check back on Saturday morning (cinco de mayo!) to see who won.


Seeing Potential

Caution: Professional Cattle Fitter At Work.
I got to watch my older brother Tim as he groomed this heifer for the Jefferson County Spring Show last weekend and I saw firsthand that he's in a career that fits him like a glove. It might very well be the most unique job you've ever heard of, too; he's a Cattle Fitter who travels nationally and internationally cleaning up, grooming and preparing cattle so that they're fit to show in an Exhibition, at the Fair, or for a Sale. He's always had a keen eye for a winner and, in his position, he has an amazing opportunity to buy and sell some of the best stock in the world. He bought this Red and White Holstein in Oklahoma the Monday prior and brought it back to Wisconsin for this Show. The thing that I marveled at the most was the depth of the brief conversation we had while my nephew Kyle (the 2011 National Holstein Boy!) was leading the calf in his junior class. 

Tim was reflecting out loud about the chance he'd taken on his yearling. He told me that she had a cruddy clip, that her back was plagued with lice bites, and that she wasn't filled out nicely. He was second-guessing his choice to put her in the ring that day, but he added that he was excited about what was going to happen over the next year. He said with confidence that, in a year, she'd be ready and, in fact, she'd be perfect. You see, he knew her great grandmother, so he was familiar with her pedigree and he bought her with the future in mind.
He saw potential. 

In that way, our careers have a connection. Tim does for cattle what we do for kids.  We groom and prepare them, we get them ready, we fit them for the future.  
Listen to Leo On You Tube
Sometimes, there's a late bloomer in the bunch who needs a visionary like Tim that sees them for what they can become. Don't you get excited - LOVE it even - when they start to bloom?  Much like that heifer and Leo, the little tiger in this treasure by Robert Kraus, some kids just need the gift of time. Since we can't tutor maturity, we owe it to them to look into the future to see what they can be and help them realize their potential, in their time. What a precious gift that is! 


A Cloud Of Feelings

It's no secret that we counselors LOVE books about feelings and The Cloud by Hannah Cumming is no exception! I've been using it in individual counseling session and it. is. pOwErFuL!  And when I tell you that there are hardly any words, I'm not exaggerating. But that doesn't seem to matter to the kids with whom I'm visiting because there are SO many opportunities to enrich, fill in, discuss, and predict in this little gem. I start with, "What might be your grey cloud?"  Losing a pet?  Your parents divorcing?  Being lonely?  A fight with a friend?  Being the new kid?  The Test? 

A third-grade boy I read it with yesterday said, "If it were a blue cloud, it'd be the shy cloud; a red cloud would be the really angry cloud."  We decided together that the yellow cloud could be a cloud of caution and a yellowish-orange cloud could be the happiness cloud. Kids are SO incredibly intuitive! Borrowing an idea from the book with a first-grade girl, we're each drawing half a picture to bring to our next session. When we meet again, we're going to complete each other's picture; how much fun will that be? Read this little treasure and see where this feelings masterpiece takes you; the possibilities might very well be endless.

Wanna sing about your feelings?  
Check out how this group of Warner Elementary students in Delaware put their unique spin on the lyrics I wrote to My Feelings.



Mrs. Limmer's Respect Bubble Map
Kind of makes you want to belt out a tune with Aretha, doesn't it?  The first graders across the hallway (fondly known as Respect Route!) are working on their Character Books so I snuck in there with our character cam and caught some of the action as they were mapping their thoughts about respect. Just what exactly is respect?  How do you show it? What does it look like? How does it sound? How does it feel? Our students know it as the Golden-Rule pillar because respect means Treat Others Like You Want To Be Treated.

After the students finished their Respect Bubble Map, they went to work writing and illustrating a respect page for their Character Book.  Next came Trustworthiness and this week their focus is Responsibility. Caring, Fairness, and Citizenship remain; I can't wait to see how their character creations turn out! It's such great fun to be right across the hallway from these budding authors and illustrators because their teachers are borrowing from my Books That Teach collection and I'm reminded about all of the valued titles on my shelf that bring these virtues to life.

Click image for a book review.
Ilene Cooper's gem addresses how universal the Golden Rule is and how many cultures into which we find it integrated. Here are six examples:

Aristotle:  We should behave to others as we wish others to behave to us.
Buddhism:  Hurt not others with that which pains thyself.
Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Confucius:  What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others.
Hinduism:  Do nothing to thy neighbor which thou wouldst not have him do to thee thereafter.
Judaism:  What you dislike for yourself, do not do to anyone.

Kids love to do the hand-jive motions with this little ditty I wrote:

you've got to give it to get it
yeah, that's the key.
We live by the Golden Rule, you see
at Westwood Elementary.
(feel free to substitute your school's name.) 


Contracts, Agreements & Pie, Oh My

Do you have unwritten rules or agreements with your family?  We have household norms that create a win-win for us. If I prepare the meal, for example, the boys set and clear the table, and John does the dishes. If John mows the lawn, the boys and I sweep up. If they go berry picking, I make the pie. Last night they came home with these fresh dewberries, so today we're enjoying this scrumptious delight:

We LOVE fresh dewberry pie topped with a dollop of whipping cream!

Does your faculty make a promise to one another and draw up a Staff Agreement?  If so, how does it work?  Using the Six Pillars of Character as a guide, we answered the question  
How do we want to work together?
to help decide what we could agree upon and use as our staff norms. We all signed the resulting document that hangs in the Teachers' Lounge.

Click image to enlarge

Do your students script a social contract or promise to one another?  If so, how is that working, especially at this time of year? Our students work together to answer the question: How do we want to treat one another? Here's a sample 21st-century Social Contract 
hanging in a third-grade classroom:

We've found that it's a whole lot easier to work together to craft an agreement and post a promise in August, at the beginning of the school year, than it is for us (and students!) to adhere to and honor it toward the end of the year, come April. What are your strategies to help keep that contract or promise fresh in the hearts and minds of your staff and students and make it more than just a poster on the wall?  How do you transform it into a working document that you reference, tweak, and practice all year long?


Hey, Little Spider

After reading the classic Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose aloud, two of our first-grade classes decided to set up a Project-Based Learning (PBL) pilot; they'd substitute the word ant with spider and answer the question about whether or not to squish, not based on their feelings, but based on their research.  With an essential question that goes something like this - Are spiders our friends? - students went to work.  First up, find some spiders, so off they went on a spider hunt.  The field trip to our nature center didn't prove too fruitful, so several students brought in spiders that they'd found at home.  The class families set up small aquariums so that they could watch, study and learn.  And learn they did.  What species was the spider?  What does it need in its habitat?  
What's its prey and to what is it a predator?  
And then, something unexpected happened . . .  this class spider laid an 
egg sack, right before their eyes. 
Talk about your authentic learning. 

It looks especially cool under the Elmo and through the digital microscopes!  More research told them that this wolf spider wouldn't leave its egg (in part because it's attached to her!) until the one-hundred-plus little spiders were safely released into the world.  But would she eat her young?  No, not this variety, but were she a black widow, she'd eat the male!

 So they're charting their findings as they find stuff out, making a paper chain to show what spiders eat and what eats them, and watching their spider as she tends to her egg. And what conclusion has their research led them to? Are spiders our friends or should we squish them?  Well, little friend, they haven't decided yet.  But I think I have a good guess (aka hypothesis) what they'll decide now that we're adoptive parents!

Can you find her in this picture?


Facing The Testing Giant

We're having our Super STAAR (That's what our new State test is called) Assembly today for third, fourth, and fifth graders and we've got a few fifth-grade leaders who've agreed to give a pep talk to their peers along with a few PALs from the high school to fire them up.  
I was put in charge of the launch. YAY!

Here's what I've selected to wrap it all up, a clip from the movie Facing The Giants. This powerful piece ought to motivate our students to do their best and to go the distance. There are SO many parallels between this scene and the Giant that is our State Assessment.  I actually got teary-eyed as I watched this coach, his challenge, the star player, and the teammate on his back.  I can't wait to see their reactions! 

This motivational snippet is dedicated to kids everywhere who'll be facing their giants during testing for the next couple of days and to their teacher-coaches who've worked so diligently to prepare their teams for the big game.


Mobilize The Earth

Click the image for an Earth Day Book Review.
Happy Earth Day!  This year's theme - Mobilize the Earth - intrigues me.  What do you think that means? And what do you think you can do to make that happen? It's also my dad's birthday today, he's turning 75, and I'm thinking about the rain barrel stand that he helped us make last time he visited us in Texas. My husband and he worked together to make a rain-water collection system that would effectively reuse the rain. Dad's a skilled carpenter, always willing to lend a helping hand and build or fix something. Finally, I'm thinking about the song I Refuse by Josh Wilson. It's become one of my favorite Christian Rock songs; I get SO happy when I hear that dulcimer in the intro. I've kind of adopted the song's powerful lyrics that coincidentally fit beautifully with Earth Day:  
I could choose not to move but I refuse!


The Wheel of Death

OK, so today's clip encapsulates my biggest frustration and fear with technology, that dreaded little rainbow spinner. Feel free to dance along!


The Empty Truth

The Empty Pot by Demi, a Chinese folktale, is one of my go-to faves to illustrate and illuminate the importance of integrity. In this book, the wise emperor is growing old and must choose a replacement for his crown. The flower-loving ruler announces that each child will be given a seed to see who can grow the most beautiful flower. The most successful gardener in this challenge will be made his successor.

Ping, known for green thumb, is certain he can grow a great flower for the emperor, but despite his attentive care, Ping's seed will not grow. He tries a bigger pot and different soil, but to no avail. When the day finally arrives and the emperor orders all of the children to bring their flowers to be inspected, Ping is saddened and ashamed to see so many children with their beautiful flowers. He has nothing to show but his empty pot. (The last time I read this, many of the listeners said something along these lines . . . why doesn't he just go to WalMart and BUY some flowers? . . . talk about foreshadowing!)  His father tells him that he tried his best, and his best is good enough. 

The emperor looks with disappointment at the beautiful flowers before him. At last he approaches Ping and asks why his pot is empty. Ping explains that he did his best to grow the flower but it just would not grow. Then the emperor smiles and exclaims that he has found his replacement. Who? And why?

This book is not one that you want to read straight through. Stop at different spots in the narrative to ask comprehension and cognition questions like:

1. What did Ping think about the contest to grow the most beautiful flower at the beginning of the story?
2. Has Ping tried his best to help the seed to grow? How can you tell? 
3. Does Ping ever give up and stop trying? How do you know?
4. Why doesn't Ping just go out and buy a fully-grown, beautiful bouquet of flowers?
5. Do you think Ping's father gave him good advice? Why or why  not? What's the difference between doing your best and being the best?
6. Why do you think the emperor seems unhappy with all the beautiful plants?
7. What had the emperor done? Why? Do you think his "tricky" challenge seemed dishonest?
8. Whom do you think is the best choice for emperor? Why?
9. What is integrity?
10. What do we mean when we say Ping showed integrity?

For enrichment and follow-up, try these ideas:

1. Ask students to make posters illustrating moments when Ping showed integrity. For extension, have them also draw the ways in which he showed great responsibility in problem-solving. 
2. Challenge students to create a class "integrity" pledge. 
3. Help students to create a bibliography of books that remind them to act with integrity.
4. Have students author their own storybook about a time it was difficult to be honest or show integrity.
5. Ask students to evaluate the importance of sharing a story like The Empty Pot with other children their age. Would they recommend that other teachers (or parents) read this story to elementary-aged students? What about to older students? Let them explain their reasoning in a persuasive paragraph.
6. Ask students to journal the answer to the following prompts: Why might it be important that your friend have integrity? How would you know if a friend has integrity? Would you be able to be friends with someone who doesn't show integrity?
7. If you've got a community partner who might donate some seeds, send a packet home for students to plant as a reinforcement for the lesson.

8.  Use the story as a springboard to your Science unit on plant growth. Why would a cooked seed not grow? Let students experiment and see for themselves, then have them chart or map their observations.


Rocket Readers Blast Off

My Stars!

To Infinity And Beyond!

Our first grade readers at Westwood have blasted off to infinity and beyond this Spring as they attempt to become Rocket Readers.

3-2-1 Blast Off!
 After an informational parent meeting in mid-February, students set a reading goal with their families. As they read their books, write their book-review reflections, and report on the book out loud, students earn stars for the bulletin board, one for each book. Chapter books earn one star for every fifty pages. Sometimes students exceed their goals and their stars go up on the ceiling and over to my side of the hallway. 

This is what I see when I come out off my office door!

Classes are working toward not only an individual goal, but a class goal as well. For reaching their goal, each Rocket Reader earns a t-shirt with the number of books they've read. Teachers put their class totals on the back of their shirt.

Mrs. Patton's Class is trying to beat last year's total of 833!

This year's Rocket Reader celebration is May 4th. The Mayor of Friendswood will come to launch Rocket Reader Day with a word of congratulations and the reading of the Proclamation, then the students enjoy a day of educational fun and a proud feeling for setting a goal and reaching for the stars 
to achieve it.


Flower Power

There's no way she could have known, the little artist who drew me this flower, how I was feeling or what this token of affirmation would do for me. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I had had a long, emotionally exhausting day, until this hand-made card showed up, a gift from a first-grade girl who had no idea. She slid it under my closed office door after school, while I was at a meeting. When I got back to my office, there it was, on the floor, face up, radiating sunshine and smiling at me. Daring me to open it and read the bucket-filling message that she'd written inside. And. it. made. my. day. instantly  BETTER!

Never underestimate the power of a flower. It replenished my emotional reserve and it made me cry tears of joy and renewal. What made her leave me that pick-me-up, I'm not sure I'll ever know. What I do know is that my day had turned around because of the thoughtfulness of 
one little girl and her willingness to share her gift with me. 
Let's hear it for random acts of kindness and Flower Power.


Taxing Decisions

Happy Tax Day!  What taxing decisions will you face today?  
I tend to agree with Roger Lewin, who once said:  
Too often we give our children answers to remember instead of problems to solve.  
But what are we doing about that?  I decided to focus my responsibility lesson on a easy-to-remember decision-making model.  First, I created this poster using velcro to attach the four components:

It was authentic engagement for kids to be able to manipulate the pieces and decide in which order they'd go.  Some classes decided that we ought to think first, then look at our options, so it made for a riveting discussion.  Ultimately, we'd end up with Stop, Look at our options, Think about the choices, their consequences, and our stakeholders, then Decide.  

We talked about the formula, then we practiced it over and over again with real-life dilemmas.  It was great fun!  As a launch, we took the words from the poster and made them into this little chant:


When You Mess Up . . .

. . . You Gotta Fess Up! So goes the saying that we use at school to try to get our sprouts to tell the truth when they make a mistake. And yet, we often hear flashbacks to that scene in the Polar Express where the little boy adamantly repeats his claim, "I didn't do it!"  So today I'm thinking about how important it is to teach our future leaders to come clean when you make a mess.

I'm reminded of the time that our Joshua took markers to the couch. In an attempt to keep my composure and not react with an irrationally angry response, I decided to try the four questions with him.

Me:  Joshua, what are you doing?
Joshua:  Coloring.
Me:  What are you supposed to be doing?  
Joshua:  Coloring?
Me:  Were you doing that?
Joshua:  Yep.
Me:  What are you going to do about it?
Joshua:  Color some more?

OK, so clearly the questions weren't scripted for toddlers. It was hard not to fuss at him, but at least he wasn't running and hiding; he was coming clean. In fact, he looks kind of proud of his masterpiece, doesn't he? That's what we want, right? (I will concede that we're not altogether certain that he was old enough to understand that we don't color on couches) So we promptly got our camera, snapped this AdOrAbLe shot, took the markers from his hands - did I mention that they were NOT the washable kind? - and attempted to fix the mistake. Ultimately, we ended up with new couches.  

How do you deal with mistakes? I found this this amazing post about when children make mistakes over at The Idea Room if you want to read their thoughts. In my nineteen years of parenting experience and twenty-six years in education, I've learned that the most important thing we must remember is that our sponges are soaking up life lessons with our every response and reaction, so if we shout and scream at them for messing up, guess what they learn?  Instead, why not turn those tense times into teachable moments. Get creative and have fun with it. Apply natural and logical consequences when you can. Let your charges know that mistakes are opportunities for growth and then show them you mean it by creating an environment in which they feel safe enough to fess up when they mess up!


We Don't Do That Here

Kaitlyn Knippers, a sophomore from Cypress Ranch High School, wrote a song about four months ago to process her struggles with and ultimate triumph against the bullying behaviors. Classmates at her school rallied together to put that song into this amazing music video. I just love the part where the boy says, "We don't do that here."  Read all about it in this Your Houston News article. 

One word of caution:  The lyrics of her song do include the word "sucks" which can be inappropriate and/or offensive to certain audiences.


Endless Skype-Abilities

Social Studies by Skype? Sure thing. Soldiers by Skype?  You betcha! Science by Skype? Yeah, buddy. Seems that the Skype possibilities are endless. Just this week, Autumn Bockart's sixth-grade class at Friendswood Jr. High visited by Skype with my brother Mark in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about their project that involves creating an advertising campaign that champions a cause; he works for Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising and was able to answer their questions about billboards. Right before winter break, our third graders had a Skype chat with a solider on active duty in Iraq and we got to watch as he opened a care package from us.

Students reflect on John's visits
This Thursday, my husband John made a virtual visit  to Reagan Tunstall's first-grade classroom over near San Antonio to enrich their rock unit. In December, he did a similar lesson with Jordan's fifth graders up in Missouri following their Solar System study. What a memorable moment for these little learners to welcome a NASA scientist to their classroom! And Joshua's seventh-grade Social Studies class made several Skype calls to the students' older siblings; they visited with our future college kids live from their college campuses last Fall to enhance the school's college-awareness activities. I love the outreach and collaboration that this type of technology can provide. I recently found a blog with this list of authors who Skype.  For free!  How have you used Skype as a tool in your students' learning?


Squirrels At Work

This chubby fella comes to my back door!
Don't you just LOVE watching the squirrels at work? The ones in our backyard are so very busy this time of year, trying to remember where they put those nuts last fall. I've actually found several of their treasures because they've sprouted and started growing into trees, like the little sapling below. We think it's a pecan tree and we're totally praying that they forget where it is so that they don't dig it up. It makes me wonder if they're counting on a little growth to help them remember where they've stored each particular nut.

Fingers crossed that they don't remember this one!
It also reminds me that in education we're planting seeds ALL. Of. The. TIME!  Every day, we look for fertile soil that we can dig a little hole in and do some planting. We water and fertilize, and then we wait. Sometimes we have to wait a very long time. And while we're waiting, we pray over those little nuts, that nothing harms or uproots them, that nobody messes with them before they're able to blossom and bear fruit. Sometimes we don't actually get to enjoy the fruits of our labor ourselves, but someone will. Just as those pecans are going to be part of a delicious pie one day, thanks to the squirrels' hard work, so are our little seedlings growing to do amazing things, thanks to you. Whom are you praying over today? Happy gardening!


Shattered Dreams

Does your high school participate in Shattered Dreams, a program designed to show students the consequences of driving under the influence? Ours does; April 30th is the date of our third time through this powerful process. I just got the schedule today; every twelve minutes or so on that day, students will hear a heart beat over the loud speaker. 

That's when a student dressed as the Grim Reaper will go into a classroom with a police officer and a counselor to remove a student who symbolizes another life lost in a drug-or-alcohol-related automobile accident. My job is to stay behind in the classroom and read the obituary that the student wrote, out loud to his classmates. That student statistic will go to the make-up room where he'll put on a black shirt and paint his face white because he will become part of the "living dead" and, as such, is not allowed to speak for the rest of the day. At lunch, an eerie scene; the living dead stand motionless around the perimeter the cafeteria. After school, they line the street in front of the high school.  Sobering?  No doubt.

I knew it was pretend, but this was a tough scene.
At 10:00 that morning, a 9-1-1 call will come over the loud speaker, and all juniors and seniors will head out in front of the school, where they'll witness a mock car crash. My daughter Kaitlyn was one of the mock-car-crash victims as a junior; here's a clip of the events that led up to the mock crash if you'd like to experience this student-led production:

It's an emotionally-loaded day for these teens, for sure, but so important to help them understand that their choices have consequences. The day after the crash, the school actually holds a memorial service for the student(s) who didn't survive the crash; footage of the court proceedings is shown as a follow-up, usually right before PROM. Here's part two; warning - some of the scenes of this dramatization are difficult to watch:

As an interesting variation, a high school down the road 
made theirs a texting and driving accident. For more sobering stats, click here to read a recent blog by Michele Borba about why we must teach our children to be responsible with alcohol.

On a lighter note, keep scrolling down to yesterday's post to listen in on today's interview rescheduled for 8 am central this morning with author Jez Alborough!


Give Me A Cuddle

Jez Alborough's Cuddly Dudley was one of our favorite tuck-in time books when our two older kids were younger.  Do you know this story?  Dudley is SO huggable that he actually runs away to get a break from all of the cuddling. My favorite part? Give me a cuddle!

So today I'm excited to meet the author of this tale that tap-danced its way into our hearts so many years ago. Tune in to Let's Talk Character at 9:00 a.m. central time (that's 3:00 p.m. London time!) to hear my interview with Author Jez Alborough live or listen at your leisure on this little radio widget. 

NOTE:  Seems daylight savings time totally messed us up; we have rescheduled this episode for Thursday, April 12, at 8:00 a.m. central. 
Listen to internet radio with TeachingBlogAddict on Blog Talk Radio



Zero The Hero

Have you seen this new release?  Zero The Hero by Joan Holub, the clever newcomer that caught my eye at Barnes & Noble today, will likely be my book of choice for Math Night next year. Here's the animated trailer I found on You Tube:

Illustrated by Wisconsin artist Tom Lichtenheld, this treasure finds Zero's friends questioning his worth. In fact, he's unable to convince his friends that he has any value at all, so he leaves them behind to go and figure things out. And when they get into trouble with the Roman Numerals, Zero comes back to save the day.

Check out this book; it'd be a great launch into a hero study. Ask students questions like these: What is a hero? Who is your hero?  What makes that person hero-worthy? Whose hero are you? Why? 

At Westwood, our second graders research a hero, write a paper, then become that hero for the annual Wax Museum, usually around Open House time. They dress like that hero and come alive from their statuesque stance when a Museum-goer pushes their button.  Our son Jacob got to study and play the role of Chuck Yeager; Joshua was a short but very cute honest Abe. (I'll never forget that one because I actually knit a black beard for him to wear!)  This book has a innumerable extension possibilities and will be a value-able addition to your library.  I especially love it when Zero doubles as a letter to help spell out the word:  jOy!  (Kim, this one's got your name on it!!)


Unspoken Rules

Is it possible to be on the Autism Spectrum and manage it well enough to be a pubic speaker? Meet Sean Barron. I listened with interest to his life's story about being a child with autism. It intrigued me because I'm working with a student who very well could have been him. After telling us about the challenges and celebrations on his journey, he walked us through what we as educators can do to help children on the spectrum with social skills development. His point - Even the best floor plan won't endure with a weak, faulty, or non-existent foundation. - resonated with me; he emphasized how critical it is to help students on the spectrum build a solid foundation. I connected with his list of ten unwritten rules and think you'll agree that these can easily be generalized to most children (and some adults!). Here are some highlights from the notes I took.

1.  Rules are not absolute. They are situation and people-based.  But since children with autism want rules to be iron-clad, this is confusing to them.

2.  Not everything is equally important in the grand scheme of things.  For example, offending someone isn't as bad as hitting a pole with your car. Both are bad, but not equally bad. The same goes for positive and pleasurable things. We must teach them, for example, to pay the bills with their money before buying something fun.

3.  Everyone makes mistakes and it doesn't have to ruin your day.  We need to help those on the spectrum with their perfection perception. They have problems with gray area and their low self-esteem keeps them from wanting to be wrong or corrected. Piano lessons, for example, can be very difficult for a child with autism because he can't always appreciate the process.

4.  Honesty is different than diplomacy.  Children with autism will not give you the PG version of the truth; they do not sugar-coat things.  Teach them to filter their thoughts.  Sometimes they have to shelf their feelings in social situations until later.

5.  Being polite is appropriate in any situation.  Manners matter.

6.  Not everyone who is nice to me is my friend.  Children on the spectrum don't understand social cues and 60-65% of our communication is non-verbal. They take things at face value and don't read social implications into situations because they can't.  They can desire friends so badly that they might do bad things for someone just to be their friend. Show them how true friends behave and teach them discernment.

7. People act differently in public than they do in private. Nobody wears a t-shirt advertising his/her faults.

8.  Know when you are turning people on and off. There are different ways to get to a single destination. Use a road map. Teach them not to pontificate.

9.  Fitting in is often tied to looking and sounding like you fit in. It's all about learning to make adjustments.

10.  People are responsible for their own behaviors. Teach children to quit glorifying blame and take responsibility.

Click here for more information about the book he co-authored with Temple Grandin.
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