Kindness Matters!

Ever wonder if someone small truly can make a BIG difference?  Prepare to be AmAzEd by this adorable pair of preschool pals -  Ethan and Emily - who've done something huge to help stop hunger in their world. Today I'm celebrating their parents and preschool teachers for encouraging them to go out into the world, show just how much kindness matters, and make 
footsteps worth following.


Hit And Run

So today I'm frustrated because someone hit my van . . . and RAN! 
No note, no nothing. Gone. Like the wind. Only the wind doesn't usually leave this much damage.

Most of you know that I typically look for the silver lining: At least it happened while the car was parked and no one got hurt! But today I'm not really feelin' it.  It's only a car. Nope, not working.  It could be worse!  Right, but, as true as that is, right now, I'm SO overwhelmingly disappointed that someone at Friendswood High School would do this, just drive off, and not take responsibility. 

Just leave a note, that's all I'd ask. I'll even let you fix it without notifying insurance if you'd like so that your rates don't have to increase; no big deal. But why drive off? What makes owning up to a mistake that difficult? Why not do the right thing?

This actually happened to John's truck in my school parking lot at Open House about five years ago, only that time, one of our parents saw it happen and got a license plate number. He reported it to the authorities for us, but he'd copied the number wrong and was off by one digit so, when the police said they couldn't do anything about it, this Dad decided to do more. He watched for that truck for weeks afterward to try to help us catch the driver. Sure enough, he eventually saw the truck again and followed it home, giving us an address and a name. Of course, it was the parent of one of my students and WAY too awkward for me to do anything about it a month and a half later, so we were left with that bumper bill, too.

My son was able to walk the parking lot at FHS after he reported the fender bender this morning, trying to find the car that left its white paint in the gaping hole it left in our bumper and taking with it some of our blue paint, and he did find two potential matches. It will, however, be difficult to prove that either of those is our hit-and-run driver. And the security camera out in that lot? Per Murphy's law, it's not working. Budget cuts, I suppose. 

Am I being naive or are we still supposed to leave a note when we hit a parked car? How do we come back to doing the right thing? Today I'm at a loss, but what I do know is that it's critical that we teach the next generation to take responsibility for their actions and to be good citizens, even when surveillance cameras are broken and nobody's watching


Really Good Education Blog Awards

So today I'm excited because I'm one of the official judges for the Really Good Education Blog Awards! We will be narrowing the field from all of the nominees so that voting can begin June 18th. The winning blog in each category will receive a $75 Really Good Stuff gift certificate, a monthly column on The Teachers' Lounge blog, and recognition as one of the top education blogs in 2012. With SO many amazing education blogs out there, this will be a B.I.G. job and quite an honor. 


We Remember

Happy Memorial Day! I have fond memories of this holiday growing up because it meant that there would be a parade and that summer was just around the corner. We'd also go out onto the cemetery after church for the posting of the colors and a 21-gun salute. The thing is, I don't think I ever knew what or whom we were remembering, until I lost 
a soldier of my own. 

Once we lost Ray Joseph, Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning. We remember with sadness and admiration the service and sacrifice of those brave heroes (and their families!) who've given their lives for our freedom and security.  So every year, we support those who serve by putting themselves in harm's way on our behalf
Click {here} for a video clip of one of our soldier projects.  Most recently, we sent 23 pampering packages in early May to five platoons that we adopted and check this out - these guys wrote back! 

Here's an excerpt from their letter:

Ms. Gruener:   I am writing to let you know that we received the five boxes you sent to us. Thank you so much from all of us! We are so grateful for the wonderful treats and supplies, but enjoyed the excellent artwork provided by the students even more.  You  truly have some talented little ones down there! We hung a sampling of them in our hangar to serve as a constant reminder of not only why we're here fighting, but also of the spirit of the next generation of leaders.    

I can tell you that the supplies went quickly and everyone was impressed with your generosity. "Five boxes!?!?" was repeated by all. Very, very generous indeed. Being the only Texan here, I simply replied that that's just how Texans do things. Bigger and better than most! 

Isn't that amazing!  We are so humbled that they are thanking us.  See our pictures posted on a makeshift wall in their hangar behind them? How cool is THAT? One of their comrades who just made it home safely is coming to talk to our students on Wednesday at our final community celebration for the year - - and I can't wait.  We must teach our children that freedom is not free, and we must never forget!


Milo Armadillo

Click here for a Milo knitting pattern
Where do I begin with Milo Armadillo by author Jan Fearnley? I first heard about this gem over at Books That Heal Kids and Roxanne's recommendations NEVER steer me wrong!

When asked what she wants for her birthday, Tallulah responds that she wants a "pink, fluffy rabbit." Turns out, a pink, fluffy rabbit wasn't that easy to find, so, try as they may, her parents couldn't come through for her. Grandma steps in to save the day when she decides she could KNIT (are you starting to see why I was drawn to this book?) a pink, fluffy rabbit for Tallulah. But alas, she runs out of pink yarn and has to wing it, so to speak. The result? Milo Armadillo. Tallulah respectfully responds, "That's great," so as not to hurt grandma's feelings, but my students picked up right away that she wasn't feeling grateful at all. Nope. Tallulah wanted a lovable pink, fluffy rabbit, not a makeshift critter. How would things ever work out? 

When I read this to a group of 40 first graders, you could have heard a knitting needle drop as they paid attention and predicted, wondered and worried.
Not only is this a wonderful friendship treasure, but you can also use it as a springboard for what to do when two character values collide. Was is dishonest for Tallulah to hide her feelings about the rabbit or should Tallulah have told her parents how she's feeling? Let students talk about a time when they weren't feeling grateful for a gift. What was that experience like?  What happened?

Milo Armadillo is a tale which unravels so beautifully that you are going to want a copy for your collection. But be warned; it's filled with compassion and caring, acceptance and appreciation, longing and love. 


Good Grief

Click image to go to Flashlight Press

Good grief might very well be my favorite oxymoron.  Really?  Is there really such a thing as good grief?  

When a loved one passes away, who among us hasn’t longed for one more visit or had grandiose plans and glorious Wishes for One More Day? Aware of the sensitive nature of this issue for children, author Melanie Joy Pastor’s inspirational book by that title sheds light on handling loss and processing grief in a gentle, developmentally-appropriate way. 

Siblings Anna and Joey are understandably shaken and incredibly saddened by the news that their Poppy has died. As they journey through their initial shock, they comment that they’d love just one more day with him – “that’s all I need” Anna tells her mom, “just one more day.”  As they magically think through how they would spend that extra time with Poppy, their walk down memory lane helps them to realize that all of those wishes have, in fact, already come true.  What’s more, they’ve used those wishes as a springboard to create a beautiful scrapbook of their special relationship with Poppy.  What a treasured memento to celebrate Poppy’s life and keep his memory alive for years to come. 

With its magnificent portrait-quality illustrations by Jacqui Grantford, this touching story normalizes a child’s reactions to loss with the added bonus of a built-in strategy for helping children cope at this difficult time. There's also some cultural integration as we get a glimpse into some of the Jewish rituals that surround the passing of a loved one.  A group of students in my Lost and Found small group counseling class made a Wishes book after we read this and you'd have been amazed at not only their awesome creations but the healing balm that reliving their memories as they made their wishes was for them.  I could just taste that mom's chocolate chip pancakes and see that dad's fishing pole; SO powerful! Check out this terrific therapeutic tool; it will be a wonderful addition to your grief/loss collection.


Blast Off With Good Character

Teachers designed this t-shirt logo
at a school where I did some training.
The Character Education Partnership announced a new batch of schools that have earned the National Schools of Character (NSOC) distinction last week and I'm SO excited about their promising practices and initiatives! I know that this is an amazing time of celebration for these school families because I've been on both sides of this award. 
First, we were applicants for the honor when we were named the inaugural Texas State School of Character in 2007.  We went on to become an NSOC finalist and went through a site visit evaluation, but we didn't make the top ten that year, so we decided to use the feedback from our report and apply again. And again in 2008, we were named a finalist and given a site visit but still we didn't make the top ten. That was disappointing news, for sure, but we decided to use the process, apply the suggestions, then apply one more time. Some people say that the third time's a charm, and in our case it truly was. We had a wonderful site visit in the spring of 2009 and learned in mid-May that year that we had been named an NSOC. Our application and portfolio is posted {here} if you'd like to see it (it is a rather large document and may take a while to open up for you).

The process has changed since we achieved the honor of NSOC; now the distinction isn't limited to ten schools each year. Instead, it's given to as many schools as meet a standard of excellence based on the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. I have the pleasure of being on the other side of the process now as a site visitor, which took me to the Dallas area and to Puerto Rico this spring. I got to visit two incredible school families and I was inspired by the HEART work that they're doing with tomorrow's leaders. The 2012 NSOCs will be honored in Washington, D.C. in early November at the National Forum for Character Education.  Congratulations to these Character Champions!


Magnets & Metal

So today I'm thinking about friendship because of a visit I had with one of my students last week about that very topic. She's been in a triangle relationship and is trying to figure out how to get her best friend back. As we were talking, she explained it like this:  It's like my best friend's the magnet and her new friend is the metal.  The Magnet and Steel that Walter Eagan sang about, in the words of an eight year old. Impressed by her metaphor, I wanted to know more, so I asked, "If you could be the magnet, who would your metal be?"  Not bad, eh?  Then I asked her if she were the metal, whose magnet would attract her. These inquires launched us into this discussion about the qualities that we're looking for in a friendship, what works for us, what doesn't, and why. 
Do I have the best job or what?

That got me to thinking about magnets and metal. Do I have some titles that showcase magnet & metal friendships? Did I have to ask?  

Audrey and Barbara by Janet Lawson, is SO special to me because I do, in fact, have a best friend named Audrey. You can imagine my delight when I found this book about a unique relationship between an adventuresome young girl (Audrey) and her nap-loving cat (me!).

In Nacho And Lolita by Pam Muñoz Ryan, a colorful bird takes a bland bird, the swallow, under its wings and a beautiful friendship takes flight.

Noodle & Lou by Liz Garton Scanlon pairs predator and prey as unlikely friends, but I think you'll love what this bluebird of happiness does for this lowly earthworm.

Barbara M. Joose's treasure Nugget & Darling will steal your heart.  When Darling moves in, how will Nugget adjust?

Duck & Goose by Tad Hills is another priceless friendship find. One of my favorite read-alouds, this hilarious tale finds these two feathered friends fighting over the care of a soccer ball/egg.

In Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme, you might predict that the big wolf is the magnet but this heartwarming tale between friends who communicate without words could prove you wrong.

My final pick though I could add many, many more is Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller.  This unlikely duo is a caterpillar and a gosling, but when one of them changes, will their friendship stay the same?


What You Focus On

What you focus on, you get more of. I saw that saying on a poster last year, and I wanted proof that it was true. So I decided to test drive it. What if I were to look for something positively inspirational every day for a year, 
and write it down, and share it with the world. 

Would it make a difference? 

We're almost to the end of that year. Like in fourteen more posts or so. And what a year it's been. It's soft data, I suppose, but I think what the poster claims is true. And then some. I've intentionally worked at finding something positive to write about or share every day for almost a year now and, at the end of the day, I'm happier and more content 
than I've been in the middle of May in a 
very. long. time.

The norm has been for me to be so emotionally exhausted and spent mid-May that I am hardly even seeing straight, much less functioning well. And certainly not healthy. I'd be suffering from compassion fatigue 
cause I'd given it all away. 
Every. last. drop.

But not this year. This year, I still have an emotional reserve. On May 23rd! Did purposefully pursuing positivity make a difference? I'd say that it has undoubtedly impacted my life in a positive way.  And though it's not likely that I'll be able to continue being a daily columnist as I cruise into my summer and as things change in my life both personally and professionally, I will continue to seek out those elevating experiences and share them with you as they cross my path.  After all, what you focus on, you get more of.  What data do you have that that's true?


A Picture's Worth

Writing captions for pictures is SUCH a fun and creative exercise to do with kids. Take this empty bench for example.


What would you say in three words?  Seems so lonely.  What if you had four words?  Don't just sit there.  Five words?  Come and sit by me.  Ten words?

So I thought it's be fun to look for a picture and let my readers try to find the words to explain it. If you were writing the caption for this picture I took a few years back and had three words, five words, ten words, a paragraph . . . 
What would say about this shot?

Imagine the empathy you could evoke!  This activity has a lot of potential for a cool bulletin board or as an end-of-year challenge. Joshua's sixth-grade teacher had them draw a picture and then sum up their year in just 3 words. It was fun to see the year in review in three simple words from a tween's perspective. What other ways will you engage your learners in the upcoming week(s) as you prepare to launch them into the next grade? 

Journey of a Substitute Teacher blog is celebrating a one-year anniversary; click the graphic to go there next and enter to win a signed copy of one of Carol McCloud's Bucket Filler books!



Worries, Anxiety, and Fear

Fear underlies SO many of the issues, difficulties, challenges, concerns and behaviors that I see kids (and adults!) about and work with them to manage. They dance the What-If two step (What if this and what if that?), wracked with worry which, in turn, adds to their anxiety. So I've combed the literature for a few gems that I use to help open up the discussion and take a practical look at what we're afraid of and what we can do about it.  
Check out You've Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave.

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I found this book, in part because I totally LOVE Something Else, one of this author's other titles! But this hot metaphor for something that scares us is so catchy and clever that kids connect instantly to the boy and his dragons.  And guess what?  It acts like truth syrum because after we read it, students can fairly easily tell me what their dragons are and draw them out in detail. Then I can help them capture the dragons and put them in a safe place until they're ready to let go. And who among us doesn't have at least one fire-breathing dragon lying around? You've GOT to get this book!

Another go-to book I use to tackle this top is Is A Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz because it takes a rather humorous look at the way worries, anxieties, and fear can follow us around and lurk in places where we least expect them. Your students will undoubtedly enjoy looking for the worry on every page.

The counselor in me appreciates the built-in strategies for dealing with the worry and ultimately sending it packing.

My third pick is What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss. In this classic, the little Sneetch is scared out of his pants by . . . a pair of pants, of course!  It's a hilarious look at the real but often times absurd nature of our worries and fears. I use this one with the older students because, much like Dragons, it's a higher-level metaphor.

Finally, an oldie but goodies that I actually used my senior year  in high school (I said it was OLD!) for State Forensics Storytelling competition:  
Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach.

In this treasure, Harry has an unfounded fear of the unknown in the basement based on what he knows: "It was dark, and it was damp, and it smelled."  I found humor and substance in this book when I was a teenager and I stand by it now as one of my favorite books with a 
conquer-your-fears-before-they-conquer-you theme. The ending is priceless because Harry actually gives the Whatzit a tip about where to go next because Sheldon Parker's "afraid of everything."  Too cute!

As always, if a child's worry, anxiety or fear is extreme and keeps him or her from successfully navigating through normal daily routines, please consult with a certified counselor or a play therapist.


Tired, Tender & Thankful

Today's blog entry, post #350 at the Corner (that's a LOT of words!), finds me a little bit under the weather fighting the chest cold that, were I a gambling girl, I would have bet I wasn't going to get this year! Our bodies just know when we need to decompress, stay home, and do nothing, don't they? So Saturday as the clothes washer spun and the dishwasher splashed, I felt tired but thankful for some tender moments that I've had this past week.

Tender moment number one happened on Friday when I went to my AP's office and saw a kindergartener whom I've grown quite fond of. I asked him why he was there and he said he didn't get his work done and he wasn't listening to his teacher, but he added that he was going to turn that around this afternoon. Mr. Whitlock was about to send him on his way when he looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, "Would you walk with me to put my tray up and get back to my class?"  I think I saw Mr. Whitlock wipe a tear from his eye and I KNOW that my heart skipped a beat as I said "absolutely!"  

As we were walking, he said that he liked me because I was a Peacemaker; after he put his tray up, he reached for my hand. He said he wanted to hold hands "so we don't get lost." All together now - Awwww! Such a great metaphor for what we as educators get to do; what could be a more worthwhile calling than making sure they don't get lost! When he got back to class, he told his teacher, "we got to talk about character."

A second point of gratitude this week happened yesterday mid-morning when I got an email from Cheryl over at Primary Graffiti out of the blue sharing her packet for Memoirs of a Goldfish with me just because she knows how much I love a good book. Don't you just LOVE random acts of kindness. That totally overflowed my bucket! If you haven't already purchased the packet or picked up your freebie, 'water' you waiting for? It's pHeNoMeNaL! Coincidentally, a little something also came by US post from Carol McCloud of Bucket Filler fame, some of her wonderful books to use as Door Prizes at the WI Character Conference I'll speak at next month. How generous is THAT?! 

Finally, I'm tender because of your warm fuzzies and kind reflections and feedback at the Corner lately and I'm feeling thankful for those of you who take the time to read my ramblings and write your reflections. Technically, I've passed my one-year anniversary as a blogger though it won't officially be a year with Blogger until I write my 365th post, sometime in June. I'll be writing more about that in the upcoming weeks. Life is good; thank you for joining me on my journey.  


Thunder and Blazes

The Friendswood High School Wind Ensemble seniors went out with a bang this week at their final concert of their high school careers.  Prepare to be AmAzEd by their rendition of Fucik's Entry of the Gladiators, otherwise known as Thunder and Blazes. You'll likely recognize it from your childhood days as music under the Big Top at the three-ringed circus; our son Jacob is blessed to play trumpet with these talented musicians. 
This Texas State Honor Band is under the direction of Gregory Dick.


When Greed Won't Let Go

Greed is on my mind today for two reasons.  The first is a Michael Josephson Commentary that's got me reflecting.  Click here to read and/or listen to The Monkey Pot, a compelling story about how greed trapped a little monkey and the bigger lesson about why it's important to let go.

The second is because I was recently reminded about one of my all-time favorite read-alouds.

Title: Rotten and Rascal - The Two Terrible Pterosaur Twins
Author & Illustrator: Paul Geraghty
Publisher & Date of Publication: Barron’s Educational Series - February 1, 2006 (Fiction)
Suitable For: Kindergarten – 3rd
Opening Page: 65 million years ago the world was a deafening place. There were thunderstorms. There were volcanoes. There were landslides.  And there were earthquakes. But most of the noise came from Rotten and Rascal.
Brief Synopsis:  Rotten and Rascal, two baby pterosaurs who quarrel constantly, find themselves fighting over a single fish.  Shouts of “It’s mine!” enrupt and the battle begins.  Friends come along and try to help the twins settle their dispute, but, trapped by their greed, the T-Rex ends up putting an end to their squabbles.
Links To Resources: Check out the enrichment activity ideas at the Playing By The Book blog and see my suggestions below.
Why I Like This Book:  First of all, its alliteration and emotive force make it SUCH a fun read-aloud.  These two siblings are seriously squabbling! Kids get such a kick out of the ridiculousness of their battle (Mrs. Gruener, why don’t they just SPLIT the fish?).  Secondly, I just LOVE the friends who try to help solve their problem by throwing out this random criteria about who ought to get the fish because it launches SO perfectly into a discussion about fairness. Finally, the metaphor that greed can eat us alive is an excellent springboard for a discussion not only for how things could have been different, but also for the things that we might get greedy about that we really could do without.
Be warned:  Your students won't believe the shocking ending, simply scripted to drive home the point that greed and inflexibility really can eat us alive if we're not willing to let it go

An interesting self-reflection for both of these tales might be to ask yourself what's something that you really ought to let go of?

As a follow up, have students rewrite the ending. What would happen to the twins had they done something differently before their untimely meeting with the T-rex? What could they have done to change the problem and how would that change what happened to them? Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they feeling? Are they getting along or still fighting? How did this situation affect the way they make choices now? In other words, what, if anything, did they learn from this challenge? Encourage them to let their imaginations fly and see what changes, if any, they make so that they're able to enjoy life.

You can also check out these three titles that tackle this same topic:

So I'm linking up with Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday; why not head that way and do the same?

Click image for today's PPBF!


Just One Vote

Today's post is based upon a true story about a character kid named Katherine,
 her quest to make a difference and the difference her vote would make.
Her dad couldn’t believe she even wanted to run again, but Katherine had wanted to serve on Student Council for as long as she could remember.  She ran for a spot in second grade, then again in third grade, and now in fourth.  She’d lost big twice before, but she was determined to give it another try.  This time around, she lost by one vote. Just one. And even though she hadn’t won, Katherine was exuberantly happy.  “I actually lost by a lot more than that the last two times I ran!” 

It was so close – 13 to 12 – just one vote.  

When she told her parents she wanted to run again, they weren’t convinced it was a good idea.  “Oh, dear” replied her mom.  “Don’t you remember how upset you were when you lost last time?” and her dad cautioned, “Are you sure you want to give it another shot?”  But Katherine felt confident.  “I know that I could make a difference at Whitlock Elementary if I can just get elected.”

Katherine wrote her speech with one question in mind:  What positive changes could she make at her school?  As she thought back through her years at Whitlock Elementary, Katherine knew she wanted students to do something significant to make their world better. 

On Election Day, Katherine gave her speech first.  She bubbled with excitement as she shared her good-deed ideas with the class. “My dream is that we could be a Pay It Forward School.  We could have collections like The Souper Bowl of Caring to help stock our local food pantries and tackle hunger.  We could start a Do One Nice Thing Club and help others by writing letters to soldiers, collecting socks for the homeless, or sending flower seeds to a women’s shelter.  We could even hold a Pet-A-Thon to groom and exercise pets, then donate the money we raise to a local Animal Shelter.”

The possibilities seemed endless, and Katherine overflowed with enthusiasm, passion and energy as she explored service opportunities with her class.  She ended her speech with this promise: “Together we can make Whitlock a better place for everyone.”

Natalie was next.  Focusing on her prior experience, she made her speech short and sweet:  “I’ve handled the task of Student Council representative for two years now and you know my track record.  We've had a dance, a social, and a picnic.  If elected, I promise we’ll have even more fun and make this our best year ever.” 

When it was time for the actual election, Katherine realized that she didn’t really know for sure if voting for herself would be the right thing to do.  Before she could ask, she heard her teacher say to put their heads down on their desks.  “Boys and girls, please raise your hand to vote for the candidate whom you feel will do the best job for us this year.”

One by one, first for Katherine, then for Natalie, the students quietly raised their hands to vote.  In the end, the teacher announced that Natalie had won by one vote.  Just one vote. 

While Katherine felt a tinge of disappointment, she was also pretty excited that she had come closer to serving on the Student Council than she ever had before, and that gave her hope that one day she might win.

At dinner that night, Katherine excitedly told her family all about her campaign, their speeches, about the silent voting process.  “I came so close to winning this time!”  Her parents were encouraged by her enthusiastic attitude and they admired the hope and confidence they heard in her voice.  “We are so very proud of you.  It’s inspiring how you never give up,” they told her.  

At tuck-in time, her parents ready to put the issue to bed, Katherine asked just one question:  “Mom, Dad, do you think it'd be okay for me to vote for myself instead of Natalie next year.” 


What Do You Stand For?

Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming caught my eye at our book fair last spring in part because I’m always looking for ways to infuse historical heroes into my citizenship lessons, but also because I wanted to know more about the flag-bearing heroine so beautifully illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.
Look what I found in Mrs. Hoskins' room!
I recently heard it said that character is who you are when nobody’s watching AND what you’ll stand for when everybody is. Meet Imogene, a passionate little historian who just wishes that someone were watching when she takes a stand against a shoelace factory in order to save her favorite historical site in town.  This must-read will excite and engage conscientious citizens as they experience Imogene’s patriotism, activism, and perseverance; check out this book and consider the following enrichment activities, a few of which were inspired by a book review at commonsensemedia.org: 
  1. Talk about the historical figures that Imogene quotes throughout the book. Using the front and end pages, research the source of the quotes and the context in which each statement was made.  Encourage students to select their favorite adage and write about what they think it meant at the time it was said and what those words mean to them today.
  2. Take a field trip* to your own local historical society or museum. What kinds of things have been preserved and are on display?  Who decides what has historical value and what doesn't?  What is a docent?  *No field trip funds?  Invite a traveling trunk with museum-type artifacts to come to your class.
  3. Talk about genealogy. Trace your family roots and draw a family tree.  How do we keep our family’s stories in tact and why?  Have students explore the concept of a family crest.  Does their family have its own crest?  If so, what does it look like.  If not, have them create one.  What will they put in the design and why?
  4. Discuss ways that people can peacefully protest when they strongly believe in something. Why do people protest? Does it work? Why or why not?  Talk about a current controversy; use the Wisconsin teachers versus the Unions if you want a timely topic.
  5. What’s in a name? The author uses some unusually interesting names for some of her fictional places and characters. Use the book as a springboard for a discussion about names.  This could be a good time to have students create an acrostic poem using their names.  Ask students about the historical significance of the book’s title, too.
  6. I've heard it said that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.  Find out from students what they think that means.  Then ask them what character traits they admire in themselves and others and then what other issues they stand for.
Free Spirit Press featured our kiddos in their catalog a few years back!
I keep this magnet set from Barbara Lewis' What Do You Stand For? series just outside my office; kids often come by to measure themselves and see what trait they've reached.

Click here to visit the author’s webpage and get even more follow-up activity ideas.  From this site, you can also contact Ms. Fleming if you want to tell her what you thought about her gem.


Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers?

What's your favorite read-aloud? Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin is one of my all-time faves to bring to life.  

Click image for Shawna's book review and ideas!

Start the discussion by looking at Ruthie on the front cover. What's she doing? And how is she feeling about it? Ask your students if sneaking or hiding things is ever a good idea. Find out if they know what little white lies are. Is there a difference between a little white lie and a real lie?  

In this clever tale, an adorable young fox named Ruthie, who LOVES teeny, tiny things, finds a cute camera on the playground and claims that it is hers. After all, finders keepers, losers weepers, right? When she's confronted by Martin, who says he got that camera for his birthday, Ruthie lies so that she can keep the little treasure. But when Ruthie's lie catches up with her, will she do the right thing and tell the truth? 

Ruthie imagines a lot of different consequences for her actions. Ask students if they think the teacher should have punished Ruthie for taking the camera? How about for lying about it?  Find out from students why the bus ride home was SO long in the middle of the book but not that long in the end. Ruthie didn't move, so what made the difference?

After a riveting discussion about the roles of Ruthie and Martin, the teacher and Ruthie's parents, reinforce the lesson by having your students recite this little poem: If you mess up, you gotta fess up. To add some fun, try saying it in Ruthie's teeny tiny voice, and then in the voices of the other characters in the book. Then try a grandma or grandpa voice, a squeaky mouse voice, a dog or cat voice.

For some meaningful movement, play the theme song to the Pink Panther and have kids practice sleuthing around to teach them to be Truth Sleuths! To visually enhance the ripple effect that lies can have and enrich this read-aloud even further, get a bucket of water and some coins to try the Tom Jackson activity-adaptation Water You Covering Up? Want more follow-up fun? Make Character Cameras and send your little photographers out into your school to capture snapshots of students making good choices

Click image to go link up with Mrs. Nelson!

Now, go visit Mrs. Nelson and enter her fabulous giveaway, then s.c.a.m.p.e.r. over to The Teachers' Lounge to check out my guest post called Questioning Creativity.  
Happy Tuesday.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...