Daily Character Activities Books

Just look at what I got in the mail this week from Carson-Dellosa;
I love this company.

Photo of Daily Character Education Activities
Click image for more info on the book for grades 4-5.

Do you know about these Daily Character Education Activities books? Written by Becky Daniel White, they're the most comprehensive resource books I've come across for a long time. And it's not like they're 
newly released, just new to me. 
Why haven't I seen these before?

OK, so the set-up is brilliant. There's a monthly letter to go home to establish that critical home-school connection. The note details what the class will be doing week by week in that monthly unit. And here's the cool part - the letter includes the lyrics to a song! It's the same song each month throughout the whole year, but each month a new verse is introduced, 
encouraging the families to sing together. 
How cool is that?

For the classrooms, there are five suggestions per week, one per day. Say the value is respect. On Monday, for example, there's a check-it-out lesson to get kids to think about respect. On Tuesday, there'll be a try-it-out prompt. On Wednesday, a take-it-out activity, and so on. Thursday's talk-it-out is followed by Friday's act-it-out. These activity quick and easy ideas look totally engaging. They'd easily integrate into the curriculum in language arts, writing, or social studies. 
Use them to enhance your morning meeting. 

In the back of these books, there's a list of illustrated picture books that some of the activities are based on, but if you don't have copies of those particular books, many of them could easily be substituted with titles you already have on your shelves.
Or write a grant to get the suggested titles.

Check out these books; whether you've already got a character education program in place or you're just starting out, 
I think you'll agree that they will 
add value to your character building.

It's the last Sunday of the month and you know what that means? Head over to Making It As A Middle School Teacher to check out Michelle's new look and my guest post with an engaging activity 

for students or staff on 
breaking down these stereotypes!


PIF At Minute Maid Park

It was 10:30 on Wednesday night, and I'd been asleep for at least thirty minutes when John and Joshua got home from Minute Maid Park. They'd made a last-minute decision to take in the final game of the season, which was also the Astros last home game in the National League. Joshua really wanted to talk, so when he knocked on the door and asked, You asleep, mom? I forced a little grunt and made myself wake up. 
You know that Pay It Forward bumper sticker on your van? 

Well, someone did that for us tonight and I had steak at the Astros game. Steak? I wondered. My excited yet exhausted teen went on to say that at the ticket booth (no line during a losing season), they walked right up and John had just said the he needed two tickets when a man appeared behind him and offered them two of theirs. Before John could offer to pay, he said they could just have them, that he was paying it forward. Joshua piped up that I had a bumper sticker that said that, so somehow getting those tickets was providential, that it was meant to be. They followed the man and his son into a special entrance, and that's when they glanced down to take a closer look at the treasures they'd just been handed:

My picture's a little blurry, but yep, you're seeing it right . . . the ticket price is $375.00 per ticket. Pretty special, all right. Heck, we wouldn't even pay that for a plane ticket home much less a seat at the Astros game, and John said they were treated to all the food and drinks they wanted and that they ate like crazy in those 
Diamond Club Seats

Joshua told me that he contemplated paying it forward by sharing some steak with the lady sitting across the aisle from them because she didn't have access to their amazing smorgasbord buffet, but he didn't think that'd be right, so he was still thinking about what he would do. And on their way out the door after the 2-0 win, they were served warm chocolate chip cookies and cold chocolate milk to top off a last-minute outing to Minute Maid Park that hit a home run with my boys.

What PIF experience have you been involved in lately?


The Boy Who Changed The World

First things first, you must visit my friend Tammy over at Forever in First to see how she and her class put their own special spin on a
respectacles lesson I shared and ended up with a class book!

Speaking of books, it's Friday and you know what that means ... it's PPBF at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog; click {here} to link up.

Title: The Boy Who Changed The World
Author:  Andy Andrews
Illustrator:  Philip Hurst
Publisher:  Tommy Nelson
Date: August 31, 2010
Suitable for ages: 4 and up (and up!)
Brief synopsis: Norman wanted to do something to help feed the hungry, and along the way he realizes that nothing happens in isolation.
Opening Page: I want to tell you a story about the boy who changed the world. His name was Norman Borlaug. Norman lived on a farm in Iowa. He loved to play hide-and-seek with his little sisters in their father's cornfields.  
Norman was tall and skinny with hair so light it looked like the silk that sprouted form the ears of corn. Norman was very good at hiding in the cornfields.
Themes: Butterfly Effect, good deeds, stakeholders
Resources:  The Book Trailer from You Tube

For list of all of the historical figures in the book from The Examiner, click {here}.
For the author's website, an activity guide and more, click {here}.
For a book review of One Smile by Cindy McKinley that you can use to compare and contrast, click {here} and scroll down to the bottom right.

Why I like this book: This is a classic Pay-It-Forward book about the power of our actions. Everything we do matters. Every choice makes a difference. Every day. This message empowers children to choose carefully by showing them how one little act can make a huge difference. It'll be a great lesson about stakeholders, the people who care about and are affected by our decisions. It adds authenticity for kids because each of the book's historical men is portrayed first as a child. This game-changer has got a service-learning project written all over it; use it as a springboard for students to pick a cause, do some research, and take action to make their world better.

*Note: Although this is not a book geared toward any particular religion or culture, the word God is used in the text three times.

Bridget over at Little Lovely Leaders is having a huge giveaway and I've joined like 36 other bloggers in helping her celebrate by donating a copy of Have You Filled A Bucket Today? signed by my friend Carol McCloud, so go there now to enter!


Teacher Or Educator?

Today I'm sharing a character clip that speaks for itself.

Whom do you need to thank?


A Culture Of Kindness

Bullying. There, I said it. It's a hard topic to grab hold of, and an even more difficult issue to handle and curtail. Let's face it; kids can be cruel. People can be cruel. The world can be a cruel place to live. The good news is that kindness can be taught. I saw this banner in my son's junior high cafeteria that urges students to:

photo of kindness banner

I wonder how A Culture of Kindness looks, sounds, and feels at his school. I know how it feels at mine and, for the most part, it's amazing. Does that mean that we don't ever have to deal with the issue of bullying? With teasing and put downs? With gossip and excluding people? If only . . . 

So what are some go-to strategies for creating that culture where we can move our students away from cruelty and toward kindness so that school is a place where children feel safe, not scared or scorned? Of foremost importance is getting to know one another and sharing as a class family, something we accomplish through morning meeting. As students become connected, they're ultimately invested in and committed to treating one another with respect and compassion. We also create Social Contracts, our promise to one another, and use them throughout the year to hold ourselves and each other accountable:

If bullying situations arise, our students use this simple formula: 
Talk, Walk, then Tell. 
TALK:  If you're feeling bullied, talk to the person who's being mean and ask him or her to stop. Use an I-statement that might go something like this: 
I feel scared when you chase me. I need you to stop.
WALK:  If your words don't work, walk away, preferably toward a trusted adult in case you need assistance.
TELL: If you are unable to solve the problem by yourself, report the incident to an adult.
We're also teaching our students to be upstanders, not bystanders. If they see bullying happening, students can gather together (like a swarm of bees) and befriend the victim by surrounding him or her and getting them out of that situation to a safe place. (Of course, they would go and get an adult to go with them if it were physical in nature!)
Click {here} for a bookmark template that we've adapted from my friends in a neighboring district to help the students remember. Personalize it to make it your own and print it out on card stock. Click {here} to see our Chicken Dance using that formula!

We've also stocked our library shelves with literature that tackles bullying. Some of our favorites are:

Alley Oops by Janice Levy
Band-Aid Chicken by Becky Hinton
Billy Bully by Ana Galan
Bird Child by Nan Forler
Bullies Never Win by Margery Cuyler
Bully B.E.A.N.S. by Julia Cook
Carla's Sandwich by Debbie Herman
Don't Laugh At Me by Steven Seskin
Good Bye Bully Machine by Debbie Fox with Alan Beane
Hey Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose
Jungle Bullies by Steven Kroll
Juice Box Bully by Maria Dismondy
My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
One by Kathryn Otoshi
Say Something by Peggy Moss
Simon's Hook by Karen Gedig Burnett
Spaghetti In A Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy
The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill
Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig
You're Mean, Lily Jean by Frieda Wishinski

What are your best practices for 
creating a culture of kindness?


Hope In A Box

If you've been a frequent visitor at The Corner, then you might know that my friend Carol has been living overseas for the past four years. She did get to come home every summer, so I saw her four times during those four years but our time together then was never long enough. I wrote a bit about the Carol experience {here} after her visit last summer. 

During the first two years, we wrote to one another by email almost every day. Maybe because it was such a huge time of transition, for both of us. We laughed and cried together about the trials and tribulations of having relocated to Holland. And during the second two years when she was in Dubai, even though it wasn't daily, we still corresponded frequently. I missed Carol so much during her time abroad; what a gift to have 
my friend back home. 

And look what she brought for me from Dubai:

It's a hope chest, handcrafted in India. When I was a young girl, my mom would tell me to put special things aside for my hope chest, 
but I never really had one ... until now.

I was speechless when Carol brought it over last week (after their ground shipment finally arrived); every time I look at it, I'm overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness and generosity
traits that, when I was little, I used to hope for in a friend one day. 
I am abundantly blessed!
What's in your hope chest?


Blogging Breaks

Did you notice that I took yesterday off from posting? Yep, I was finishing up a HUGE translation project and really had to focus my attention elsewhere! Plus, I've decided after 475 consecutive posts to 
unplug every now and again and give myself periodic 
blogging breaks. 

Click image for activity guide.
I'm beyond excited to be guest posting in Sunny Florida where I'm previewing a bright October 2012 release from Flash Light Press. Hop on over to Sunny Days In Second Grade and 
check out this newcomer, Being Frank by Donna Earnhart. 
Quite frankly, Frank's Frankness frazzles his family and friends. 
Can you figure out who will help Frank keep from being too Frank?


Imagine Whirled Peace

The peace bell rang yesterday, and it was one of the most
 emotional moments I've had in a very long time:

At the UN, the bell called for a cease fire. At Westwood-Bales, it signified the culmination of a collaboration for peace. In Art class, our craftistas made Pinwheels For Peace. In Music class, our songsters learned We Come To Greet You In Peace in three languages. And in guidance, we talked about what being a Peacemaker looks like, sounds like, and feels like. 
The result? A whirlwind experience for the senses.
Click {here} to see our incredible video montage created by 
Caroline Clarke Photography, set to the song A World of Difference sung by the Houston Children's Choir.
Click {here} to see the colorful array of still shots we captured.
Click {here} to listen in on a kindergarten music-class rehearsing the song that they learned to sing and sign.

photos of Pinwheels For Peace Sign
Photo by Adam Mann
The Power Of Peace....
photo of Whirled Peace Sign
Photo by Nancy Glaze
Why not give it a whirl next year?


International Day Of Peace

Happy International Day of Peace. It's another PPBF at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog and I've got the perfect picture book about peace!

Title:  The Peace Book
Author & Illustrator:  Todd Parr
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date:  September 8, 2004
Suitable for: grades preK-3 (or higher with extension)
Themes:  peace, behavior
Opening page: Peace is making new friends.
Synopsis: This book is actually a list of things that peace can be.
Why I like this book: Todd Parr books are so brilliantly colorful that they're magically engaging. They are also open-ended and make excellent springboards for discussion or writing prompts. Ask: Do you agree that Peace is making new friends? Tell about a time when you experienced this. Then have students write their own peace is .... sentences to make into a class book. 
Resources: Todd Parr reads The Peace Book (and jokes around about his pizza preferences) on You Tube.

Click {here} for the Pinwheels For Peace Project Information.
Click {here} to see how Jeffreys Grove celebrated peace this spring.
Click {here} to hear the Hebrew song We Come To Greet You In Peace.
Click {here} to download and personalize the iPhone template on which your little Peacemakers can write their APPs for peace.

Three more peace books to compare and contrast:

Shhh! by Jeanne Willis
Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz

Follow up by writing an acrostic poem from the word Peacemakers.


Someone Who Cares

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks is one of a handful of all-time favorite novels, in part because it's incredibly bittersweet, especially at the end. And now Simple Truths has created a two-minute clip that reminded me of The Notebook and tugged at my heartstrings. Turn up your speakers, grab some tissue and click {here} to watch Someone Who Cares.


The Power Of Actions

The Assignment: Visually bring your This I Believe essay to life.
 Here's what that looks like to our son Jacob:

The project actually took Jacob back to this particular adage -
 Actions speak more loudly than words
 - a second time; the first time was in fifth grade when he wrote a Foundations For Life piece about those very same words of wisdom. 
Click {here} to read that award-winning essay. 
My favorite actions-above-words experience from that paper was when Jacob gave his friend Keith one of our family raffle tickets to increase his friend's chances of winning the ping-pong table that he'd had his eye on. He could have just crossed his fingers and let Keith know that he really hoped he'd win, but instead he wrote Keith's name on a ticket and dropped it in the raffle-ticket bucket for him. There were so many tickets in that bin that it wasn't at all likely that that particular ticket would even be drawn, but Jacob came home that day with good news: 
his friend Keith won the ping-pong table. 

Jacob has agreed to share the essay that sparked his project board:

The Power Of Actions by Jacob Gruener

Most of us have heard the story of The Good Samaritan at some point in our lives. A man was robbed and left for dead on the side of the road, and three people saw him on the road. Only one stopped to help. That person took it upon himself to take the injured man to an inn and pay for his care. Without someone who was willing to put forth some effort and act, nothing would’ve gotten done and the man would’ve died there. This is the foundation for my belief: 
that actions, rather than words, are what matter.
         This belief was not born merely out of a cute story in the book of Luke. The moment my belief was formed was when I was in the fifth grade. Up until then, I had shied away from anything that required excess work or posed a challenge. I entered an essay contest at my mother’s insistence. Rather reluctantly, I wrote an essay based on the idea that “actions speak louder than words.”
         As I was writing that paper, I grew somewhat attached to the phrase. I began finding instances in my own life where actions showed more results than empty words. And yet I didn’t think much of it. I merely pushed it aside and continued with my life.
         One year later, I made the best decision of my life. 
I joined my school band. 
It was an elective choice in sixth grade and my sister was in it, so I decided I would give it a shot. I had taken piano for a few years, so when we began to talk about basic notes and rhythms, I began to think of band as just another activity. But I was soon proven wrong. The pace of the class escalated, and I found it took more and more practice just to keep up. I realized I enjoyed the practice, and that the end result of learning something new and exciting would be worth the effort. Thus my belief was formed.
         So here I am, six years later, and I still follow the same path. I give work ethic and perseverance value over ideas and talk. I choose to act rather than to react. I welcome challenges and leadership opportunities rather than shrink from them. And I know that words are empty without actions to back them up. As I look back at my life and the lives of my friends and family, I find this to be true. So this I believe: the strength to move forward and succeed is derived not from words, but from actions, for actions truly do speak louder than words. 
If you wrote a This I Believe essay, what would your visual representation look like?


CAN You Crack The Code?

I got the most pleasant surprise from Sandy Martin's kindergarten class on Friday when I walked by one of my ten bulletin boards ... it had been AdOpTeD! Just look at how AdOrAbLe it turned out.  In groups of four, these little conservationists helped make the pieces for the picture code to encourage passersby to recycle. And it looks like it's working!
Can you crack the code?

Going Green never looked so good; 
let's hear a cheer for these good citizens.


Wild Things & A Winner

Happy Monday!

Today I'm happy for Lori because the Gruener Generator (my husband this time) pulled her name out of a paper bag for the Macy's Giftcard Giveaway. Her favorite musical is ..... Grease!
 What fun that we had almost 30 entries; 
I truly wish I had a giftcard for each of you. 

I just LOVE a good mural and this one of Max from 
Where The Wild Things Are 
really brings these storybook characters to life! 
It's in our library, appropriately enough, and it still amazes me just how authentic our muralist was able to make it look! 
And how jazzed was I to see these Circle Maps hanging nearby?

What are your favorite follow-up activities to this classic?


The Brain Gym & A Giveaway

As you know, I've been on a meaningful movement kick, so to speak. It might be due, in part, to the fact that I find it unbelievably difficult to sit still for great lengths of time. People often seem surprised that I'm not a movie goer, but friends, it's almost physically painful for me to sit still for that long! 
As a result, I'm adding a few more brain breaks to my arsenal.

 Here's an easy one: Have kids stand up (of course!) and put thumbs up on one hand, and pinky up on the other. Then switch. No, I don't mean just flipping the hands upside down, I mean actually have them switch the thumbs-up hand to pinky up and the pinky up to a thumbs up... simultaneously. Once they've done it, switch again. Do as many reps at they need to sucessfully wipe the cobwebs away. 

Do you know about Brain Breaks by HOPS Sports? These high-energy clips work in concert with the AutoBGood stories; as such, they've infused character education with meaningful movement. I tried them out last week and found them to be engaging and entertaining.

Click {here} for a terrific teacher-collaborated activity list at 
 the I Want To Teacher Forever blog. 
Click {here} for energizers from our friends in Portage, MI.
 Get ready to get moving!

Missy Squirrels is having a giveaway and, in addition to a lot of other really cool stuff, she's giving away an author-signed copy of Have You Filled A Bucket Today? from my friend Carol McCloud, so click her cute button below to go there to enter today!

Oh, and don't forget to leave a comment telling us your favorite musical (along with your email address) for a chance to win that 
$20.00 Macy's giftcard from M80. You have until 7 pm central tonight; I'll announce the winner in tomorrow's post.

The Macy's card giveaway is now closed; thanks to everyone who entered!


A Macy's Musical & A Giveaway

As part of its commitment to arts education, Macy's has created a brand new musical and it's available now for teachers, royalty-free! 

“Yes, Virginia The Musical” is based on the true story of Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote to the New York Sun in 1897 asking if Santa was real. The editor's famous response began, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," and has continued to inspire people since its publication.

Visit YesVirginiaMusical to download the script and select songs, view videos featuring celebrities and theater experts to spark ideas of your own, and access everything else you need for a spectacular show.

In partnership with M80, we are hosting a giveaway for a $20.00 Macy's giftcard. Just leave a comment (and your email address to contact you if you win) telling us your favorite musical between now and 7 pm central on Sunday, September 16th. The winner will be announced on Monday's blog.

This giveaway is now closed; thank you to everyone who entered!  Check back Monday morning to see who won.


Raj The Bookstore Tiger

It'a another Perfect Picture Book Friday at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog and I've got another Kathleen T. Pelley treasure for you!

Title:  Raj the Bookstore Tiger
Author: Kathleen T. Pelley
Illustrator:  Paige Keiser
Publisher:  Charlesbridge Publishing
Date:  2011/Fiction
Suitable for: ages 4-8
Opening page: Raj was a tiger. Not a jungle tiger or a Indian tiger, but a tiger just the same. That's what Felicity Fotheringham had called him the day she brought him home to her attic of the bookstore she owned. "What a tiger!" Felicity had gasped as she held him up to the sun. "Look at that gorgeous golden coat and those beautiful chocolate stripes. Only a real tiger's name is good enough for you. I will call you Raj."
Brief synopsis: An ordinary little tabby is transformed into a courageous tiger by Felicity's affirmations but is just as quickly reduced to a scaredy cat because of the mean jabs of cranky feline named Snowball. Can a verse from a William Blake poem restore his tigerness? And then can his words help transform Snowball?
Themes:  cats, tigers, India, words
Click {here} for the author's Activities Guide.
Watch the author read the story {here}.
Click {here} for a review with activity ideas at Grade ONEderful.
A month-by-month poetry freebie {here} by Everything Elementary.

Watch the Book Trailer from You Tube:

Why I like this book: It so beautifully illustrates the power of words. I set the scene with a tiger puppet who doesn't want to tell the kids his name - Clarence - because it sounds like Clearance and he's NOT on sale! He's afraid they'll laugh, but my little peacemakers tell him that they think it's a cute name. He tells them that he'd prefer to be called Fred nonetheless which lodges us into a discussion about nicknames. We find out each other's nickname and talk about whether it's a home name, a school name, or both. I was surprised at how much they knew about nicknames. My favorite explanation was probably It's like a different name that you like

Then we talk about the power of words, and ultimately about their ability to build people up or to tear them down. We also talked about when to laugh and when not to laugh. Snowball laughs at Raj in the book and even calls him a "joke tiger," which really hurts his feelings, so we pause to process that. Empathy asks: What does Raj need on this page? At one point in the story, Snowball has a "smirk" on his face. Some students don't know what a smirk is; one student told me it was "a sassy smile!" That led beautifully into a bit on tone and body language, too. 

Did the kids like the book? Without a doubt! On his way out the door, one of my third graders scratched Clarence under the chin and said, "Good bye, Raj, I mean Fred!" to the tiger on my hand; it doesn't get any better than that! 


A Climate of CAREacter

Another happy guidance moment: One of the cutest little first graders, this teeny tiny boy, said in his teeny tiny voice in response to my inquiry, 
What does a counselor do?:  Makes people happy.

photo of It's All About Character

Today I'm simply sharing a link to one of the most powerful pieces that I have read in a very long time. Interestingly enough, I passed the first two times it crossed my path because I didn't really care for the title. 
A title has to grab me - this post is entitled 
- and I assumed that it might be another expose bashing public schools. 
Boy was I wrong! 
Instead, it makes a compelling argument for creating 
a climate of caring and a culture of character.
So get some tissue and prepare to fall in love with Mrs. Miner, then come back to The Corner to share your reflections.


Our Character Colors

Photo of Color The World With Character marquee

We're gearing up for Red Ribbon Week & National Character Counts! Week October 21st through the 26th and I can't wait. A few years back, we used Color The World With Character as our theme. We got parents involved by asking them how their child colors the world with character; click {here} to download the handout that we sent home and {here} to see the version we posted at the Character Counts! website.
Here are a few examples of our many awesome responses.

Some parents used real photographs, and those were adorable, too. Students shared them with their classmates in morning meetings.
Each teacher sent a few for this cafeteria display; 
the rest were posted in the classrooms.

How do you encourage children to 
color the world with character?

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