Our Character Corral

The Character Corral, three glass window panels that became a wall and were just begging to be painted, was crafted for us by local Muralist Kathy Hammond. We asked for six horses in a pasture branded with the letters T R R F C C to represent the Six Pillars of Character. 
What we got was this cool 3D-looking corral where the pillars are also elegantly etched into the fence posts. We also got to watch her create the entire thing as she worked during two school days!  (Can you imagine only two days from start to finish on something this spectacular?) Just yesterday one of our preK sprouts asked why the horses had letters in stars on them.

Kathy also painted the six pillars that line the walkway into our school with a faux-marble look and six pillar words subtly etched in them. Unfortunately they have to come down this week as we remodel this area to get a more secure entrance.

All aboard the Kid With Character express!
Another way that we made character come alive when we first started out was a campaign that we called Kids With Character. Every month, each teacher would select the student who was doing the best job of putting character into action. We’d give them a KWC award and take their pictures so that they could be publicly affirmed. Local businesses would partner with us to congratulate and honor them. We switched the name to the Character Honor Roll two years into the program, then eventually phased it out as we moved away from extrinsic toward intrinsic motivation. 

At that same time, we held an essay contest to let our third graders name our hallways. Here's an example of the street signs we had made from the winning entries that now hang in the hallways:

Some of the other names include Respect Route, Trustworthiness Trail, Caring Cul-De-Sac, Pillar Parkway, Acceptance Avenue, Helpful Highway, Character Court, Friendship Forest, Responsibility Road.  
How have you made character visible at your school?


Character Cards

You may have read on my profile that I'm the school counselor at a Character Education Partnership State and National School of Character; as an NSOC, we're asked to do outreach and help other schools integrate character education into the fabric of their schools so that it becomes a way of life rather than just another add-on. So all week long, I'm sharing fun infusion ideas along with some bonus bulletin board designs 
for your character building.

I'll start with the Character Cards I've been making to give away as door prizes for my February speaking gigs. First I typed up 54 challenges, questions and dilemmas onto Avery labels - ie. A stakeholder is someone who cares about and could be affected by your choices; who are the stakeholders in your decisions? - then I trimmed them slightly to fit the cards before affixing them. I gave a deck to one of our first-grade teachers and she uses them as Morning Meeting discussion starters. They could also be used as essay prompts.
You could put them in a center or work station and have kids discuss and/or act out the scenarios. At home, we incorporate them in our card games as a family; when we're playing War, for example, we'd discuss the winning card between having a battle and resuming play. So much potential . . . here are a few of the prompts: 

*If your neighbor isn't taking good care of her dog, what should you do?
*What can you do for someone if he's sad?
*If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?
*Is it fair to punish the whole class for the misbehavior of a few kids?  Why or why not?
*How would it feel to be the new kid in class? What would you need?

How would you use Character Cards? Be one of the first three to reflect on that question below and I'll send you a digital file of 60 prompts that you can choose from to make a deck for your class. I wonder what your students would write if they could help you make the deck.

This type of Character Card allows students and faculty to catch one another showing good character.


These cards are displayed on a bulletin board like this:

This farmer's daughter is LOVIN' the Holstein Cow motif!

Here's another visual from our character building 
to show that we're hooked!

Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship - That's TRRFCC character!


Time In A Bottle

We spent some time spring cleaning in the yard yesterday, and look who we found in our "have a heart" live trap last night:

No, really, buddy, you're going to LOVE your new home!
We relocated him AND his friend to a park down the road, which will be a lot nicer than under our deck! I decided to change up my blog design, too. What do you think about the new look?

One of my favorite songs as a young girl was Time In A Bottle by Jim Croche. I found it so hauntingly reflective, "If I could save time in a bottle . . . "  Do you remember that song? The words "If I could make days last forever. . . " made his chart-topper SO much more poignant when he died at the age of 30. 
"If I had a box just for wishes . . . "

So I recently got this cool hour glass (which is more of a half-hour glass cause it actually measures about 30 minutes) and it's quite a talking point in my office, probably 'cause it's new. In any event, I showed it to my students this week and told them that this is approximately as much time as we had to spend together. I posed the question of my older learners, "What if this were all the time that you had left?" Most of them said they'd spend it with family and friends. One said he'd spend it playing video games (I worry about that one!). One of them said she'd go to a hospital because if she were going to die, it'd be best that she be at the hospital. Then there's the boy who said he'd stay in my office and just keep turning the half-hour glass over again so it couldn't run out, to extend his time. I just love looking at life through the eyes of our future!

The refrain in Jim Croche's beautiful ballad goes like this: But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them. We have 86,400 seconds each day; what are you doing with your time today?  


Speed Pacer

We were both running a little late Monday afternoon, so I was speed walking with our Assistant Principal down the sidewalk to the other campus when he noticed that I was moving in that direction fairly quickly - mostly because I do NOT like to be late! That's when he said that he had the perfect job for me (as if I don't ALREADY have the perfect job!). He'd just completed his 100K road race . . . yep, 62.something miles . . . that took 20 something hours. He said that trail runners really appreciate the help from the race pacers, and that he thinks I'd be really good at that. Being a pacer. He said you basically have to walk fast alongside and pace the fatigued road warriors while you say positive things to them. Encourage them. Lift them up, with words. And keep them on track, moving forward, in the right direction, every step a bit closer to their finish line.

Speed walk and say positive things? That's it? I could do that, I thought for a split second. It's not like I rushed right out and signed up for that pacer position, mind you, but I think that somewhere down the road that could be a good fit for me. Mr. Whitlock shared these reflections about that endurance trail run in our school newsletter:

I can't explain what makes me enter these ridiculous events, but I can say that the physical and mental challenge, which is poured into each forward movement, provides such an incredible sense of accomplishment when the finish line is reached.  On a recent trail run in Bandera, a course known for technical climbs, steep grades, and loose rock, I got a parenting lesson in a trail-runner way.  As a small pack of runners descended through the hill country on a single-track trail, most had acute focus on the next step, with attention to  landing in the same footsteps of the trail shoes in front. Our line came to a halt as one of the lead runners recognized we had veered off course.  

After a brief period of recalculation, we found our trail again and continued down a nasty rocky slope.  Without many words exchanged, I was struck with a parenting notion that will last me for a lifetime. I wonder if my children are observing my footsteps and following in my direction?  I wonder how my actions will transfer to them when they become adults. Am I leading them down the correct trail?  I had over 20 hours to ponder this parenting metaphor. Thoughts of how small eyes are watching challenged me every bit as much as the course did.  My concluding thoughts were that if I model living life rushed, they might not understand slowing down. If I am sharp with my words, they may have trouble dealing with conflict appropriately. If I value and model being on time, they may respect punctuality. If I demonstrate volunteering, my footsteps may be followed by two tender girls who understand service. If I show hospitality to the poor . . . ok, you get the point. . . .

These Ironmen run for twenty hours. Straight. Without a break, except to eat and take care of other bodily demands. Yep, I'd definitely consider becoming a pacer to help them reach their goal. 

And then I got this sweet surprise from Shawna at The Picture Book Teacher's Edition - she gave me this AdOrAbLe award! If you haven't been by her blog, do yourself a favor and check it out. She's an expert at picking out, reviewing, and enriching the best picture books! This award got me to thinking that being a follower is kind of like being a run pacer . . . encourage and uplift fellow bloggers as you speedwalk jog run sprint with them down the trail. Thanks, Shawna, for letting me know that you appreciate my visits! The part where I pass the award along is tricky because I have a such a nice support group of friends who stop by the Corner with kind words of affirmation. 

Kim from Finding Joy in 6th is someone who also scouts for me and sends me resources that she thinks would fit. So Kim, tag, you're it, the recipient of this cute award. Thanks for sprinkling JOY around our cyberspace universe and being a pacer for me. Sing it with me now:  Go Speed Pacer, Go Speed Pacer, Go Speed Pacer Go-oh!


Proceed With Passion!

Bulletin boards can be SO much fun to create when I've got some inspiration.  I came across this Progress Roadmap recently from imom.com  . . .

Thanks, Madison, for permission to post!

that sparked this:
Ps On Down The Road with planning, preparation, practice and performance!

On the road, I put these questions:  What is my spark?  What is my dream?  How can I reach my goal?  What do I need to do?  Who can help me?  Whom can I talk to?  What else do I need to know?  Where could I learn more?  How hard am I working?  Success!  I did it! I reached my goal!  
For those of you who don't know about imom.com, it's a division of Family First and an amazing resource for your parenting journey.


That's Embarrassing!

One of my favorite Sesame Street characters of all time is Elmo; there's just something SO cute and cuddly about that little red rascal!  So you can imagine my delight when I found this feelings clip of Elmo helping Seth Rogen explain the word embarrassed. This is actually a really difficult word for our little learners to understand, appreciate and express, so I'm lovin' the help. That, and how could you NOT love a clip with a subliminal cheese-head reference!



Teens For Jeans and a Winner!

Click here to buy a signed copy!
I wish I could give Maria Dismondy's adorable new book to every one of my readers because I appreciate all of you, but alas, I had to fire up the Gruener Generator and my son selected Catherine from the stack of entries in our giveaway. Congrats, Catherine - you have a tiara cookie cutter and an autographed copy of Pink Tiara Cookies For Three coming your way from Maria! Click here for the cookie recipe.

If you want to get a jumpstart on some spring cleaning and show kindness in a practical way, partner with Aeropostale, P.S. and Do Something.org to recycle your gently-worn jeans in their Teens For Jeans project. Drop your used jeans (any brand) off at any Aeropostale or P.S. store between now and February 12; they'll donate them to the homeless teens in America. 
Click the graphic for more details.


A Dragon Tale

Click on the image to read the book online!

Happy Year of the Dragon!  I'm told that Dragon + Water = Bounty, so I'm celebrating the Chinese New Year with Jodi Moore’s award-winning When a Dragon Moves In, a whimsical sizzler about the antics of a dragon who moves into the sandcastle of one lucky little lad.  While his family goes about their beach business, the boy and his dragon share all sorts of adventuresome fun roaming around and roastin’ marshmallows, busting bullies and braving the waves. Despite his insistence of the dragon’s existence, though, this creatively clever kid cannot convince his family that his dragon is real.  Dragons are willing to take risks and driven; the boy is playful and seemingly unafraid of challenges . . . sounds like a double-bubble thinking map would fit perfectly here.

And when mischief starts to happen, the boy decides to send his dragon packing “until he learns some manners.”  That’s my favorite part because it’s the perfect segue into a character chat with my students.  What should a dragon’s manners look like, sound like, feel like at the beach?  At home  At school?  In the community?  Who will teach him those manners?  How will the boy know that the dragon has learned his new skill set?  Then will the dragon be back?  

The eye-poppingly expressive illustrations by Howard McWilliam bring the text to life in a such a magical way that I actually wanted to believe the boy!  You can also use this gem as a springboard for a discussion about real versus pretend.  Find out if your listeners think that the dragon really exists.  Why or why not?  If they ascertain that the dragon is imaginary, then ask them if the little boy is being dishonest.  What, if anything, is the difference between pretending and lying.

After reading this dragon tale aloud, warm up with your students' favorite sun and sand adventures aloud, prompting them to use as many sparkle words as they can.  Then, fire up those imaginations by encouraging them to mesh fantasy with fact as they script a summertime story of their own.

On a personal note, I am so blessed to have met this author online and become friends with her.  She's an expert bucket filler whose words can make me laugh and cry (all at once in one of her notes!) and I'm eagerly awaiting her next release! 


Mapping Our Thoughts

I'm thinking about Thinking Maps today because of a post I saw yesterday at Made In The Shade In Second Grade. Lisa and Beth made these AmAzInG behavior management maps for their readers and, when I couldn't get them to download from TpT, they sent them to me digitally by email to share with my staff. How SWEET is that? 
Visit them at the link above to download yours today.

Our GT coordinator conducted an inservice on Thinking Maps before school started (another reason these new ones are going to excite my staff!), so I've seen a lot of them surface this year. Laura, one of our newest second-grade team teachers, posted this double-bubble that she found 
on First Grade Blue Skies and did right before the holidays to compare Santa with an Elf.

Melanie in first and Deanna in third used a similar map with their cross-aged Book Buddies. The difference here is the bubble in the middle so that a third trait connects the two:

Here are a few more examples from the third-grade hall.

The cool thing is that these aren't cookie-cutter products; each one is different and unique. Students benefit from the engagement, ownership, and higher-level thinking skills required to adequately think through and complete the maps. I can't wait to see how the behavior ones promote self-regulation and ultimately change classroom climate! 


The Exchange

I’m pretty sure we were in junior high, between our seventh and eighth grade years, when we heard about The Exchange. It was through 4-H, I do know that for sure, but the other details are sketchy now, three, almost four decades later. It’s hard to remember for sure if just anyone could apply or if it’s because I’d been selected Brown County Holstein girl (quit laughing!), but I was given the chance to  spend a week on another family’s farm in exchange for letting their daughter do the same.  Simple, right? But kind of scary, too, because we were essentially trusting the powers-that-be to match us with someone with whom we possibly only had farmer’s daughter in common. And it was ultimately a HUGE out-of-the-box opportunity because farm girls like us didn’t really have many activities outside of our farm.

We got her name in the mail by US post – Marcia – and we got an address.  She lived in Durand, five hours from us across the state of Wisconsin.  We started writing letters right away; I vividly remember her pretty script handwriting. Our moms only made one phone call to set things up as this was during a time when long distance calling was pretty much reserved for emergencies. Just one call, and it was set. Marcia would come to our place first. 

At this point you may be wondering how long she stayed and I kind of am, too.  Was it a weekend? Four days? I’m thinking a week but it’s been so long that I can’t vouch for the accuracy of my memory. I am certain that I liked Marcia right away. She had the beautiful long hair that I’d always wanted and was just SO pretty to me. She had a voice to match and was an amazing singer. She sewed proficiently and rode horses competitively and pretty much had everything a girl like me ever dreamed about. And – get this! – She. Was. SO. Nice! She had this gentle voice, contagious smile, and childlike laugh that endeared her to us from the get go. We spent some of my favorite days during the Exchange on our farm and I couldn’t WAIT for my turn to meet her family and spend time on hers!

Part of the excitement, of course, was that I really hadn’t ever gone anywhere by myself, so this was a first for me, but the bigger piece was getting to spend more time with Marcia and see where this new friend came from. It was a L.O.N.G. five hours, but it was well worth the wait. I got to tour the farm, which was smaller and somehow more “old-fashioned” than ours, meet her family, go for a horseback ride and hang out. We were able to pick up where we’d left off and spend an incredible week together before our time together had run out. The powers-that-be had done a really good an outstanding job; the Exchange was over, but not our friendship. 

We became pen pals and stayed in touch with letters and pictures (we both LOVED photography!) over the years, less frequently, of course, as time went by, but we still communicated with one another through our high school and college days. We've only gotten to actually see each other twice since then. Once was during a family trip out west when I was in high school that we stopped by their place to say hello. The other was at Marcia's fairytale wedding. We were almost finished with college when she married Jim. It was a perfect day to celebrate their love. I cried when she sang to him at the reception. If I get really quiet, I can still hear her rendition of Anne Murray’s beautiful ballad: Could I have this dance for the rest of my life; would you be my partner every night?

It’s all so fresh in my heart this morning because I got a letter in the mail from Western Wisconsin just yesterday. It was from Marcia. We typically touch base once a year and today’s update told about their daughter’s fairytale wedding and their son’s engagement. Her news also included details about her 50th birthday party and ended with a paragraph about how blessed she is to be married to Jim, her dance partner. She still has such beautiful handwriting!

It’s been almost forty years since The Exchange and at least 30 since I’ve seen Marcia, but I could still hear her smile through her words on the page. I’m hopeful that one day our paths will cross again. Our son is actually participating in an Exchange Program soon. We’ll host a student from Germany in April and Jacob will travel to their home near Berlin in June. It’ll differ quite a bit from our 4-H Exchange, I imagine, but I do hope that he’s as blessed by his Exchange as I’ve been by mine. 


Tickled Pink About Kindness Giveaway

After great success with her books Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun and The Juice Box Bully, author Maria Dismondy has done it again! This month, we celebrate her latest gem - Pink Tiara Cookies For Three - a story about how Sami and Stella learn to successfully navigate through the rocky waters of a triangle friendship. Maria has been traveling the teaching-blog circuit on her Pink Tiara Book Blog Tour, and today, I'm privileged to share a guest post on kindness by this amazing teacher, mom, writer, and friend. Tomorrow she'll be in CA visiting my friend Kim at Finding JOY in 6th Grade, so visit her there as well!
I am happy to be a guest blogger today! I love what Barbara stands for and writes about on this blog. I believe in the theory behind the Pay it Forward movement. I think if we want a better world, we can start by doing something ourselves, instead of wishing and hoping others will make the difference. On the other hand, I believe that by doing good deeds, you can influence kindness in others as well. Let’s focus on children, especially since they are our future! Whether you are a parent, grandparent or teacher, or you play any other role connecting with children, you are in a great place to implement these five simple steps to encouraging kindness.

1. Do unto others. One way to teach children to be kind is by modeling it. When children see us treating others with dignity and respect, they see that our actions match our words. It’s one thing to just tell kids to be good to others, but to show them how it’s done, that’s a lesson that will stick!
2. Making spirits bright. There doesn’t have to be a reason to do something nice for someone else. Think about all the people in your life that could use some sunshine in their day.  Make cookies for your mail carrier or create homemade cards and artwork for the elderly. Make up a fun activity that you and your child can do together that will brighten someone’s day.
3. Volunteer. Volunteer with children. A few ideas such as donating old toys to the local thrift store, using their own money to buy food for a local food bank, participating in a fundraiser for people in need, joining others in a fun walk or run that raises money for a good cause or working at a local soup kitchen will help teach children that it is far better to give than it is to receive.
4. Teach Responsibility. One study out of the University of Minnesota showed that children who did housework had better feelings of responsibility and self-worth years later. And children who feel good about themselves are more respectful to others. (via Parenting.com)
                Toddlers can: put away their toys, get dressed and undressed, put their dirty clothes in a hamper and help out by getting their own snacks (make up a snack drawer they can easily access).
                Preschoolers can: help prepare dinner, clean up their dish from the dinner table, and help with easier chores.
                Elementary aged kids can: take out the garbage, sweep, and make their beds.
5. Read. I think the best way to teach your children a character trait is to first model that trait. The second best way is through children’s literature because someone else is modeling the trait or lesson you want to teach! Here are some of my favorite books that illustrate kindness:
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Heartprints by PK Hallinan
Spaghetti In A Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy (that’s me!)
The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Thanks, Maria!  Click here to purchase an autographed copy of the book from Maria's website and HERE to watch a video trailer of this treasure.

But wait, there's more:  Maria is giving away an autographed copy and a tiara cookie cutter! How cool is that? Each of the following three things will give you one entry: 
1. Leave a comment sharing your favorite friendship book. 
2. Tweet about the giveaway and let us know you did. 
3. Blog about the giveaway and share the link.  
The Gruener Generator will randomly select the winner on Tuesday, January 24th, at 5 pm central. 
Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed - congratulations Catherine, your name was chosen and you've got a book coming!


A FINtastic Friday

If you haven't seen this amazing rescue clip, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the FINtastic footage. It was a year ago Valentine's Day when these people helped save this young whale from its near-death fishing-net entanglement. 
The happy dance it does once freed seems to say, 
"Thanks for a job WHALE done!"


What's For Dinner Tonight?

One of our wedding gifts some twenty years ago was a Crate & Barrel deep-dish pizza pan set; our family's FAVORITE dinner has been my homemade stuffed deep dish pizza ever since. I used my time home on Monday to set the dough and make this creation; what's for dinner at your place tonight?
This is our Pepperoni/Canadian Bacon combo stuffed pizza!

Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza

1 T. sugar
1 cup warm water
2 ¼ tsp. dry yeast (1 packet)

Dissolve sugar in glass bowl with warm water.  Sprinkle yeast over top of warm sugar water and stir in. Let sit until bubbly.

Take 2 cans of diced tomatoes and season as desired (some come already seasoned – I add basil and oregano. Garlic makes it tasty, too.)  Set aside to marinate, then use for topping.  The longer the tomatoes sit, the more flavorful they are.

In a large mixing bowl add together:

3 cups flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
¼ cup olive oil
yeast mixture (once it’s activated)

Mix with mixing blade, then use kneading hook – or mix together until blended and pull out of bowl to knead by hand.  This is enough dough for a double-crusted pizza.  It needs to rise for at least 2 hours.  I put it into a bowl lightly coated with olive oil and covered with a towel to rise.  You can punch it down up to 2 times.  (I usually just let it rise once then I’m ready to use it)

When it’s risen and you’re ready, use 2/3 of the dough for the bottom crust and reserve 1/3 for the top crust.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees and position one rack low to the bottom and one close to the top.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to fit your deep-dish pizza pan’s bottom and come up the sides.  Leave a little over the edge so you can pinch the bottom-crust dough together with the top crust.

Fill it with whatever ingredients you want – I use Canadian Bacon, Pepperoni, and LOTS of mozzarella cheese (Call me a cheesehead; I use a 2 lb. bag!).  I put a layer of cheese, then the meats or other ingredients, then more cheese.  It’s good, too, with sausage or green peppers and olives, even pineapple!

Then roll out the remaining 1/3 dough to fit the pan.  Lay it right over the top of the ingredients and pinch it together with the sides from the bottom crust (kind of like you do for a fruit pie).

Put a slit in the top crust middle to release the heat.  I usually rub the top crust with olive oil before baking.  Bake without tomatoes on top the first 20 minutes as follows:

Bake 10 minutes on the bottom rack, then move it to the top rack and bake 10 more minutes. 

Pull it out and put the seasoned tomato bits on top, then bake for 10 more minutes until nicely browned edges appear on the crust. Top with parmesan cheese as desired. EnJOY! 


Other Duties As Assigned

I just love car rider duty in the morning. It's like counseling on the curb in a way, because I get to check in with the kids and get a quick read their emotional barometer as they get out of the car and launch into the day with us. I also get a glimpse into their lives just by my brief interaction with whomever is dropping them off. Sometimes it's the grandparent with whom they live and I have a new appreciation for both the child and the guardian. And I get a few surprises, too. Sometimes there's a dog in the car; my favorite is that big fluffy Sebastian who rides along because he just lost his brother and he's lonely. Talk about a LOVEY!  And sometimes I just get the biggest kick out of my exchanges, however brief, with those PrEcIoUs children. Like on Friday, when I opened the door for twin kindergarten sisters. I said, "Well, this must be my lucky day to get to open your car door," to which one of the girls confidently chided, "Why, yes, it is!" YAY for healthy self-esteem; oh to be in K again! How much better could my other duties as assigned be? 

Looks like the counselor was in charge again!

Well, this one was pretty good, too. Last week, I was the acting administrator (BIG focus on the word acting!), so I got to decide on and post the message on the marquee. What would you say to passersby if you were in charge?


Skin-Tone Matters

I'm thankful today to Angela Griffin, a former first-grade teacher at our school, for this engaging diversity lesson that she created after one of her firsties was asking questions and trying to understand just what skin color is all about. (We miss you, Angela!!)


• Learners will discover the unique differences among skin tones and will recognize that differences are found in each of us and that those differences make us special.

• Learners will use adjectives and imagery to create names for their individual skin tone.

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz 
• Crayola Multicultural paint set
• Paintbrushes
• Plate (for mixing paint)
• Posterboard/Construction paper
• Markers
• Writing Paper

1. Read The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.
2. Discuss the vivid adjectives used to describe the characters' skin tones. Discuss the varying nuances of each skin color revealing that no two skin colors are alike, and that each are beautiful and unique.
3. Call each student to the front, one-by-one, to reveal their own special skin color. To do this, make a palette of the Crayola multicultural paints on a plate. The names of the paint shades include: bronze, peach, taupe, etc. For each student, create a distinctive assortment of the paints that match their skin tone. You can match the paint directly onto the top of their hands. 
4. Once an exact match has been created, place a small spot of paint on the poster board or construction paper. Write the child's name above the sample.
5. Together, create a name that describes what that child's color is. For example, creamy peanut butter, cotton candy, double fudge, honey, pumpkin pie, etc. Write the name underneath the color sample.
6. When every student has created their unique color and color name and it is presented on the poster, your finished product is a collection of both fascinatingly-diverse skin tones and brilliant names to describe them.
• End your lesson with a discussion of student discoveries. Discuss the differences in each of the skin tones and reflect on how everyone is different, but shares a common thread of beautiful appearances.
Allow students to write sentences describing their own unique skin tone. Include painted illustrations. Put them together for a class book or onto a class bulletin board.


Standing Up By Sitting Down

Happy MLK, Jr. Day. In Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, Andrea Davis Pinkney's portrayal of the Greensboro Four of the 1960s, they sit at a counter waiting to be served. Peaceful and polite, the four friends weren't breaking any laws. In fact, they even used manners when they ordered their coffee and donuts with "cream on the side" at that Whites-Only restaurant. Segregation laws not only kept them from being served, but also resulted in them being ignored. Sit-ins were significant to the Civil Rights Movement, and many of them resulted in cruel, violent acts. But not this one. These four boys remembered Dr. King's message:  We must meet violence with non-violence.

The ten-step "recipe for integration," a Civil Rights Timeline, a photograph of the Greensboro Four in Woolworth's, a more in-depth look at the incident and times, and book and website resource recommendations at the book's end serve as a bonus for our 21st century learners, who might have difficulty understanding and/or relating to the injustice of segregation.

Have you ever staged a sit-in? My son Jacob led one while he was in his Social Studies class during sixth grade. It was empowering. Not only did he feel listened to, but he also felt heard. I distinctly remember him coming home that day, certain that he'd convinced the Principal to make the changes that he and his friends had peacefully negotiated. What are the hot topics that your students wrestle with at school?  In Jacob's case, he was asking for Meaningful Movement Mondays. In a nutshell, I think his group wanted more recess. But it was a really good strategy by his teacher (YAY Mrs. Appel!!) to get her students thinking about how to bring about change. Coincidentally, we now celebrate SPARK day on the first Monday of every month to encourage teachers to intentionally infuse meaningful movement and wellness tips into their lessons. Use this book to spark a discussion about socially-acceptable ways to help students become change agents in their world today.

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