Name That Bird

Today I'm excited because I went birding for the first time ever.
But first things first ... congratulations Karen ... the Gruener Generator selected your name from the comments yesterday ... and you've got a signed copy of 
What's Under Your Cape? coming your way. I'll be in touch to get your postal address soon.

Now about that bird trip; how many of these feathered friends can you identify? 
And does that change if they're flying rather than perched? 
What about if they're male or female? 
Juvenile or adult?

My mind's on overload with the new information I took in today; guess how many species our guide helped us find and identify? Seventy one! Turns out winter birding can be pretty fruitful because the absence of leaves on the trees makes them easier to find. We spotted lots of ducks, geese, and hawks for sure, but we also saw some song birds like those pictured on my magnetic souvenir: Northern Cardinal, Robin, Gold Finch, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Bluebird. 

My favorite had to be the Vermillion Flycatcher, in part because it's one we knew was around but had missed ... twice. First we were told there'd been a sighting earlier this morning before we'd arrived at the Visitors' Center, then on our way out, we were told that ten minutes after our departure, that beauty had been spotted again. We watched and waited before deciding it was time to leave ... and as we drove off, sure enough, there is was, as if to thank us for our patience and gift us with a parting dance, showing off its brilliance and splendor. 
Have you ever seen this magnificent male specimen?

Click for source.

Some others that amazed me include the Eastern Phoebe, the Crested Cara Cara, the juvenile Bald Eagle, Meadowlark, the Roseate Spoonbill, the American Widgeon, the Loggerhead Shrike, White-tailed Kite, a Vesper Sparrow.

As a bonus, we also got to watch two river otters playfully splashing around ... and an alligator {yikes!}.

And the whole time we were learning from our gracious and knowledgeable host Bill, I kept reflecting on the lessons we can learn from the birds, based on the lyrics of a church song from my childhood:
Look at the birds in the air ...  they neither sow nor reap. 
 Oh, to be more like those birds,
to fly through life so effortlessly and without worry.

How did you spend this last Saturday of January?


PPBF: Red Berry Wool

Today I'm feeling happy and hopeful after a week of amazing kindness and love. As I was leaving the building yesterday, I received a sweet note from one of our moms with her payment for a signed copy of my book. Inside was ten dollars too much with this note: I'm excited to share your book with my friend ... the other $10 is to bless someone else with a copy. So this evening, before my 10 pm CST bedtime, the Gruener Generator will select the recipient of Erin's generosity from all of the comments on today's post. Come back tomorrow to see if it's you!

I'm eager to keep those kindness embers burning with today's PPBF pick; prepare to feel the warmth.

Title: Red Berry Wool
Author: Robyn Eversole
Illustrator: Tim Coffey
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Date: March 2002
Genre: Fiction
Suitable for: ages 4 and up
Themes: perseverance, kindness, friendship
Brief synopsis: A little lamb named Lalo wants to have wool like  his shepherd boy. What lengths will he have to go to to make that happen?
Opening page: In a meadow on a mountain near the town, a boy watched over a flock of sheep. The smartest lamb was called lalo. He noticed everything. One day, he noticed something different about the Boy. 
Resources: *Check out a review at EdSnapShots blog {here}.
*Read it during your farm unit and find out all you can about sheep.
*Show the Pixar Short Boundin' to integrate and connect with values 
like kindness and respect for differences.
*Talk about this quote from the P is for Perseverance chapter of my book. Then unravel some connections with Lalo's quest to make red berry wool, his persistence and his perseverance.

*Visit the Growing Firsties blog for enrichment activities related to perseverance.

*Discuss or write about it: Lalo has a plan, to turn his "straggly, and muddy, and full of straw" wool into wool that "would look splendid like the Boy." What steps does Lalo take to turn his dream into a reality? What worked? What didn't? 
*Inquire: Why do you think it was so important for Lalo to be like his Boy? Encourage students to relate this to a time they've pursued a connection or a goal. What went well? What didn't go so well? What was the end result?

Why I like this book: This tale is like a wolf in sheep's clothing in that it seems really simple but it's actually quite deep. Lalo asks what it would take to get his wool to look like the boy's sweater and his mom remembers the answer:

First, you wash the wool. 
Then you spin it. 
Then you dye the wool. 
Then - you knit it.

Easy breezy, right? Well, that's what little Lalo was hoping anyway. He would find out the hard way that it wasn't going to be easy at all and, well, perhaps it'd even be difficult. Still, he figured it'd be worth it to be like his Boy. And for every misstep as he journeyed toward his goal, sure enough, there's the shepherd boy to pick him up, dust him off, and put him back in the meadow. 
Sound kind of familiar?

Toward the end, when Lalo reflects on how unsuccessful he has been ~ "I must have done everything wrong," thought Lalo. He sat down beside the drinking pond, miserable. "I will never look splendid like the Boy." ~ he realizes he forgot the knit part. Lalo found his mother on the far side of the meadow. "What does knit mean?" he asked her. "Knit? Let me think." Lalo's mother thought for five whole mouthfuls of grass. At last she said, "Knit means to bring things together."

And that's where I'll leave you, back at the drinking pond, Lalo with his Boy. Did the persistent little sheep meet his goal? Check out this book to find out. Then leap on over to Susanna's blog for today's PPBF titles.


Sunshine & Mud

Sometimes a smile and a positive reframe is all it takes to turn lemons into something tastier and more palatable. Yesterday this first-grade ray of sunshine showed up at my office door to tell me that he had fallen down outside, in the mud. Upon closer inspection, sure enough, his right pant leg was coated with dark, icky, Texas-style winter gumbo. He was muddy and wet all right.

But you wanna know the good thing? he asked in earnest.
The good thing is that the mud is only on the outside,
not on the inside.

Day Made!

And I thought to myself that this is the best reframe I'd heard in a very long time. little bit lot of mud isn't going to get this superhero down. Besides, it's what's on the inside that counts. 

In the end, what we focus on, we get more of ... 
and sunshine trumps mud any day of the week!

How was your Day Four of the Great Kindness Challenge?


Colorful Kindness Guest Post

Today I'm excited because I was invited to guest post over at Free Spirit; click {here} to read my thoughts about coloring the world with kindness.

Day three of our kindness challenge found me face-to-face with this cutie patootie, whose mom was in school getting ready for our big annual fundraiser auction. Kindness is a volunteer's superpower, for sure!

And how about this superhero's sensational smile?
Warms my heart every time.
How many kindnesses did you give or receive today?
Check out these posts for more kindness ideas:

Finally, if you're out and about in our corner of the world, why not bring a pair of new or gently-used jeans to help us help Clear Horizons HS students help the homeless! Click the image for more information on the Jeans4Teens campaign and how you can help in your local community.

Happy coloring!


Takin' It To The Streets

Today I'm on Cloud 9 because we took our #kindness message
{with a splash of confetti} to the street! I am so grateful to 
Libby and Lora for their heart work on this visual masterpiece!

Just as I was tweeting this picture out, my phone rang and it was Jill, a co-founder of Kids For Peace and initiator of this grass-roots movement that is 
It made me so happy to reconnect with Jill as we discussed the contagious ripple that being kind can create, one simple, sincere act at a time.

Colorful kid-made cards continue to find their way to my office.
These two came from Mrs. Janish's class family just down the hall.

Character is our superpower

And we changed out the books in our Character Case
to display a few of our faves with a kindness theme.
Check out these AmAzInG titles:

KiKi's Hats by Warren Hanson
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Williams
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
One Smile by Cindy McKinley
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Maddi's Fridge by Lois Brandt

How are you taking kindness to the streets this week?


Loving Kindness, Inspiring Joy

 It's heeeeeeere! 
The Great Kindness Challenge 2015.
Look what I found on my table waiting for me today
from a bucket-filling first-grade friend:

Mr. Whitlock and I worked together to put our message on the marquee 
inviting our community to celebrate with us.

I thoroughly enjoyed personally giving out my hand-made magnetic cards to our staff family members on the preK-3rd site this morning. At the 4th & 5th grade side, I left them in this little basket.

Today's kindness Day Maker stars our friends at the district Print Shop. Since their load has been extra heavy lately, they've gotten behind, and our GKC checklists didn't come in on schedule last week. So this morning when I called, they said that we were in the queue for tomorrow. But then kids won't have them until Wednesday when the week is half over, I heard myself say. When she gave me the option to "rush order" it, I decided against bumping another order just to get ours done and told her I would pick our printing up tomorrow at noon.

Within the hour, I had a phone message from ... you guessed it ... Judy at the Print Shop, telling me that our GKC checklist was printed and ready to go. So touched by her kindness in getting it done, I ran by McDonald's and picked up a tote of warm chocolate chip cookies to leave with them when I picked up our printing. They're busy, but still they found a way to help us out, proof that an act of kindness doesn't have to be great to be grand.

What Kind Act did you experience on Day One of the Great Kindness Challenge? Were you on the giving side, the receiving side, or both? Because kindness is like that, you know. It always boomerangs back, sometimes when we least expect it. 

Want a little something to seal the deal? Teach your kind kids this poem using motions from the Hand Jive:  

Do a kind act, it'll boomerang back.
Give kind, get kind ... just like that!

Before I sign off, a few links to share:
1. See our UNLESS bulletin board featured at MPM {here}.
2. Read about Opening Doors at Connected Principals blog {here}.
3. Experience the kindness shown by this first-grade friend:

May your week be bursting with outrageous, spontaneous acts 
of loving kindness and inspiring joy.


Create A Kindness Synergy

The Great Kindness Challenge starts tomorrow,
but it got a jump start on Balmoral Court yesterday. 

You see, I was out in the street in the afternoon, 
sweeping what was left of that torrential downpour 
away from curb, around the cul-de-sac, and down the drain.
Across the street, I had to move some leaves into a pile
away from the curb to get the water to flow.

That's when a young girl came riding up on her bike.
She introduced herself as my "neighbor's granddaughter."
When I asked her if she had a name, she responded, "Justice."
I told her that was a fun name, and she agreed.
"I even have a store named after me," she chided.
I added, "Well, your name is also something that people want; 
everyone wants Justice, that's for sure."
And then, I pointed to that pile of leaves on the other side of the street, and asked her if I ought to move them or leave them there. She looked and quickly decided I could probably just leave them there. I asked what would happen if I left them there, and she said that they'd probably blow away. Then she whooshed away on her bike like the water I was pushing down the street, toward the drain. 
I guess I was hoping for a different answer.
What I didn't count on was what happened next. 
Justice was headed back my way, 
this time on foot, 
with garden gloves on her hands, 
a trash bag in her hands, 
and her brother following behind. 
"This is my brother Sebastian," she said. "We're good helpers." And sure enough, they helped me pick up those leaves and then asked if they could try sweeping the water. You better believe I handed them my broom. 

Throw Kindness Like Confetti
Paper by Barbara Leyne Designs
So today I'm thinking about kindness.
The kind of kindness that blows around all over, 
like those leaves ...  or confetti ... 
but doesn't make a mess.
The kind that creates a movement, like that water,
The kind that brings someone along to help.
The kind that looks outside of herself and what she wants, 
to someone else and what they need.
The kind that says you matter; 
let me help you with that.

The kind of kindness that can will change the future.
For good.
The kind that Kid President talks about with 
passion and purpose, 
energy and enthusiasm.

What will you do to change tomorrow today?

Be the reason somebody dances this week. ~Kid President
Get to it.


The Great Kindness Challenge

Happy Saturday. Today I'm excited because the Kids For Peace
 Great Kindness Challenge is just around the corner.

Is your school ready to focus your efforts on being kind, 
on purpose, with intention? 
To one another and to ourselves. 
At home, in school, in our community, in our world. 
And not just for a week, but for a lifetime,
until kindness becomes a habit. 

Kids For Peace Kindness Quote

Start by sharing the Cindy McKinley book One Voice to show
what happens when one kind act ripples out and boomerangs back.
Follow that up with Kindness BINGO, an idea I first saw {here}. 
Here's how my version of this activity would work:
Brainstorm at least 30 kind acts that your students could commit to doing this week. Remind them that it doesn't have to be huge to be kind!
Make an anchor chart listing all of their suggestions.
{You'll need this list if you want to play BINGO on Friday.}
From that list, have students fill in this KIND Card with the 24 things that they'd be willing to do this week, to sprinkle their world with kindness. 
Students can track their acts of kindness throughout the week by highlighting the squares as they complete them.

KIND bingo
Click graphic to download.
During the week, encourage one another by checking in at morning meeting to share how many kind acts each student has done and how many they have left to do. Does anyone else hear some mathematical equation integration? 

Up the ante with a little incentive to see who can finish by Wednesday, for example. Let those students buddy up with other classmates to cheer them on and help them complete the challenge. Track and chart the class' kind acts with a tally, a bar graph, or a circle graphic organizer. Post it loud and proud outside your classroom to create a kindness synergy! Then, on Friday afternoon, play a celebratory game of BINGO using your completed KIND Cards. 
{The only prep will be cutting up that list of suggestions for the caller to use instead of numbers and gathering something to use for markers.} I can just feel the warmth.

How will your school be celebrating kindness this week?
My friend Natalie sent me this picture;

Kindness 365 Board

clearly kindness knows no calendar at Passmore Elementary!
Are you ready to take The Great Kindness Challenge?
We'd love if you'd share how you'll be 
celebrating kindness this week.


PPBF: What Does It Mean To Be Present?

Fair warning: Today's PPBF might grab ahold and not let go!

Author: Rana DiOrio
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Publisher: Little Pickle Press
Date: July 2010
Suitable for: ages 4-8
Themes: attitude, living in the moment, mindfulness
Brief synopsis: Journey through the pages for practical suggestions about practicing mindfulness and being in the now.
Opening pages: What does it mean to be present? 
Does it mean showing up in class? No.
Resources: Read a review at Books That Heal Kids {here}
Compare/contrast similar titles at The Mindful Classroom {here}.
  Watch the book trailer that's on You Tube:

Why I like this book: From the minute I saw this book posted on Roxanne's blog Books That Heal Kids, I knew I had to have a copy. In this world where we tend to run around like rodents in a rat race, busy-ness is glorified and people are plugged in to the latest app on their device instead of people and their feelings, its message is a must. And not just for kids. Read the book aloud, then ask students to reflect on this quote:

Photography by Cheri Cullen

Talk with students about what being present means to them. Ask them what that looks like, sounds like, feels like for them. Then ask who they wish were more present, and for whom they could be more present. 
{Don't make them answer that aloud unless they want to share.} 
Go back to the opening page. Being present is not just about showing up. What does the author mean? Do students agree? Why or not? Find out which pages they connect with, agree with, disagree with and why. Have them illustrate the book's mantra: Every day is a gift; that's why we call it the present.

For enrichment, you might even want to read Spencer Johnson's

Check out this book; I think you'll be happy you did.
Oh, and don't forget to unwrap and enjoy the present today.

For more PPBF picks, visit Susanna's blog.


A Tweet For The Smile File

Since I'll be working at the Junior High helping out with 9th-grade registration the next two days, I'm feeling exhausted to have just finished my peace-class lessons with two fewer days. 

Last week, toward the end of day one of our fairness lesson, one of our students said that they thought we ought to give a wow award to their teacher. Well, isn't that a cool idea? So I went with it by asking what they would say about why they were giving her the award; the things they were coming up with touched my heart. 

Click the graphic for product information.

So I decided we ought to document as students shared their 
sweet sentiments:
She always gives us a second chance.
She is beautiful and she is pretty.
She has a heart full of love.
She is kind and is fair.
She has empathy.
She believes in us.
She is joyful. 
She is nice.

{A slightly altered version of these Tweet cards from Really Good Stuff worked perfectly.} Students in second and third were able to pass the clipboard and write their own compliments; students in K and 1st dictated as I scribed. The end result? 
A tweet affirmation sheet for the Smile File.


Tuesday Treasures

Today I'm eager to share a few treasures,
most of which speak for themselves.
First, this quote, from a Principal friend in New Jersey.
Thank you, Jay Billy.

How do you feel about taking the road less traveled?
Second, an amazingly joyful song ... oh to be this innocent again!

"We are how we treat each other - and nothing more."
Wouldn't that be a fun phrase to ask for student reflections on?
I'm told that you can use the song but upload your own video.
Do let me know where it's posted if you try that.

Third, Peter H. Reynolds' genius take on testing.

We must let students know that they are more than a snapshot.

Fourth, a great clip about the happy brain that would pair nicely

Fifth, do nice guys finish last ... or first?

Wait, what? Niceness trumps everything?
Sounds like it.
I love how birds help each other out and how selfish birds are shunned from cooperating communities. Even animals have a "you help me and I'll help you" altruistic code. Fascinating.

Finally, do you have the new Burgess treasure yet?
Our Principal and I got our copies of P Is For Pirate on Friday.

Patch says, "J is for jewel."

Terri says, "E is for ecstatic!"
And I say, "T is for Thankful."

What hidden must-haves have you uncovered lately?


Just To Be Fair

All he wanted was for life to be fair.
For his children. For mankind. For goodness sake.
Just ... and fair.

Those who went before him wanted that very thing.
As do those of us who've stayed behind.
Justice. Equality. Equity.
Just to be fair.
So today we pause to honor, celebrate and thank
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How will you carry on his dream?

I'm on my way out the door for a training in CCISD;
before I go, some links to help keep MLK's dream alive.


PPBF: F Is For Feelings

Last week, I found out I had won the December Giveaway over at
Free Spirit; today's PPBF is one of the treasures I found while I was on that incredible shopping spree. Thank you, Free Spirit, for this gem!

Title: F Is For Feelings
Authors: Goldie Millar and Lisa A. Berger
Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
Date: July 7, 2104 (oops!) 2014
Suitable for: PreK through third grade
Themes: feelings, emotions, empathy
Brief synopsis: Travel through the alphabet of feelings with these children as they experience emotional highs and lows.
Opening page: Every day I feel all kinds of feelings, in all kinds of places, with all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways.  

Resources:  Visit the author's website {here}.
Grab ideas from the book's Pinterest page {here}.
Read a review from An Unconventional Librarian {here}.
Sing along with My Feelings, a song I wrote {here}.
Compare and contrast the book with Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein.

Why I like this book:  D is for different. I like it because it's different from other feelings book on my shelf. The brilliant, energetic illustrations pair feeling words with actions and behaviors so that the abstract becomes concrete, so important for the little leaders under our care. A caregiver can't have enough of these books that help students understand, embrace and own their feelings when they show up. 

And then, there's the empathy piece. On each of these colorful pages, I can pose the question, "What would it be like to be him or her today?" 
For example, check out this J page:

Jealous is a hard word and an even harder feeling for some kids to manage. Isn't this awesome illustration and that simple explanation a terrific way to bring that feeling to life? That leads me to an extension possibility: Ask students, "what would your J page say?"  If you come by the Corner a lot, you might predict that I probably would have picked J is for Joy. Share that option (or your J pick) with your littles and ask them to imagine the illustration on a joy page instead of a jealous page. See where I'm going with this? You'll have another alphabet book before you know it. Make one as a class or let students make a personalized copy. 

Finally, I love the four-page the Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers at the back of the book for other enrichment activities and ideas.

Don't forget to head to Susanna's blog next for more PPBF picks.