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Character Education

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Digital Learning

Freedom in the Classroom

What a great day for freedom it is in our country! A monumental decision was made by the Supreme Court, and all who are in love can be married legally! Hooray for love! Hooray for freedom! Just needed to celebrate that as we are talking about freedom here!

As a third, fourth, and fifth grade teacher, often in a self-contained classroom over the years, I have been entrusted with teaching children about the Bill of Rights, which promises freedom to all who dwell in our land. My main point always has been that freedom means that you may do as you choose, as long as your choices don't infringe on the freedoms of others.

I have in my collection a treasured book from the 1970s called Shiver, Gobble, and Snore by Marie Winn. It is out of print now, but I just found an animated version of it (a kind of fuzzy one) on You Tube. Here's the link. Shiver, Gobble, and Snore You're welcome. I love to read this book to my students on the second day of school each year. The first day is way too crazy to be thinking about rules and personal freedom. Just collect all the paperwork and do a few icebreakers and go home. Right?

The story (which you can totally memorize after watching the video once, or maybe twice) tells about three friends who lived in a land with too many rules. They decided to go and live together in a wild land where there were no rules. What happened? You guessed it! Shiver was always cold and building fires. His friends didn't like the fires and put them out. Gobble was always eating, but his friends did not appreciate his stealing fruit from their trees. Snore needed lots of sleep, but his friends were annoyed by the snoring, so they made a lot of noise to keep him awake. You get it (and so will your kids). It's ok to sleep as much as you want, stay as warm as you want, and to eat as often as you like, as long as those choices don't interfere with the same rights of others.

So here we are, in the wild land of a new classroom, living together for a whole school year. We have rights, but we also have responsibilities. Responsibilities to others. If we care about preserving the rights of others, there are very few rules we need. I have always loved that old tried and true idea of the "Three Rule School": Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Take care of this place. I tend to tread just that lightly with rules. Be safe. Be responsible. Care. I've been incredibly lucky with this philosophy for a long time!

I love to reward kids when they do the right thing. It's fun to know that someone is noticing your efforts. I notice. Some resources to help you show that you've noticed are linked at the end of this post.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July, celebrating our freedom! Be safe. Be responsible. Care.

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Music in the Classroom

The sound tracks of our lives! I have one. Do you? Mine is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. I even have carefully selected songs as ringtones so I will always know who is calling without looking. My husband's is Seger "...Before you leave there's somethin' you should know. Yeah...sumpin you should know Babe..." There is always something that he has forgotten to tell me, and he loves to call me from his car! My default ring is "Thunder Road" "Roll down the windows and let the wind blow through your hair.." But I digress. Classroom. Music in the Classroom.

If you teach next to me, you too might be calling and asking me to turn it down! (Or you might just join in!) Here's hoping you'll join in and that some of these tips will prove helpful to you! I've always loved to incorporate music in my classroom, using different songs that my students and I loved for transition times, lining up, cleaning up, and even during quiet working time. (Just a little classical music or piano solo playing in the background.) Music soothes our brains, brings back sweet memories, and energizes us. Carefully chosen, it can also be a game-changer in our classrooms.

A magical, game-changing moment came for me when I discovered "I Am Bullyproof Music" on Teachers Pay Teachers. I bought a few songs and began adding them into my daily practice, at first just during transition times. I soon noticed that the kids were not only singing along, but requesting that these songs be played again and again during working times. We started looking at the lyrics and discussing the ways that they were related to real-life issues that tweens and teens face all the time. We used the magic inside the songs to help us to become stronger and more resilient from the inside out. The behavior issue graph headed down a steep decline when we started incorporating these bullyproof songs into our lesson plans.

My students and I found so many ways for the music to support us every day as we addressed the standards we needed to learn, prepared for testing, and grew closer and closer as a learning community. I wrote to Lessia a few times, telling about the magic her songs were weaving for real kids in a real classroom every day. She wrote back. We became online friends, and the rest is Bullyproof Rainbow history!

We now collaborate on the creation of units to accompany Lessia's songs, I take these units into classrooms at our local elementary school, and also work with a club group at the Upper Elementary/Middle School level to interpret the units and songs for their peers. Our shared mission now (Lessia, my friend Cindy, our kids, and me!) is to bullyproof kids one classroom at a time! We know we'll never get rid of bullies. The bullies will always be there. The music does help to build character and strength so that our kids can deal with the bullying around them.

Bullyproof Music is the soundtrack of our lives that my students and I have chosen. We have found literature connections, learned about theme, added to our reading and writing strategy toolboxes, and become stronger yet nicer people, all to a Bullyproof beat.

For a post on more specific ideas for using music to smooth transition times, click here.

For a peek at the Bullyproof Rainbow units, each one including an mp3 file and lyrics pages along with lessons, posters, writing prompts, activities and more, click here.

To find out more about the after-school club curriculum, we're working on now, follow my blog. I'll announce it here when it's ready in August! So proud to be sharing this post with a group of caring bloggers. We believe that sharing is caring. Sharing these ideas makes the classroom a better place for all!


Using Music for Smoother Transitions

Transitions! A pet peeve of many teachers for sure! Don't we all wish that the relative calm as students work on a task could be carried over into the next activity? I love to use music to soothe and smooth these transition times. Here are some quick ideas if you'd like to start using music as an aid for smoother transition times.

  • Have a playlist ready on your computer desktop or on a CD. Choose some songs with your students and have some that you have carefully selected to set the mood you'd like.
  • Select one song that will be your "lining up" signal. Make it one that your students can sing along to. Singing will be much easier on your teacher ears than endless chattering! 
  • Select another special singable song to be your "cleanup" signal. Cleanup time will go faster and be more enjoyable with a singalong!
  • Use songs that relate to the standard you will be addressing in your lesson as an introduction for that "listen up" phase. If no song applies, have several ready that encourage thinking and focus.
  •  Play DJ to settle the occasional disagreement with a song. I love to use this strategy after recess when students enter still arguing over conflicts that occurred on the playground. An example of this is when a group of girls rushed me at the door with an endless tale of who would or would not play with them and who was or was no longer their friend. (Been there?) I would simply step over to my computer, cue up a song called "Whatever" (a favorite of my class and me, about walking away from conflicts), and say into my sound system mike, "This one goes out to all my lovely ladies out there." Smiles all around and right back to work as the song ended. Kids - happy. Teacher - unruffled and calm. Aaaahhhhh.

So, for a happier classroom environment and smoother transitions, make and use a "soundtrack of your lives together in class." I promise you'll love it!

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Guest Post on Minds in Bloom

I was so excited this week to guest post on Minds in Bloom! I wrote about some ways I've found to make math class more fun! I hope you'll stop by to read it and leave a comment! Just click on the Minds in Bloom button!