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Box 2
Character Education

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Digital Learning

Got Your Back

The flu. Ugh! Ruined my Christmas and New Year's. Too sick to get off of the couch much, and head hurt too much to even enjoy the couch time with a good book.

Friends. Yay! What would any of us do without our good friends? The ones who really care, and who are there for you no matter what?

Our situation: My friend Cindy and I (two recently retired teachers, who have not had our fill of time with the kids and probably never will), volunteer every week at our local elementary school (where we both taught), and at the upper elementary that is the next step for kids in our neighborhood. We have started an amazing after school club at the upper elementary based on the units in a series of lessons by Bullyproof Rainbow.

Yes, it IS an amazing club! The kids have really made it amazing by the way they take our ideas and RUN with them! They are learning improv, and taking their naturally effervescent personalities to the stage to show others the way to a Bullyproof life! More about our club in future posts.

Our club, The Positivity Players,  performed for the whole school right before Christmas, and we were due to start a new unit this week. The unit is called "Got Your Back: Learning to be Loyal". I was on the couch (where else?) fretting over how all this would be accomplished with 32 extremely energetic 5th and 6th graders and one teacher. (BTW, Cindy was a kindergarten teacher and has always said that she would go to the upper school with me, but not without me. They ARE at an interesting age! Did I mention their extreme energy?) The emails were flying back and forth between us. I had all the materials at home. How was all this going to happen for the club?

Cindy sent me an email saying, "I found a roll of paper. Don't worry! I've got your back!" A roll of paper? Don't worry? OK. I've known Cindy forever. Best kindergarten teacher on the planet, best mom around (I had her awesome son in my class, so  I know!), and a really upbeat, positive person to be around on any day. So I rolled over, hugged my pillow, and went back to sleep. Cindy had my back.

The next day, the photos arrived with absolute proof that Cindy had my back and the back of every kid in the club. She created a fab activity that can easily be duplicated in your classroom today or tomorrow, with or without our unit!

Here it is:

1. Play either or both of these FREE videos with a great background song and focal point:
    Recommend the first one for 5th grade and up. The second one is perfect for grades 3-5.
2. Talk about loyalty in friendship, what a loyal friend is, and times a friend had your back.

3. Spread roll paper in hall and make sure plenty of colorful markers are available. Our club kids
    bring their own!

4. Student directions: Draw a back view of yourself and color. Write on your back a
    way that you have noticed that a friend has had your back. OR (special request by kids) Draw your
    friend's back view and tell how you have your friend's back!

5. Cut out and display/discuss OR simply hang up the whole roll of loyalty to inspire all who walk by

Flu alert: This COULD easily be a sub activity in case the flu gets you down this year!

Teachers, stay healthy! But just in case, remember - We've got your back with this easy lesson!


Martin Luther King Jr. Lesson

It's January, and our annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is just around the corner. Martin Luther King Day has not always been a national holiday, and during all the years when school districts were sorting through whether they would observe by having school or by not having school, Dr. King's family has always reminded us to "Make it a day ON, not a day OFF."

So what are you doing in your classroom to commemorate the life of this American legend? In case you are still looking around for a few ideas to add to your lesson plan, here are some you might like. The Martin Luther King unit has always been my favorite one to teach because it reaches my students at their core. I love watching them search deep inside of themselves for who they are and what they stand for, and then find a way to share that with all of us. Isn't that just what Dr. King did: reach deep inside himself to find what really mattered and then try to share it with the world?

Of course, my fourth graders know about the "I Have a Dream" speech long before they reach their year with me, but not many are aware that Dr. King carefully chose the Lincoln Memorial as the place to deliver that speech and why. The second line of this speech begins, "Five score years ago...", referring to the Gettysburg address, which of course begins, "Four score and seven years ago...", referring to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Wait.... What's going on here...could there be some connection across time and history between people who tried to make things better for all of us? Of course there was. Here's the sequence I present to my students:

1. Read the Declaration of Independence together. (You can even do a CLOSE READ of it if you must!)
2. Discuss how the Declaration was kind of like a letter from the Founding Fathers to England that "This is how it's going to be around here from now on."
3. Read the Gettysburg Address together. I use a beautifully illustrated picture book for that reading by Abraham Lincoln, of course, but with illustrations by Michael McCurdy.
4. Discuss how the Gettysburg Address was really a letter from Lincoln to the Founding Fathers on how it was going 87 years after the signing of the Declaration.
5. Next we get to the famous Dream speech. There are so many illustrated versions of this speech. Wasn't this speech meant to be a letter informing President Lincoln that we as a people had not really come as far along as his vision  for us?  That's precisely why it was delivered right in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

For children (and many of their teachers!) who were not here when the Civil Rights Movement was happening, when Dr. King made his speeches, or when he was assassinated, I have found this sequence to be a pretty effective way of placing King Day in its proper historical perspective.

To add personal meaning to each child, I challenge my students to write a letter to Dr. King, telling him how we're doing today as the beneficiaries of his dream. How is that vision working for each of us?

My complete lesson plan, which adds a craftivity, poetry, literature and video resources, along with student samples and a rubric which makes grading a snap, is available by clicking here:

You might also like this free download to keep the love flowing through Acts of Kindness the rest of the year:

Who will make the difference to finally bring peace to all of us? Those sweet children sitting in all of our classrooms right now! The dream lives as long as people believe in it and believe that their actions will make a difference!

Artwork at the top of this page by Maya, one of my sweet students, keeping the dream alive!