Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Great Kapok Tree

This year we have been studying the importance that trees play in our world.  We have studied "The Lorax" by Dr. Suess, and to end the year we took an in depth look at "The Great Kapok Tree" by Lynn Cherry.

We studied the importance of the rainforest to the earth's ecosystem.  We discussed why we need to maintain the balance in the rainforest.  We looked at videos of the animals who call the rainforest their home.

We presented a reader's theater production of the story to the parents.  Then we planted two trees.  This combined our study of both books.  From The Lorax - "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not."

From The Great Kapok Tree - "If you cut down this tree, you will destroy that which gives us all life."

The students promised to care for these trees.  I know they will.  I know they will remember this year and their teachers and classmates whenever they look at the new trees in the garden.  These children are already caretakers of the earth, help them grow into ecologically aware adults. 

You can help your child do this by making wise choices and pointing this out to your children. 
  • Limit use of plastic. (water bottles, grocery bags can be eliminated entirely)
  • Choose ecofriendly materials for shoes, clothing, furniture and household items.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Use your car less, buy a hybrid.
  • Buy in bulk. (Large containers of yogurt, then portion them into reusable containers, etc.)
  • Buy items that have the least amount of packaging. (Lunchables have excessive packaging)
  • Turn off items or unplug them when not in use.
All of these small changes will help us care for the earth.  From The Great Kapok Tree - "You cut cown one tree and come back for another and another.  You don't think what it would be like for your children to live in a world without trees."

Unless you and your children think about it, nature may disappear.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Let's Hear It For Moms!

There is nothing stronger than a child's bond with his or her mom.  Your mom was your first home.  She sheltered you right under her heart.  Her voice and scent are embedded in your memory.  Moms are our first love.  They probably were the first person we smiled at, the first one to make us laugh.  The first one to soothe our cries.  Our connections to our moms are long and deep.

Moms rock our world.  We want to please them.  We want them to be proud of us.

Moms help with homework, teach us to dress and care for ourselves, model how to behave and treat others.

Moms encourage us, believe in us and share our dreams.  Moms play with us and teach us how to be graceful losers and kind winners.

Moms let us know what is right and wrong.  Moms make us use our words and apologize when we should.  Moms know when we are telling the truth. 

Moms do the best they can with what they know.  As Oprah says, "When you know better, you do better."  All moms deserve respect because there is no tougher job on earth.

Be grateful to your mom everyday, not just on Mother's Day!  If you are a mom be aware of how important a job you are doing.  You love with all your heart, you make tough decisions, you teach your child to be responsible, resourceful and resilient.  You do this 24/7 for your child's entire life.  Don't give up!  Being a mom is a gift to the world.  Your children are, and always will be, your masterpiece.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Help From Debbie: Emotional Muscles

Help From Debbie: Emotional Muscles: Teachers are aware that as school comes to a close for the year, emotions run high.  The summer looms causing excitement, saying goodbye to...

Emotional Muscles

Teachers are aware that as school comes to a close for the year, emotions run high.  The summer looms causing excitement, saying goodbye to classmates and teachers cause sadness, the adventures the next school year brings can cause trepidation and fear.  Change always stirs up emotions.

When your own children are going through this you know how exhausting it can be.  When you have a classroom full of students who are going through this it can be overwhelming.  So teachers pull every trick they have out of their arsenal to help students through this unsettling time. 

In our class we have a large chart that is divided into three sections.
The top section is in green for "go".  Listed in this section are positive emotions, the feelings that make us feel good and strong.  These are the emotional muscles we want to strengthen.  These are the words that represent our power to handle whatever comes our way.

The middle section is the yellow section (our chart is yellow so the words are written in blue).  The words in this section represent emotions that we all feel from time to time.  They are emotions to be aware of in ourselves and others.  When we feel them we should express them in an appropriate outlet, quiet time, talking, writing or drawing our feelings, taking a break, getting exercise and fresh air, listening to music, are all outlets for these feelings.

The third section is in red for STOP!  If you feel these negative emotions, find one from the green section to remind yourself that your power is in the positive section.  We do not want to give our power away to the negative side.  I tell the children that everytime we fight, whine, argue, complain, or hurt someone we are giving our power away.

Positive  - Power - Practice these to have strong emotional muscles
Happy     Strong    Smart    Helpful    Caring    Thoughtful    Friendly    Kind    Respectful    Honest
Careful    Confident     In Control    Calm    Quiet      Focused      Forgiveness 

Slow Down and Express these feelings appropriately 
Sad    Fearful    Angry    Lonely    Hurting     Silly    Loud     

Negative - Needs immediate attention
Out of control    Crazy    Distracted    Careless     Hurtful     Unkind     Disrespectful     Fighting     

Our class brainstormed many words to use and you can do the same.

The next step comes in conjunction with the restroom symbols at the top of the post.  Everyday we ask the students to pick a positive emotion to work on and write it inside their "mini me" (diagram).  We ask the students to record other positive emotions inside the diagram throughout the day.  If there are emotions from the Slow Down and Negative list, we ask them to record these outside of the diagram.

Throughout the day we try to catch student practicing their positive emotions.  If a child is helpful we'll notice that and comment on it.  If the word he chose to work on is "helpful" he feels proud that we noticed.  If that was not his word, he can add it inside his mini me.

If there is whining, arguing, tattling, we encourage the students to talk about it with the person who is involved in the issue or they can choose to forget about it because whatever the problem is, it is much smaller than their friendship and they should work on the positive strength of forgiveness.

This is working very well.  Next year I plan to begin the year using this strategy!