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Sing-along: Get Steady

The following choral reading is from Kathleen Cochran’s early childhood curriculum called “A Community of Learners” from Creative Response to Conflict. The numbers at the beginning of the lines are to use if you want to have a choral reading; divide the class into four groups and have each group read their numbered lines. Follow-up activity: After the chant read Best Day of the Week by Nancy Carlsson Paige and find the place in the story where Angela “got steady.”

Get Steady
1 When your heart beats fast
1 And your feelings start to boil,
2 Don’t shove,
3 Don’t shout,
4 Get steady.

2 When you’re so upset
2 You can hardly speak,
4 Don’t give up,
1 Don’t give in,
3 Get steady.

4 You can take a deep breath,
1 You can count to ten,
3 Make a picture
3 In your mind,
2 And calm down!
4 You know you can

Positive SLANT Activity

SLANT is a management tool for teachers that encourages Positive Non-Verbal Behavior and Active Listening. When a teacher says SLANT, students will learn to do the following:

  • Sit Up
  • Lean Forward
  • Act Interested
  • Nod your Head
  • Track the Speaker

Directly instruct and model the active listening techniques to students.
1. Sit up – Model for students how to sit up in their seat, hands on desks, legs beneath their desk.
2. Lean Forward – Again show students how to appropriately lean forward to the speaker while sitting.
3. Act Interested – Teach students the importance of “hanging with the topic”. Even if the topic is uninteresting or perhaps confusing, if you act interested by paying attention, you are demonstrating important nonverbal communication skills to the teacher.
4. Nod your head – Demonstrate that by nodding the head, it conveys important nonverbal communication skills that you are listening and that the speaker’s topic matters to your learning. Finally,
5. Track the Speaker – This is the idea of having your eyes move in the direction that the speaker is moving.

Have fun with your students demonstrating these important non-verbal communication skills that emphasize active listening. For an activity, create community in the classroom by having students create a poster with the acronym SLANT and its meaning. Hone their oral language skills by teaching students how to present SLANT and its meaning to classes in primary grades. For instance, a pair of 4th grade students can teach a 1st grade class how to SLANT with the use of the poster and their understanding of how to best model SLANT behavior.

I-Messages Practice

An I-message is a way to be strong (assertive) without being mean (agressive) when you are angry or upset or disappointed with something another person has done.
The formula for an I-message is as follows:

I feel ____ (say your feeling) when you ____ (describe the action) because ____ (say why the action connects to your feeling)

The “I-message” is different from a “You-message.” In a “You-message,” you attack the other person, make judgments about him or her, sometimes even call the person names.

For example, say the class is picking partners for an activity. You pick John, who wants to work with his best friend instead of with you. He lets you know by pouting and mumbling, “aaw!” You say, “You want to work with him? Fine! You’re too stupid to work with me, anyway!”

Ask the class: How do you think John might feel about being called stupid? Will he be more or less likely to choose you as a partner in the future?
In this situation, what would an “I-message” be? Elicit possible “I-messages” from the students. (For example: “I feel disappointed when you always want to work with your best friend because I never get to spend time with you.”)

I-Messages can also be used to express positive feelings. (For example, “I’m excited that you are coming because we always have so much fun on your visits.”) Encourage your students to share other examples.

Class Discussion: What are your comments about I-messages and You-messages? Can you see using an I-message the next time you feel upset and think of calling somebody a name? Why? Why not?

Classroom Rules Revisited

Teachers so often spend the first days of school reading over their classroom rules, but how well do the students really hear them? Try an interactive approach and see if you can enlist the students.

Ask: Why are there rules in sports?
What would it be like if a basketball player tried to follow basketball rules on a baseball field?
What rules do you think would be helpful to insure the best and most effective year for all of us in class?

Record these on a flipchart. Ask open-ended questions to elicit from the students some of the responses you believe are critical elements.

At the end, you may add some of your own ideas, if they have not emerged. Refer to these, posted in the classroom, throughout the year, and feel free to revisit them, if and when the need arises.

Diversity Bingo

This variant on bingo is a good community building activity appropriate for elementary level students.

These instructions sit above a grid of characteristics such as those illustrated in the graphic.
“Find different people for each category and write their name in the box where it applies. Feel free to talk to people about each topic and try to get BINGO!”

Get a full-size copy of the bingo grid at: http://snipurl.com/divbingo

On the Spot Calming

On-The-Spot Calming Tips for Teachers
You have the power to detach from stress and anger. Here’s how:

  • Breathe out the stress, breathe in the calm.
  • Take slow, deep abdominal breaths.
  • Focus on a calming statement, e.g., “This too shall pass.”
  • Scan your body and release tense areas.
  • Keep things in perspective. This moment of upset really will pass!

See also: How Do You Spell ‘Stress Relief’? an EducationWorld.com article at http://snipurl.com/relaxedteachers

Pinwheels for Peace

Imagine – Whirled Peace!

Every child – and adult – loves pinwheels! A great activity to help children learn what peace is or think about what peace means to them is to have your class make Peace Pinwheels. The Pinwheels for Peace Project was started by two Art teachers in Florida and has spread to millions of teachers, parents, children, and adults worldwide. This year hundreds of students will be making pinwheels in honor of the International Day of Peace.

Pinwheels can be made from copy paper or lightweight plastic. On one side of the pinwheel template, have your students write their thoughts about peace/conflict/tolerance/diversity in the form of prose, poetry, or even a haiku. On the other side, have your students visually represent what these ideas mean to them. The stick of the pinwheel can be a pencil or even a plastic straw. When your students’ pinwheels are done, plant them in front of your school for all to enjoy!

Based on the Pinwheels for Peace Project – templates are also available at:

Affirmation Name Game

Time: 15 min
Aim: Get to know each other, learn each others’ names.

The participants are sitting in a circle. One begins by saying a positive adjective with the first letter being the same as in his/her name, and then says their first name – eg. Funny Fiona (or Sweet-tempered Sam, Bright Bill, etc.). The person to the left repeats “Funny Fiona”, and then gives an adjective-name combination for him/herself. The person to the left repeats both of the adjective names, and adds their own adjective name. It continues like this, adding more names to remember until the circle is complete.

If the last person remembers all of the names, he/she deserves a big applause!

Checking In

At the start of each day or class have students “check-in” with each other. This helps students leave behind what happened before arriving to school or class and gets them ready to focus on learning. It also helps students to learn feeling words and practice sharing their feelings with others. Finally, it can alert you that the student may need follow-up support.

Model this “Check-In” for students. In Round Robin each student completes the following statement.

“I feel ______ because ________. And, I’M HERE NOW!”

Then everyone says, “We’re glad you’re here!

Creating Higher Ground Rules

Group work and group life can be challenging and inspiring. This activity will help group members share expectations re: how to engage one another in principled and authentic ways, encouraging discussion of important matters even when — especially when — they surface conflict and strong emotions.

Follow these simple steps to develop proactive, shared “ground rules” or norms to help your group address their differences with integrity, creativity and care for one another.

Step 1: Help the group to clarify their SHARED PURPOSE
Craft a statement of its shared purpose in a way that inspires everyone and reflects their shared understanding of their goal, task or larger purpose. Write that on the board or flip chart paper.

Step 2: Next, brainstorm the VALUES that will be critical to achieving that specific purpose identified in Step 1. Dialogue about the meaning of these values to the group’s work and reduce the list to the 3-5 most powerful values, given the group’s most pressing needs (and likely problems working together).

Step 3: For each value identified in Step 2, brainstorm SPECIFIC ACTIONS that will be evidence of the members’ living the agreed upon values – identify behaviors that all will be held accountable for – the new, inspired ground rules that the group agrees to uphold. (i.e., If Value = Accountability; then perhaps Action = arrive prepared to class/meetings). Identify 1-2 specific actions per value.

Step 4: Have the group formally adopt its customized Rules for Higher Ground. Post them in the room where the group meets. Consider using a short survey after meetings to assess if the Higher Ground rules are being honored; celebrate group success at honoring their higher ground rules and Identify any weakness that should be overcome to be more fully effective as a group.

Communication Assessment

This short assessment is a great way to take stock of your communication style and its consequences. As written, this is appropriate for older youth or adults, including parents. However, the questions can easily be re-written to speak in the language of your group, whatever their age. Have individuals share in pairs or triads. Debrief by asking what new information or insight assessment offers.

  1. The most important thing for me to have happen when having a conversation or discussion is…
  2. In order to accomplish these things I…
  3. Based on the way I communicate, I believe people perceive me in this way…
  4. Most of the time, what I would like to communicate to people is that I am…
  5. In discussions, I usually talk (more/less/same/don’t know) than the other person.
  6. When having a conversation or teaching, I dislike it when people do the following…
  7. I am most likely to become defensive when…
  8. I am most likely to get into an argument or heated discussion when…
  9. If I am involved in an argument or heated discussion and want to turn the situation around I do the following…
  10. I feel that my most valuable communication skills and qualities are…

Adjusting to Change

This time of year can be a time of great change and transition in families, and in the lives of children and staff. It helps to prepare for changes by anticipating them and talking about them. Ask the following questions when you talk with children about changes in their family.

  1. Who are your good friends and why are they important to you?
  2. Families are always changing. Name some of the changes that have happened in your family. How do you feel about them?
  3. Do you expect any changes in your family in the future? What are they? How do you feel about them?
  4. Some kids don’t see one of their parents very much. Has this ever happened to you? How did you feel? What did you do?
  5. Sometimes changes in our families make us feel closer to others. What makes you feel good about your family?

Appreciations, Appreciations, Appreciations

Adults modeling on a regular basis the giving and receiving of appreciations encourages students to also share positive statements with each other. After every paired or small group activity invite students to share appreciations with each other.

Write sentence starters on the board, such as:

  • “I liked working with you because _______.”
  • “I admire you for _______.”
  • “Thank you, (name) for ________. “
  • “It helped me when ________.”

Soon students will self-initiate sharing appreciations with each other. There will be fewer put downs and more positive statements being heard.

Setting Intentions for the Year

Being reflective, mindful and purposeful about our intentions before we embark upon a shared endeavor is what this activity is about. Setting intentions can allow a group to reach beyond its expectations. Intentionally intending to do one’s best — is a powerful step to reaching that goal, especially for a group. Try this activity when you want to set a positive tone and special feeling among group members.

Begin by asking, “What does the word intention mean?” Then discuss the power of intentions to shape and guide our actions.
Invite students/participants to clarify and share their intentions for the year, the group, the day, or the activity (whichever is most appropriate). Have fun with this idea by creating your own special ritual. Until you do, here is one way to do this:

  1. Place a pitcher of water, empty bowl and small cup together in the center of the space where your group will gather.
  2. Have the group form a large circle in this area, with these articles at the center.
  3. Explain that the group is gathered to give voice to their individual intentions, hear their classmate/colleagues intentions about this anticipated shared endeavor, and experience the wholeness and power of the group’s combined intentions.
  4. Standing in the center of the circle, model the ritual by pouring water from the pitcher into the cup. Then speak your intention for this year/activity/meeting/project over the water and to the group. Then pour the water from the cup into the bowl.
  5. Invite participants to do the same.
  6. As each person follows, the bowl fills with the water that carries all the intentions; the water mingles and mixes.
  7. Keep the bowl in a prominent place as the group works, as a reminder of the group’s intentions.
  8. At the end of the session, ask the group whether they realized their intentions. Then, pour the water (from the bowl) over a plant or landscaping that will benefit from the special water.

Let Music Lead the Way

Playing calm music or nature sounds has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Take a break and listen to cello master Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach, Pacabel etc.

Consider having classical music or nature sounds playing in the room as students enter to create a calming atmosphere or take a few minutes for yourself in the middle of the day with your iPod to find your inner beat.