Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five for Mottos, Spring, and a Poignant Tale

It's a Five for Friday Linky. Thanks Kacey!

1. Do you have a class motto? Many classrooms have words to live by posted somewhere in their room. For many PBIS schools like ours the phrase that kids learn is, "Be safe, be respectful, be responsible." I have it up in my classroom so my students learn it, but it has always been missing something for me– the element of caring, which should be the whole reason we are safe, respectful and responsible to each other in the first place.

So, even when our school took on PBIS and their motto, I kept to the one that I came up with many years ago, and always use because I think it reflects more of what I hope to teach.

Our Words to Live By

Each year on the first day of school, I write this phrase on the white board– We are a caring, learning community. I write it in red and talk about what each word means–  Caring. Learning. Community. I leave it up for the week, referring to it several times each day, and then on Friday I tell the class that our class motto is SO important that I had a special sign made so we could have it at our meeting area every day. Then I put up the sign at the top of the white board, where it stays all year. I ordered it on Etsy several years ago and it attaches with magnets.

I have found over the years that there is NO situation that comes up in the classroom that cannot be addressed through these words. Somebody says mean words, or takes cuts in line, or breaks something in class– we remember we are a caring community that cares for each other and our things. When someone is talking to someone on the carpet, blurting out at meeting, or bothering someone at center time, they are reminded that we are all about learning, and distracting behaviors stop our own learning and stop others from learning, too. When things come up we talk about them because we are a community. And, of course, when we see caring and learning behaviors serendipitously in class we point to the sign and do the jolly jig. I tell you, folks, EVERYTHING that has come up in over twenty years of living with this phrase in the classroom can be addressed by this simple principal. I love it. I teach it with enthusiasm. It is a strong learning tool for me as a teacher and for my students as well.

Do you have a class motto?  I'd love to hear it and how you use it.

2. Well, Happy Spring... finally... almost... Mother nature is slowly catching up with the calendar here in my corner of Michigan. I sent home our various snow flakes, snow scenes and snowmen this week. YAY! And this weekend when I head into school I'll put up some of the spring art we worked on to replace the snow stuff. Here is just one example, and more will come in the weeks ahead.

Bring Spring In!
Easy-peasy. I cut out squares of manilla paper and taught the kids to draw concentric circles with black dry erase markers, having them use a fat one for the first outer circles so the final "flower" would stand out in the scene. I gave them our watercolor paints and had them paint each one any way they chose. Then they cut out the circles and glued squares of corrugated cardboard to the back so they would stand out from the paper. The kids used strips for the stems and fatter, shorter strips for the leaves. They wrapped the leaves around pencils so they would curl and stand away from the paper. The fat green strip they cut with fringe for the grass and curled that down a bit, too. Voila! A somewhat 3-D spring art project.

A couple times teachers have asked how I work art activities into my learning day. The kidpeople drew the circles and painted at a table as a center activity in the morning. Then as part of free choice time they came over to assemble the rest of their picture. One of my kids said, "I love centers. This is the BEST center!" I think it is important that kindergarten retain some of the whole child elements so important to all learning, even academic learning, so I have no guilt when it comes to interjecting art or some play activities into my "academic" center time.

As a bonus I should mention this project fits in nicely with a study on the artist Kandinsky.  Joanna has a great post and lesson ideas on her blog. Click on her button to visit.

3.  We did all sorts of things for St. Patrick's Day– I'm of Irish heritage so it has always been a biggie for me. I'm not going to blog about the whole thing as it is all after the fact. I'll save it for next year. One thing I will share now is this video. When we "do" St. Patrick's day I think it is important that kids don't just get the idea that Ireland is some old fashioned green land of quaint cottages, but is a very much alive and current place with kids who go to school just like we do.

I found this video of Irish high schoolers doing the "Cup Song," and they do it in Irish or Gaelic.  I discuss with my students how Irish people speak english like we do, but many also have another language. What better way to let them hear it than with this version of a modern day song.  My students loved it and I could watch it all day, too. Enjoy!

4. Here's a bit of randomness, but hopefully a useful bit of randomness. This is my new found treat.

I LOVE them!
Snapea Crisps are a little saltie and a lot good. They are made of peas and rice and baked for a just right snack. And they are a munchie that is good for you. Check out the ingredients.

Protein and fiber that's low salt and low fat- can't do much better for a super quick snack. They are sold in big bags at Costco and small bags at Target. Check 'em out.

5. This week marked my Dad's passing last year.  He died on March 17, and given that his birthday was February 14, we joke that he was a real holiday kind of guy. My dad had a long battle with Alzheimers. I remember so fondly the man he was many years ago, and not so much the man he was at the end of his life. It was sad but a blessing when he passed and my faith helps me look forward to the day I see him again, whole.

Even in last year's sad March, I found a memorable kid story, a bittersweet one this time.

I emailed my students' families when I was out for a few days of bereavement.  The morning I got back to school, I met my line of students coming in the door from my chair (so I can greet them at eye level) like I always do. One little one looked at me sadly and said in a quiet voice, "I'm sorry your dad died, Mrs. Wright." Then she threw her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug. The little guy in line behind her leaned toward us and in a loud whisper voice said, "Shhh. You're not supposed to say anything. It's going to make her cry." And I did indeed cry, even as I smiled to be blessed with such sensitive little helpers all around me. We really are a caring community.

Head on back to Doodle Bugs linky to do a little more reading and idea gathering!

Hope you have a terrific week.  And here's one last bonus tease for those of you who read this far– I'm participating in a GREAT link-up with discounts and freebies and giveaways.  WATCH this space in the week to come!

The post Five for Mottos, Spring, and a Poignant Tale first appeared on


  1. Thank you for such a great post! I love your words to live by- and your sweet, sweet story of your caring students. Perfect!

    1. You never know what they're gonna say! Thanks for stopping by. Kathleen

  2. Hi Kathleen, I like your motto. We used to do the PBIS "respectful, responsible, and safe," but we are moving to Responsive Classroom and have not emphasized it as much. One thing I tell my class frequently is that everything we do is to help them to have lives that are healthy, happy, and safe.
    Not very fancy

    1. Thanks for sharing. I find it interesting to hear what others say. It seems more and more schools are doing responsive classroom guidelines, too. See you later. Kathleen


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