Summer Celebration!

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My grandchildren and I decided we should begin their summer vacation from school with a special celebration.  I decided to create a clue hunt for them, mixed in with some of the fun things we always love to do together in the summer.   One of the first things the kids always do at my house is to check their mailboxes.  I have small plastic mailboxes in their bedrooms at my house, and I try to remember to put notes, candy or small toys inside that they can find when they come over.  (Sometimes I forget!)  Today they found a small bag of M & Ms and this alphabet chart.

Letter chart

When I started to make up the clues for the children to find I had to do some thinking about what they could all do successfully.  I didn’t want to overwhelm them, or make it too easy.  I know Owen – who just finished 1st grade, would be able to read the clues to the girls, but I wanted them to all be able to help solve them.  I started with this alphabet chart because I knew they could all do it, and then use it later to help solve clues.  I asked them to write a number next to each alphabet letter, starting with 1 for A through 26 for Z.  Then we talked about the rules of the clue hunt.

rules

I showed them a set of 6 envelopes – I decided that the order did not matter, so they could take turns choosing an envelope to open.  These contained the clues that led them to different places inside and outside our house.  When they solved the clue and went to that location they found a bag containing a small prize for each of them.

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The bags contained things like small bottles of bubbles, tattoos, bracelets, stickers, whistles, rings; any small toys would work fine.

In order to make our celebration last longer and to include some time to move around and play I told the children they would be choosing a summer activity to do in between solving each clue.

celebrations

They took turns choosing these fun activities.

Then they chose the first envelope they wanted to open.  Their job was to do the math problem, then match the answer with an alphabet letter.

Math

The answer to this clue was CAMPER.  They loved going out to our old camper to find the first prize bag!  I asked them to bring the prize bag back to our living room so they would all be together, and then ready to choose a fun activity before the next clue.  They chose to go outside and play bubbles.

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Next Anna opened a clue envelope.

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Puzzle

I printed this clipart picture on a piece of blue card stock, and on the reverse side I printed the clue.  Then I cut the pieces into puzzle shapes.  The children assembled the picture, we taped it together then they flipped it over to read the clue.

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The next clue they solved was simply to write the letters for each number.  This one sent them out to the upper level of Papa’s barn (Top of barn.)

Letter match

I didn’t even need to give them any help with the next clue.  Right away they got the idea of writing down the red letters to find the message.  I loved how the girls read off the letters while Owen wrote them on the bottom.  This sent them out to our Little Free Library in front of our house.

Library

This clue was fun for them to solve.  They wrote the first letter of the name of each animal to get the message.  We have a crawl space under a small part of our house that we use for storage – the kids love to go up there!

Animals

The last clue they solved was a very simple story I wrote about them.  All they had to do was look at the first letter of each row.

First letter of row

 

The hint at the bottom was enough to give them the idea.  I was ready to help if they needed it.

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It was a fun way to start our summer celebration!  Hope your summer is great too!

 

 

 

Super Heroes!

The Commerce Township Library started off their summer reading program with a really fun Super Heroes Day!

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There were lots of fun activities and projects.

Masks

They provided precut masks that were cut out of different colors of thin foam sheets.  Small holes were punched on each side and elastic string was tied onto each hole to hold the mask on.  Lots of great materials were provided to decorate the masks – stickers, foam stickers, markers – but the FAVORITE was glitter glue!

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The kids loved putting on these “HULK” type gloves and crashing through cardboard blocks and large Legos.

They were also invited to draw any type of Super Hero they wanted to.  Anna drew Super Blue-y – based on her favorite stuffed dog.

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Capes

I loved these capes made from brown paper grocery bags.  These were also precut in a simple cape shape and ribbon ties were attached at the top.  Larger stickers were provided, along with markers and more glitter glue!

Laser

I’m always happy when they include movement activities in the fun.  They taped and tied red string in a crisscross design to make a pretend laser course for the kids to crawl through.  Another fun detail was the Super Hero duct tape they used to hold the string in place!

Thanks Commerce Library, for another great day!

Some Kids Won’t Say Sorry!

Martha

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I bought this book in honor of one of my grandchildren who is often pretty resistant to saying “I’m sorry.”  I know that refusing to say sorry is not that unusual, and that the issue can become a battle of wills – which no one wins.  In Samantha Berger’s book, Martha’s family deals with the problem by leaving her out of fun activities and she decides to give in and apologize.  I thought this book could be followed by brainstorming and writing about a time you should say “I’m sorry.”  Here is a writing paper you might like to use.

sorry

sorry

The whole issue made me think about what is really important here.  I believe that children need to realize that their actions affect other people.  They need to develop compassion and learn to care about how other people feel.  I’m not sure rattling off an insincere “sorry” really accomplishes those goals.  But there is another part of the problem, apologizing is considered good manners and common courtesy.  When a child refuses to apologize adults might look at him as uncooperative and even unkind.

I came across a blogpost that suggested requiring a child to do or say two kind things to make up for one unkind action or word.  Here is a link to the post in you would like to read about it:

http://kidlutions.blogspot.com/2009/10/when-sorry-doesnt-cut-it-put-downs-and.html

I think you will have to copy and paste it into your browser because I don’t know how to insert a link (sorry!)

I think this idea has some merit – it offers good opportunities to talk about how the other person feels, and what the child did or said that was hurtful.  It also encourages helpful and kind behavior.  But it doesn’t really help the child conform to the social expectation of apologizing.  It kind of sounds like if you do something nice it makes up for doing something hurtful.

In my Kindergarten classroom I often used role playing for situations like this.   Sometimes I would take on a role and exaggerate it myself.  I might ask a child to pretend he did something unkind to me, and then refused to say “I’m sorry.”   I would tell the child that I didn’t like what they had done.  I would tell them that it was hurtful.  I got into my role and acted a little silly, to make the kids laugh and get involved with the role play.  Then I would stop and ask the class what the other child should do.  Then I would prompt the child to say he realized he had done something hurtful and wouldn’t repeat the behavior.  Sometimes I would re-play a scenario that happened in our classroom.  Role playing several times helps children become comfortable with the language.  It raises the expectations of the class that we will treat each other kindly and be helpful and not hurtful.  It gives the children a chance to practice saying “I’m sorry.”

I still think the bigger issue is helping children learn to treat each other, and adults, with compassion and respect.  Role playing can help with this.  I also took every chance I could to talk about how characters in a story were feeling, in the classroom I would take the opportunity to talk about how children felt when there was a problem over a toy or an issue on the playground.  This is something I brought to parents’ attention too, young children are naturally egocentric, but we can help them begin to think about other people’s feelings by talking about characters in books and on television.

Here are two other books that I used in my classroom.

Bucket

Heartprints

Our school adopted the Bucket-Filler program one year.  This book uses the idea of filling or emptying other people’s buckets when you are helpful or hurtful.

Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan, really emphasizes how people can help other people feel good by doing acts of kindness.

I love both of these books and used them every year with my Kindergartners.

I just heard of a resource book called Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… by Scott Turanksy and Joanne Miller.   The emphasis of this book is helping children learn to honor other people.  I am fascinated with this idea.  I looked up the definition of honor – it is to regard someone with respect.  I love the idea of teaching children not only to tolerate each other, but to honor each other.  I haven’t read the book yet, but the reviews were very positive.  Here is a link to copy and paste if you are interested.

http://www.amazon.com/Goodbye-Whining-Complaining-Attitudes-Your/dp/0877883548/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1_W2NX

So what are they doing about my little grandchild who refuses to say sorry?  They are practicing at home.  They are noticing every time anyone else says they are sorry and talking about it.  They are encouraging and praising.   They are appreciating all the wonderful things he does do, and loving him just the way he is.

Building Children’s Brains

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I am very excited to share a wonderful resource with you.  I’m sure you are all familiar with some of the extensive brain research that has impacted how we teach, and even how we relate to children in the last few years.    I got permission to share an audio recording with you that explains brain development in very understandable language.  Dr. Joan Lessen-Firestone, the Director of Early Childhood Education at Oakland Intermediate School District here in Michigan, presented this information and the CD I received was sponsored in collaboration with the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, the Michigan 4C Association, and the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health.  Dr. Firestone is a wonderful teacher, and I have listened to this information again and again.  I also made copies for my adult children before they had babies of their own.

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Dr. Firestone gave me permission to share this information.  I hope you will listen to it and share it to help build a basic understanding of brain development.

I have been thinking of all you teachers so much the last few weeks, with many of you working on report cards and holiday celebrations, and then with the devastating events that have overtaken the news.  I wish you all a wonderful and peaceful break from your jobs, and special times with your families.  I know you never really quit thinking and planning even when you aren’t in school each day, but please take time to enjoy your blessings.

Merry Christmas!