Great Joy!

greatjoycoverIf caring truly is “thinking with our hearts,” then Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo will serve as a beautiful illustration of what caring looks like. In this little treasure, young Frances notices a monkey grinder on the street and wonders where they live. Her mom’s response is basically that it’s not their business. When Frances wants to invite him over, the mom reminds her that we don’t talk to strangers. Unable to contain her compassion for the plight of this man and his monkey, whom Frances figures out live on the street, this little angel invites him to her Christmas pageant at the church, where at least he can warm up for a spell. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will warn you that I expect this holiday gift to be a springboard for an amazing discussion about how to care for someone (like a homeless man and his monkey) without putting one’s own safety at risk. Find out from your students if they can relate to Frances, to her mom, or to the man on the streets. Have they ever been in a similar situation? If so, what happened? If not, could they imagine what they’d do if they were Frances? If they were the mom? If they were the homeless man? Study homelessness in your community, in a neighboring city (like Houston), or in your state. Then do a little math. Calculate how much it would cost to feed a homeless person for a meal? For a week? For a month? Star of Hope in Houston actually has those figures if you want to give them some data. Have students figure out ways to help the homeless besides inviting them to warm up at your church pageant. Research where the nearby soup kitchen is and see at what age they allow people to start serving. Finally, ask your students to finish the story. What happens to the man and his monkey after they attend the reception at the pageant? Will their encounter with Frances make a difference in a week? A month? A year? What happens to Frances? And her mom? Encourage your little authors to let their imaginations run wild; I think you’ll be inspired by the compassion that runs through their answers.
A Ring of Caring

Want to get your students moving while you celebrate caring?
Why not play Ring Around The Rosy with different words!
Try something like this – circle up your kids and use those familiar
Ring Around The Rosy moves and tune as you chant:

It’s a celebration, a caring generation,
Kindness, Compassion, Generosity!

Then ask the kids to substitute the last three words with other caring words they know (like charity, empathy, sensitivity).

A-B-C Affirmations

A great way to show caring is by affirming people. Affirmations feel good both ways, for the giver and the receiver! In this activity, children learn to think through the ABCs of different things to say to affirm someone. For a job well done. For great progress on something. For a random act of kindness. For a sweet smile that cheered someone up. Or just for being them! Ask your students to buddy buzz with a partner to come up with words or phrases of affirmation that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Then watch what happens in the room. Is there a “lightness” you didn’t expect? Their lists may go something like this: A = Awesome! B = Beautiful. C = Cool or Creative. D = Dynamite! E = Energizing. And so on. Don’t sweat the X; let them use words like eXcellent or eXciting! Have fun with this amazing activity.

Blessings Book

Oprah has often suggested that her viewers keep a Gratitude Journal for the things that they appreciate. I’m piggybacking that idea by encouraging that our students start a Blessings Book. Basically, it would be for lists, thoughts, ideas, pictures, and suggestions all about how they’re blessed. Often times when a student comes to my Counseling Corner for help managing feelings, I start them on a journal. I have students make lists about what makes them happy, about what they like to do, about their friends and family. I find that their troubles seem to melt away when they’re focusing on good stuff. Students could do the same with a Blessings Book. How have they been blessed? How do they, in turn, bless others? Have them count their blessings as they scribe, then encourage them to refer back to the book every day to add to the list or simply review where they’ve been and what they’ve done to gain strength for what lies ahead.

Caring Collage

This crafty idea comes from a collage-making stage that I went through as a child. You will need a 12X18″ piece of construction paper or card stock for this project. Students will either draw pictures or cut them out from magazines and paste them on, so you’ll need markers and/or old magazines, scissors, and glue. Instruct students to draw or find pictures that show caring in action. A baby in a doctor’s office. A boy taking care of his pet. A mom cooking dinner. A dad playing in the park with his kids. A grandmother reading to her grandchildren. A teacher helping her students. Anything they can think of or find that shows “thinking with our hearts.” Students then glue the pictures onto the paper to make a collage that you can later laminate and use as a placemat for years to come. Or have the Caring Collage framed and hang it in a prominent place to serve as a visual reminder and/or a conversational piece about your child’s CAREacter!

Bucket Filling 101

Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud has made a splash at Westwood, building on our climate of CAREacter like no other tool we’ve used! This beautifully-illustrated Bucket metaphor brings to life our caring pillar in a very practical way. Recha Stephens, our PE teacher, has read it to every child at Westwood and its ripple effect carries over in the gym. Jennifer Quigley read it at Open House to her parents. We have teachers that keep it alive by reading it every other week to their kids, and teachers who have incorporated it into their discipline management system. Here are a few ideas on how we’ve used the Bucket Book beyond a fun read-aloud:

bucket11. Heather Krail gives each of her first graders apersonalized bucket that they can fill with puffs as they fill buckets. Say someone helps a friend. Or compliments someone. Or gives above-and-beyond effort on a project. Mrs. Krail hands out these cute, colorful puffed shapes as incentives to visually show students how quickly their buckets fill up as they work to fill those invisible buckets that we all carry.

bucket22. Kristin Moffitt asked Fred, our awesome maintenance man, to build her some shelves for her second graders’ miniature buckets. Each student has a bucket, as does Mrs. Moffitt, on the shelf which holds a copy of the Bucket book as a visual reminder that we need to be Bucket Fillers, not Dippers. Above the cute shelf hangs the signature poster which asks, “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?”

bucket33. Amy Boyer’s first-grade class actually made me abanner to hang outside my office after writing book reports to go with the Bucket Book. Students put smiles on the buckets she downloaded online thathold a flower; each petal of the flower answers a question about the book like:Who’s the author? What’s the book about? Fact or Fiction? Would you recommend the book to a friend?

bucket44. Wendy Katz, a third-grade teacher I met in New Jersey, actually sends a copy of the book home for each child’s 15-minute read-aloud time with mom and dad. Reflection questions like, “What effect did the book have on you and your child?” for the parents and “How will I fill a bucket tomorrow?” for the child are attached as a springboard for a Bucket-Filling discussion at home among her class families.

5. Autumn Bockart, a sixth-grade teacher at Windsong, even used it with her students to complement a novel they were reading and she shared that “my sixth graders totally get it and LOVE it!!”

6. Michelle Millsaps’ kindergarteners have latched onto the concept so much so that “you’re filling my bucket!” is common language with her five-year-olds.

For more information, to buy Bucket Book resources, visit the book’s website. I recently attended a workshop put on by the author and I can assure you that she’s an expert Bucketfiller and it would be well worth your investment to have her visit your community. Happy BucketFilling!

Bucket Filler letter

150 Ways to Show Kids You Care

Adapted from a list put out by the Search Institute, these suggestions are simple, everyday ways that you can put caring into action with kids, but I’d be willing to bet that they’ll work with adults, too. Share the list with your students. Have them pick out their top ten, fifteen, or twenty. Ask them to compare lists with one another. Let them explain why they chose the things they did. Then, have them compare and contrast which things they’d like from an adult and which things they value from their friends. Finally, challenge them to come up with #151.

Notice them. Smile a lot. Acknowledge them. Learn their names. Seek them out. Remember their birthdays. Ask them about themselves. Look in their eyes when you talk to them. Listen to them. Play with them. Read aloud together. Giggle together. Be nice. Say “yes” a lot. Tell them their feelings are okay. Set boundaries that keep them safe. Be honest. Be yourself. Hug them. Listen to their stories. Forget your worries sometimes and concentrate only on them. Notice when they’re acting differently. Present options when they seek your counsel. Play outside together. Surprise them. Stay with them when they’re afraid. Invite them over for juice. Suggest better behaviors when they act out. Feed them when they’re hungry. Delight in their discoveries. Share their excitement. Send them a letter or postcard. Follow them when they lead. Notice when they’re absent. Call them to say hello. Hide surprises for them to find. Give them space when they need it. Contribute to their collections. Discuss their dreams and nightmares. Laugh at their jokes. Be relaxed. Kneel, squat, or sit so you’re at their eye level. Answer their questions. Tell them how terrific they are. Create a tradition with them and keep it. Learn what they have to teach.

Use your ears more than your mouth. Make yourself available. Show up at their concerts, games, and events. Find a common interest. Hold hands during a walk. Apologize when you’ve done something wrong. Listen to their favorite music with them. Keep the promises you make. Wave and smile when you part. Display their artwork in your home. Thank them. Point out what you like about them. Clip magazine pictures or articles that interest them. Give them lots of compliments. Catch them doing something right. Encourage win-win solutions. Give them your undivided attention. Ask for their opinion. Have fun together. Be curious with them. Introduce them to your friends and family. Tell them how much you like being with them. Let them solve most of their own problems. Meet their friends. Meet their parents. Let them tell you how they feel. Help them become an expert at something. Be excited when you see them. Tell them about yourself. Let them act their age. Praise more; criticize less. Be consistent. Admit when you make a mistake. Enjoy your time together. Give them a special nickname. Marvel at what they can do. Tell them how proud you are of them. Pamper them. Unwind together. Be happy. Ask them to help you. Support them. Applaud their successes. Deal with problems and conflicts while they’re still small. Chaperone a dance. Tell them stories in which they are the hero. Believe in them. Nurture them with good food, good words, and good fun. Be flexible. Delight in their uniqueness.

Let them make mistakes. Notice when they grow. Wave and honk when you drive by them. Give them immediate feedback. Include them in conversations. Respect them. Join in their adventures. Visit their schools. Help them learn something new. Be understanding when they have a difficult day. Give them good choices. Respect the choices they make. Be silly together. Hang out together. Make time to be with them. Inspire their creativity. Accept them as they are. Become their advocate. Appreciate their individuality. Talk openly with them. Tolerate their interruptions. Trust them. Share a secret. Write a chalk message on their sidewalk. Create a safe, open environment. Be available. Cheer their accomplishments. Encourage them to help others. Tackle new tasks together. Believe what they say. Help them take a stand and stand with them. Daydream with them. Do what they like to do. Make decisions together. Magnify their magnificence. Build something together. Encourage them to think big. Celebrate their firsts and lasts, such as the first day of school. Go places together. Welcome their suggestions. Visit them when they’re sick. Taperecord a message for them. Help them learn from mistakes. Be sincere. Introduce them to people of excellence. Tell them what you expect of them. Give them your phone number. Introduce them to new experiences. Share a meal together. Talk directly together. Be spontaneous. Expect their best; don’t expect perfection. Empower them to help and be themselves. Love them, no matter what.