Reboundin’ With Respect
boundinPixar’s 2003 animated short called “Boundin'” features a little lamb who frolicks happily through life until he’s taken and shorn and left without his wonderful wool. Film Clips For Character Education has captured the final two minutes of that clip when a jackrabbit finds the melancholy sheep lamenting his fate and steps in to help the wool-less wonder regain his self-respect.

Set up the clip; I’m going to use my little cat puppet, Freddy, whose legs are sewn on backwards. Bemoaning that fact that he’s different and doesn’t fit in, Freddy will be crying and thinking about running away. It’s always such a great discussion when the kids work with my puppets to problem-solve their dilemmas. Then show the clip and talk about self-respect, respect for others, bystanding and upstanding.

To help the students remember the circular power of respect and to celebrate the rabbit who helped put spring back into the shorn sheep’s step, we’ll dance the Bunny Hop using this little poem:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. When I give respect, it comes back to me!
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It’s as catchy as it can be.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Just give it a try and you will see!

A Sign of R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin is probably best known for the song R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This tune can be the springboard for many RESPECT activities, one of which might be to write a jingle using that familiar rhythm. Challenge students to think about an issue in their lives that could use more respect. Brainstorm these concerns and make a list.

dunesign4Here’s an example: You notice that your neighbors are leaving their empty garbage cans out on the curb instead of bringing them in after the garbage has been picked up. Illustrate a sign with a jingle that goes something like this:

Keep your street curb
garbage-can free!

Are there stray cats or dogs in your neighborhood? Sound off by posting a sign that reads:

Keep your animals
on a leash!

This activity can also reinforce the concept of rhyming. Post the signs around the school to remind people to show respect everywhere, all the time, even when nobody’s looking.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Psychologist Robert A. Emmons says that people who choose an attitude of gratitude give themselves a life-long gift of health and happiness. His new book, simply entitled thanks!, offers specific techniques for implementing a lifestyle of gratitude.
Emmons maintains that you cannot be grateful and ungrateful at the same time, so when you choose gratitude, you gain control over your emotional destiny by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

What are you grateful for? The gratitude journal is a great place to start. Emmons’ research found that people who keep a gratitude journal slept 1/2 hour more per evening, woke up more refreshed, and were actually more likely to exercise by 33% over those who are not keeping these journals. List the people, places, and things that make a positive impact in your daily life. Reflect upon those blessings and then decide how you can best use them to pave your life’s journey with happy thoughts and a grateful heart. If you want more ideas on fostering an attitude of gratitude, then check out this book.


When Listening Is An Art

earsAs a Spanish teacher, one of my favorite lessons was teaching prepositions of place because of a listening activity we’d do.  Students would draw a rectangular park in the middle of their page, then I would tell them in Spanish what to draw next and where to put it.  For example, I would say, “Hay una calle alrededor del parque,” and they’d have to draw a street around the park.  The trick was to listen carefully and then to translate what I said into a picture.  It was always so interesting to see their finished product.

I think this activity would work in English to see how well students listen to one another.  Try this:  Pair students up, giving each one a blank sheet of drawing paper and a pencil or some crayons.  Have them take turns describing their bedrooms (or another room in the house) in detail.  As the first student describes, have the student who is listening draw what he/she hears.  Then switch.  When they’ve both had a chance to describe and draw, let them compare pictures and see how well they listened and heard.  Finally, debrief with the class and discuss the art of listening.  Ask questions like these:  Which was more challenging – describing or drawing?  How difficult was it to correctly draw what you heard?  Why is listening carefully important, not only in this activity, but in life?

Respecting Differences
orangeshoesRemember Nellie, the spoiled rich girl on the 1970’s hit show Little House on the Prairie? Well, she’s met her match in Prudy, the mean girl who generates a lot of conflict in The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Noble. Fortunately for its reader, this story has a life-like quality that will easily lend itself to a discussion about respecting differences, in particular affluence versus poverty.

Meet Delly. She walks barefoot to school because her family cannot afford new shoes, but the optimist in her doesn’t really fret about it, because she loves “the feel of our dirt road under my feet; the sandy places and the dried mud places and the smooth places after the road scraper’s gone through.” Delly is admittedly happy going barefoot until Prudy weighs in with comments that are ugly and disrespectful. When the teacher announces a Shoebox Social to raise funds for art supplies at the school, Delly worries that she doesn’t have a shoebox to decorate, much less new shoes for the social, but her Father surprises her with some beautiful new orange shoes. Along comes Prudy, ready to rain on Delly’s parade, but how far will she go to ruin the Social for Delly? Because it sparked a fun childhood memory of our 4H-sponsored Box Socials, The Orange Shoes caught my eye. Because Prudy is such a true-to-life character and Delly is such a wonderful problem-solver, it kept my attention. It’s kind of lengthy as a read-aloud, but it’s well worth your time.

You can use this book when you’re discussing rural versus urban life. Make a T-chart to note the differences. You can also use it when you talk about socio-economic issues and class. Make a Venn Diagram as students observe the similarities and then differences between affluence (Prudy) and poverty (Delly). What things, if any, overlap? Students could write an editorial about which way of life is more desirable. Finally, go back to Prudy. Have students make a list of the different ways that she showed disrespect to Delly. How did the other students react to Prudy’s behavior? How is Prudy’s behavior like that of a bully? Did anyone ask her to stop? Why or why not? Ask students if they would have done anything differently at school had they been Prudy? Delly? The teacher?

The ultimate enrichment activity after reading this tale would be to hold a Shoebox Social. Students decorate a Shoebox, then make a lunch that they pack into it. Use this activity as a mixer so students can get to know one another better. Or host it just for fun during lunch one day. Let students help you figure out a creative way for the boxes to change hands. A Shoebox Social can also be used as a service project; you could auction off the boxes, and then take them (and the money they brought) to a local Shelter for donation. Call ahead first, of course, so that you know if they accept food donations and what, if any, dietary restrictions there might be.

It Takes Just One
oneA colorful newcomer to the children’s literature market, One by Kathryn Otoshi uses simple color blots to serve as its characters, making it easy for its reader to connect feelings to the tale. Yellow is bright and sunny, Purple is regal, and Red symbolizes fire. It’s no surprise, then, that Red is a hot head whose anger translates into bullying behavior. Red pushes Blue around and no one has what it takes to make it stop. Because the other colors won’t stand up to Red, they all eventually get berated and belittled. Until One comes along. One helps the other colors see that what Red is doing is wrong. One encourages them to be upstanders rather than bystanders, but will that chase Red away or can the colorful friends band together to help Red learn to get along?

My students at Westwood absolutely love this book. We used it as a springboard for a discussion about bully behaviors, the role of the bystander, and the options for the victim. In the end, Red is tempted to leave, but it’s Blue, Red’s main victim, who wonders out loud, “Can Red be hot AND Blue be cool?” giving Red the option to stay and work things out. Now that’s cool character!

We also used it to review the Talk, Walk, then Tell anti-bullying strategy. One talked to Red, then One walked away. In the book, Red got smaller and smaller. In real life, that’s not always what happens. If talking an/or walking away does not stop the bullying, students should find a trusted adult, report the bullying, and solicit help. Ask students to talk about times when this strategy has worked and times when it hasn’t. How did it feel? What did they do about it? Where does this strategy seem to work best? Does it work at home? In the neighborhood? At recess? On the bus?

After the discussion, get your students moving with the Chicken Dance music and motions, using these lyrics:

If a bully bothers you,
and you don’t know what to do,
out at recess or in school,
talk, walk, then tell.

(Repeat 4X with the music)

Prejudice Awareness
People with prejudices often ridicule, name-call, make racial slurs, bully, harass, stereotype, and discriminate. They are closed-minded, uninformed, and indifferent. They pre-judge and they don’t tend to respect differences. If we want to create an awareness of insensitivity or prejudice in our lives, we need to ask honest questions of ourselves and our children.

Prompt students to reflect on the following questions: Am I insensitive?  Closed minded?  Do I bully?  Do I name call or stereotype?  Do I discriminate against people who are different because of size, skin color, hair style, religious beliefs, where they live, what they wear, where they shop? If I have a negative experience with one person or group, do I automatically assume that the next encounter will be the same? Am I a bystander who allows others to harass and bully people?

What might happen if/when we answer “yes” to these questions? How could the world be different or better if our answers to all of these questions were “no”?  The teacher will lead a discussion of the unkind acts that might happen as a result of insensitivity and prejudice.

‘Wee’ Sing About Respect

musicalnotePlanting a song on your students’ minds and in their hearts is always a great teaching technique. Here’s a fun little ditty; after you’ve sung or chanted it a few times, have students make up verse 2. Substitute the name of your school where it says Westwood:

At Westwood School (clap, clap, clap, clap)
Our character rules! (clap, clap, clap, clap)

Verse 1:
We finish all our work each day.
Then we put our things away.
The third thing let me hear you say –
We respect each other,
yeah, we respect each other

RESPECT Acrostic

Students typically enjoy creating acrostic poems. Click here for an activity sheet that will get their creative juices flowing and prompt some higher-level thinking about respect. Once they’ve finished, encourage students to splash some color around the edges for a product that’s suitable for framing!