Managing Me

wigglebottomI recently found a copy of the book Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns To Listen on the shelves in our Principal’s office. She offered to give it to me, but I told her I already had enough books. Then a counselor in Alabama recommended it, so I went ahead and gave it a chance. Too primary, I thought, but isn’t listening an elementary, albeit important skill? Then I came across the We Do Listen website and the fun Sing-Along songs that accompany this series and I was sold. In this first book, Howard shows some seriously out-of-control behaviors, mostly because he doesn’t listen. When he learns to pay attention and listen, life gets so much better. What a fun, engaging way to teach self control! Since Howard B. is a rabbit, you could wear a rabbit-ear headband and do the Bunny Hop after reading the story. Talk with the kids about trouble they’ve had when they didn’t pay attention. Role play what good listening sounds like. Let the kids interview one another to see just how good their listening skills are; better yet, play that age-old favorite “telephone” game and send a whisper message through the room to see how well they listen.

Leading The Way To Happiness

7habitsIs leadership a job? Or is it, as Sean Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, believes, a choice? Is there an age restriction on becoming a leader? Or is there a way that even our early childhood students can take a leadership role? Read this engaging book chapter by chapter to find the answers to these questions and more. Travel with the furry friends of Seven Oaks as they get involved in situations that illustrate how The 7 Habits help kids be happy; join them along the way as they discover timeless truths.

From learning how to take charge of their lives to having a plan, from work coming before play to creating win-win situations, from listening before speaking to working together, your little leaders will quickly realize that striking a balance in life works best. I used the seventh habit, Sharpen the Saw, with my high schooler recently when she fatigued during exams. Pointing to her overinflated academic wheel, I challenged her to show me how she’s keeping air in the tires that are her body, her heart, and her soul. I mused metaphorically, “How’s your car running?” Visit the Parents’ Corner after each chapter for discussion questions to help you inch toward implementing each Habit with your happy kids. Then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Watt Watchers

notinuseThe responsibility pillar is green in color, in part because of our responsibility to our earth. Students at Westwood are encouraged to be Watt Watchers in an attempt to reduce our energy consumption and go green. Their main responsibility? They serve as the caboose in their line and make sure that they turn the classroom lights off. We’re also looking at assigning weekly Watt Watchers throughout the week to randomly check on our watt usage. They’ll leave notes of encouragement and thanks when they find an empty classroom or office with the lights already out. If they find the lights on in an empty room, they would leave a gentle reminder: Not in use? Turn off the juice. Watt Watching is an easy and effective way to help our students take responsibility for their future.






My signature sign-off on morning announcements – “Make it a terrific day!” – has two meanings: terrific as in wonderful and TeRRiFiCC as in show good character. The Six Pillars of Character serve as our framework for TeRRiFiCC – trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring, and good citizen – behavior. When we challenge students to use the pillars as a filter, we’re encouraging them to stop and think before they act on something, whereby sharpening their ability to respond, or responsibility. When I do a responsibility lesson, I talk with students about showing responsibility by always considering the consequences and all of the stakeholders before making decisions and acting on them.

I wrote this little ditty to help students remember the importance of making ‘TeRRiFiCC’ choices. Use it with the hand-jive motions to add movement and enhance memory:

If it is to be, it is up to me.
TeRRiFiCC choices come naturally
when I take responsibility!

Have students perfect this little rhyme, then ask them to analyze its meaning. What does it mean to say, “if it is to be, it is up to me” and “TeRRiFiCC choices come naturally?” Find out if they agree or disagree. If they were to change something or add something else, what would it be? Then have them write a little responsibility ditty of their own. Post these on their desks as a visual reminder for them to always show responsibility and consider putting them in a class booklet that students could take turns taking home to share.

Lucy Goosey Takes Responsibility

lucyAs children learn how to manage responsibilities, they must also learn to accept that everyone makes bad decisions. Responsibility is all about our ability to respond. Enter Lucy Goosey. When she oversleeps by just a few extra minutes, she sets off a domino effect of unpleasant consequences at her elementary school. Her teachers aren’t impressed with her excuses, but one teacher’s empathy helps her turn her day around.

Although it’s a little long for a quick guidance lesson, the book presents realistic issues for our little learners. Talk with students about the importance about being on time. At Westwood, we track attendance and use the data to celebrate punctuality. We crown a weekly Prompt Prince or Princess. We also have an attenDANCE incentive. If, as a school, we have at least five classes with perfect attendance (allowing just one tardy for the entire week), our administrators will do the Chicken Dance in front of the student body. As a result, our attendance rates have risen to meet the Gold Level Performance standards. Being on time sets a student up for success.

Use this book as a springboard to remind young students to take responsibility for their actions. Have them journal about a time when they made a bad decision like Lucy and were able to ultimately turn things around. Then have them share with a buddy or the class about the domino effect that a good choice they made has had in their lives.

Character Camp

thomasOne of my kids’ favorite camp songs is based on a fun pattern that goes: chugga, chugga, chugga, chugga, clap-clap-roll. Inspired by that rhythm, here’s an adaptation that I think your students will enjoy. For the chugga, chugga part, fist your hands and push your arms back and forth like train wheels, then clap twice and roll your arms. Repeat the pattern throughout the song.

Try it first as an echo poem, then put it all together for a virtual Character Camp experience.

Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, clap-clap-roll.
Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, clap-clap-roll.
Well don’t you know that your character counts!
Making choices is what life’s all about.
Just be trustworthy, and respectful.
Always take responsibility (ee, ee, ee)!
Play fair, be caring, show good citizenship;
be the change that we all want to see!
Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, clap-clap-roll
Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, clap-clap-roll.=

Mistakes Into Opportunities
bakingsodaWhen you’re creating in the kitchen, it’s critical that you follow recipes fairly closely because certain ingredients are vital for success. Take, for example, Aunt Mary’s pancake recipe. We enjoy these almost every weekend. But just last weekend, I forgot to add baking soda, an ingredient I found out is pretty important. The pancakes failed to rise well and turned out more like crepes. My family and I had two options; we could whine about it and refuse to eat them, or we could turn that mistake into something edible. My son got out the raspberry jelly and bottle of whipped cream and promptly filled those thin cakes with the sweet spread. Then he sprayed a dollop of cream on top and served them as crepes.

So how is this a character-building activity? Tell this story as a springboard for a discussion with the students and ask them to talk about a time they’ve make something good out of something wrong. The more stories that they hear, the more they’ll realize who is in control when mistakes happen. Then find a pancake recipe and compare it to a crepe recipe. How are they similar? How are they different? Have them bring in their favorite recipes and talk about how the item might taste without certain ingredients. Which ingredients are critical? Which ones are optional? You could even vote on which recipe of the class favorites you would like to try to make as a class, integrating some math and measurement into this responsibility lesson. Assign each person one item to bring in; talk about what might happen if someone forgets. This will be a good illustration of responsibility toward one another in a group project!