2010-2011

Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude

dogsSome Dogs Do by Jez Alborough is a rhyming story about a young hound dog named Sid who discovers a joyful feeling that “filled him up so much he found/his paws just lifted off the ground.” When he tries to convince his friends that he can fly, nobody will believe him, not even his teacher. Challenged to demonstrate his fanciful flight, Sid is so discouraged that he’s unable to get off of the ground. The dejected dog goes home, where he’s comforted by his parents; there, Dad lets him in on a secret about attitude and altitude. Use this tribute to the power of positive thinking to talk with your students about attitude. What exactly is attitude? Where does it come from? Who controls it for us? Find out if your students agree with the adage: “Your attitude determines your altitude.” How does that saying relate to what Sid experienced in the story?

After you’ve discussed the story, dowload and dance to the song Dalmatian Disco by Captain Music to add meaningful movement to this high-flying tale.

A Good Fit
shoesShoes come in all shapes and sizes, but for a pair to be a good fit, it has to be the right shape and size for your feet, right? That’s why it’s best to try on a pair of shoes before you buy it. That’s kind of how it works with friends, too. Friends should have the qualities and values that connect with you if they’re going to be a good fit. What do your students look for in a friend? Brainstorm a list and find out. For example, is it important that your friends be nice? Pretty? Truthful? Kind? Respectful? Wealthy? Responsible? Athletic? Smart? Ambitious? Generous? Thin? What other things can you think of that might (or might NOT) make a good fit for your students? Give them time to explain their answers; you may be fascinated at your findings.

And just like friends, there are shoes that are tricky-fit shoes. You know the ones, they seem to fit you in the store, but when you try them on the next morning, they hurt your feet and don’t fit at all. You may even give them a try, but you quickly find they leave blisters on your feet. What kinds of things do tricky-fit friends do that cause blisters in the friendship? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Break Promises? Spread rumors? Gossip? Hit? Use mean words? Ask students what they do with tricky-fit shoes, then find out what they would do with a tricky-fit friend. List their answers and help them practice some healthy strategies for taking care of themselves.

One that I like to suggest is taking a friendship time-out. We actually use our hands to make a T, signaling that we need a break, that something about the relationship isn’t working well right now, that we need a time-out. The T is a very empowering tool for a student who’s stuck in a yo-yo or tricky-fit relationship. What other gestures can students think of that might work? What other options do they have with tricky-fit friends?

Finally, there are shoes that just don’t fit at all anymore. Teach your children that when friends go in a different direction and just don’t fit at all anymore, it’s important to say good-bye and walk away. This can be done with dignity and respect. These discussions are crucial to have and these skills important to practice as our littlest leaders learn to navigate socially through life and find good-fit friendships.

The Secret
secretThe Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy is a special story about a secret. It’s big. And I mean BIG. Olivia is dying to tell someone, so she shares it with Jade, who has promised not to say a word. But the secret accidentally slips out, even parts that aren’t exactly true. Like the red balloon in the background, the secret gets bigger and bigger. Though this tale is somewhat predictable, this is a message that children cannot hear enough. If you don’t want the secret to get out, then you HAVE to keep it to yourself. This story can serve as a wonderful springboard for a discussion about secrets. What kinds of secrets should children NOT keep? What kinds of secrets can you, as a counselor or teacher, NOT keep?

There are so many directions that you can take with this book. Have students play the age-old game of telephone, where a student whispers a secret message to the student next to him or her and so on around the circle. Ask your last student to say the secret message out loud and see how close to the original sentence it is. Find out what your students were thinking about while they were passing the secret message through the class. Is it possible for the message to remain unchanged? Why or why not? While students are repeating the message, blow a puff of air into a red balloon with every change. But watch out, it may pop!

Then go back to the book about Olivia’s secret. Why was it impossible for Jade to keep Olivia’s secret? Why were others so interested in the secret? How did the secret change? Talk about exaggerating. Is exaggerating lying? Why or why not? For even more activities, visit the Teaching With Picture Books blog where you’ll find some really insightful discussion questions and engaging enrichment ideas.

The Truth In Advertising

archesShow this picture to your students and I predict that they will all know what it stands for. In fact, it may even make them hungry. Ahhhh, the power of advertising – I’m lovin’ it!

According to a recent article on the Character Counts! Character Educator Blog, Americans are exposed to anywhere from 500 to 5,000 advertising messages a day, and even if only a tiny fraction of those register in our conscious minds, they affect us. Ads are constructed to stoke our sub-conscious desires, to make us feel that we lack something, and that this deficiency can only be cured by the advertised product. If rational adults often fail to realize that buying a product won’t fill the hole deep inside, children don’t stand a chance.

Don’t Buy It, a PBS website, informs kids in a fun – and funny – way about advertising tricks, buying with intelligence, understanding the ways media might mislead, and offering ways kids and parents can get involved in the fight against misleading or downright false advertising.

The interactive features are the best part. Kids can become detectives and look for hidden ads. By creating their own ads and designing a cereal box, they can see how ads persuade, and how meaningless their claims tend to be. In the process, kids also learn how colors make people feel (orange stimulates the appetite), what characters appeal to which groups of people, and what slogans send desirable messages to particular demographics. Bookmark it for students to use in technology class or as a springboard for critical essays or journal entries about the importance of truth in advertising. It can also serve as food for a discussion about trustworthiness. Find out if your students believe that it’s lying to make your product sound better than it is. Ask if it’s cheating to sell your product for more than it’s worth. Why or why not?

Finally, visit values.com and encourage your students to create a billboard to advertise for trustworthiness, reliability, honesty, courage, loyalty, friendship, reputation or integrity.

The Lunch Thief

lunchthiefIs stealing always wrong? That’s a question to open with before reading this tasty treasure aloud. Here’s the story synopsis of this newcomer to the children’s literature market, written by Anne C. Bromley and beautifully illustrated by Robert Casilla:

A pitcher for his school team, Rafael’s second favorite thing to do is eat. He’s really hungry today, however, someone stole his lunch; so hungry, in fact, that he could “eat the crumbs the seagulls left behind.” Rafael saw Kevin, a new kid in his class, sneak his lunch bag from underneath his desk and tuck it in his backpack. He wants to confront the theft but doesn’t want to pick a fight. Inspired by his mother’s advice to use his mouth before his fists, Rafael bides his time until other lunches disappear as well. In talking with Kevin, Rafael finds out that he comes from a nearby town that was ravaged by recent wildfires. When Rafael sees Kevin carrying a bundle of laundry into a motel room, he realizes that Kevin’s family might be one of the families who lost their homes. The next day, Rafael invites Kevin to share his lunch, subtly stopping the stealing and replacing it with friendship and a good meal.

Ask students again if stealing is always wrong. Find out if they think Kevin wanted to be a lunch thief. What might they have done in Kevin’s situation? Would they have done anything differently if they were Rafael? Use the story not only for a discussion about sensitivity and friendship, but also as a chance to learn more about hunger and/or homelessness in your area. Help your students brainstorm ways to help combat the issue, then find a homeless shelter where they might make a donation or go and serve a meal. Advertise by making and hanging these clever Food Bank Mobiles in prominent places throughout your school.