Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Whenever cancer resources come my way, I usually push them aside, because I think that I will never use them. Unfortunately, I had cancer hit each grade that I work with this year in different ways. At the 3rd grade level, a staff member discovered he had cancer, at 4th grade a teacher, and in 5th grade a student. Suddenly I had to tackle a topic that I was hoping to avoid. Luckily, the LiveStrong organization was there to help!

LiveStrong has several resources available to use to help address the topic of cancer with students, whether it be a staff member, a teacher, or a student who is affected by cancer. In 3rd grade guidance we used a curriculum that included an Arthur video about a cafeteria worker getting cancer. Since I am not a doctor and do not have all the answers about how cancer affects the body, I was glad to have this video which explains how cancer and it's treatments work in kid friendly terms.

The website has videos that can be used with older kids as well. I like the LiveStrong program because it focuses on survival. H
earing that a staff member or student has been diagnosed with cancer can bring up a lot of memories and emotions from students who have lost a loved one to cancer in the past. In our LiveStrong unit, we focused on survivors of cancer, and how each person deal with cancer differently. I wanted the students to know that cancer is not a death sentence, and to focus on the idea that many people survive from cancer, and can even become stronger afterwards, as Lance Armstrong did when he went on to win the Tour de France. Many students know the story about Lance Armstrong, and focusing on how Lance Armstrong survived and became even stronger makes students feel more comfortable about the topic.

Each grade level showed their support for the person dealing with cancer in different ways. In 3rd grade, the students wrote cards and drew pictures for the staff member dealing with cancer, and wore yellow on Mondays, which was the day he receives his chemo treatments. In 4th grade the students wore pink on Wednesdays to show their support, which is the day that teacher receives treatments. Last week the students took a picture to send the teacher to show them how they are dressing in pin
k on Wednesdays, and a few students made her a book which included the picture. In 5th grade, I have seen multiple acts of kindness and consideration for the student dealing with cancer, especially since she has started attending school again. Another great resource we used in 5th grade was the children's hospital in Omaha, which sent someone up to talk to the class about the student's condition before she returned to school.

LiveStrong has a great deal of resources you can use if this is ever an issue you have to handle yourself. Below is a picture that the 4th grade students sent on a day they wore pink to support their teacher! Any little action the students can take to show support makes them feel that they are helping and supporting their teacher as she fights her battle with cancer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Laugh At Me

In 3rd grade guidance this week we are reading the book "Don't Laugh at Me". Don't Laugh at Me is program developed by Operation Respect, an organization founded by Peter Yarrow. Operation Respect aims to establish school climates that reduce the emotional and physical cruelty some children inflict upon one another by behaviors such as ridicule, bullying, and in extreme cases, violence.

In guidance we are reading the Don't Laugh at Me book together, and then watching a "music video" Peter, Paul, and Mary where they sing the Don't Laugh At Me song. The kids love singing the song, and after this lesson I usually have requests from students to play it again throughout the rest of the year!

Part of our professional development this year has been focused on vocabulary development. I have included this into my lesson by introducing four "feeling" words before the book at movie that I want students to identify on the faces of people. We are working on expanding our feeling vocabulary beyond "happy" and "sad". Before we read the book I introduce the words "humiliated" and "ashamed". We discuss the meanings of these words, and the students identify pictures of people in the book expressing these feelings. After reading the book, we work on the feelings "courageous" and "proud". During the video I ask students to pick out people who are expressing these feelings. Using the vocabulary instruction also helps students to connect with and emphasize with the characters in the book and video, which is the goal of Don't Laugh at Me.

The video for Don't Laugh at Me shows individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and I always have to be careful to prepare the students in the right way for the video. The first time I showed this video, I assumed since we just had a lesson on how it is not right to laugh at others because of their abilities or the way that they look, that the students would not point or laugh. I have now learned that I must emphasize this one more time before I press play, otherwise some students will be disrespectful. Other than that issue, I love this book and lesson! We connect it to the Purple Hands Pledge after the book by talking about how body language (laughing, pointing, staring) can hurt people just as bad as hands and words can. This will be a great launching point for 4th grade when we talk about bystanders and bullying, how laughing at a joke a bully tells can be bullying too. The curriculum that goes along with the book is available for free on the Operation Respect website, as well as all of the songs and videos related to the program as well.

Horton Hears a Who

During Read Across America Week, I decided to read the book Horton Hears a Who to my 3rd grade class while we are studying the Purple Hands Pledge. The Purple Hands Pledge is "I will not use my hands or my words for hurting myself or others." Horton Hears a Who has a similar message - Horton is teased by the other animals (hurting with words) when they do not believe that there are Whos on the dust speck. Horton uses his hands (or his trunk!) to help the Whos and protect them from harm. This book has a great message which we emphasized in the lesson -
"A person's a person no matter how small!"

After the book we talked about how Horton used his hands to help others, and had a discussion about bullying. The students made their own "clover" after the book to remind them of the book's message. It was exciting to be a part of the Read Across America Week by bringing a Dr. Seuss classic into our guidance lesson!

To make another connection between the Character Counts program and Read Across America week, we decorated the display case
at our school in honor of the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" It shows the different careers that students can achieve if they use good character. A picture of the display case is posted below!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Purple Hands Pledge

One of our school-wide guidance program is the Purple Hands Pledge. The Purple Hands Pledge is a promise that students make everyday to make better choices and decisions that solve problems without violence. The Purple Hands Pledge Is:

"I will not use my hands or my words for hurting myself or others"

The pledge was created in 1997 by Ann Kelly to "encourage dialogue about all forms of abuse and violence…from name calling, belittling, put downs, and negative self talk (I’m stupid, ugly…) words that can escalate to suicide and/or murder." Our students say the pledge everyday right after the Pledge of Allegiance, and we have school wide activities throughout the year that support the Purple Hands Pledge.

One school wide activity that we do each trimester with the Purple Hands Pledge is the Purple Hands Honor Roll. The Purple Hands Honor Roll is an award given to each student who has followed the Purple Hands Pledge throughout the trimester. If a student breaks the pledge and uses their hands or words to hurt someone else, a note is sent home and the student is taken off the honor roll. The students on the honor roll have their names posted on a list outside the principal's office, and receive a small prize as well, like a pencil or a wristband with the Purple Hands Pledge on it.

If you would like to find out more about the Purple Hands Pledge, please visit their website! I am sure I will share more information about this program as the year moves along since it is such a monumental part of our guidance program.

Below is a big Purple Hand made of all of the 3rd graders who took the Purple Hands Pledge this year!

Monday, March 1, 2010

End of Trimester

Friday was the end of our 2nd trimester here at our school. At the end of each trimester, the K-2 counselor and I compile all of the discipline data collected by the teachers and our administrators to help us make decisions about our guidance program. Today is the day that I am going to begin tackling this task and putting all of our data together!

In our data collection, we will be using both discipline referrals collected by the office - such as when a student receives disciplinary action from the principal - and also data collected from the teachers in the classroom from when the teacher gave the student a warning or discipline that did not warrant attention from the principal.

Once we have put all of our data together, we will segregate the data by the type of violation - physical, verbal, bullying, classroom disruption, or non-c
ompliance. After the data is segregated, I will meet with each of the grade level teams to discuss with them what the data shows us, and how we can address it as a grade level (increase supervision in hallways, address concerns in a guidance lesson, etc.)

The data we collect each trimester is also used for our closing the gap measure to provide additional support for students struggling with self control. I will be starting new guidance groups next week that focus on friendship and social skills, anger management, and self control. The data we collect each trimester helps me decide which students will go into some of these groups!

Below is a picture of the Purple Hands Honor Roll outside the office at the K-3 school!