Sunday, June 21, 2020

Simple Activities to Boost Kindness and Respect In Your Classroom (FREEBIE ALERT!)

Bucket Filling is a great way to teach students that their words and actions matter.

We can lift someone with a kind word (fill their bucket) or use words and actions to hurt someone and make them sad. (Dipping in their bucket.)

When you help your students focus on filling someone's bucket, you're creating a respectful, caring, and kind climate.  When you have such a positive environment, it's natural that disruptive behaviors are reduced.

A win-win situation for all of us!  I am such a huge fan of bucket filling, that I'm giving all of the activities away for free.  Sign up for my newsletter and get them all today!

We talk about the "POWER" in my class. The power to knock the wind out of someone or put the wind in their sails.  I tell them they have to be brave and use their power for GOOD.

Here are some of the books I read to kick off our Bucket Filling year-long activities.

We love this video in our class and I often hear kids singing it on their own.

I like to play it during snack time and play it often.

One of the year-long Bucket Filling activities I do in my class is to have kids write compliments to each other and place them inside of the buckets. Once I set up the buckets and run off copies of slips, it practically runs itself. (I don't use the Pom Pom system I often see. It's great but my focus is to have the kids to steer this activity...not me.)

How I Implement Bucket Filling:

1. I spend the first few weeks modeling writing compliments for all of my students. They get to see at least 20 examples before they start writing their own.

2. While not an easy concept, I work on teaching them to compliment kind actions...things the person does or says rather then the physical attributes of their friends.

"You helped me tie my shoes so I didn't trip." vs. "You are pretty."
3. The first few times we write our own compliments, I have them write one for a specific person: the person sitting next to you, your math partner, etc. This way, everyone is guaranteed to get one.

Once we're into a month of school, I let the kids write compliments whenever they have free time. I assign for a Do-Now from time to time.

NOTE: The first year I did this, I didn't monitor the notes until I happened to pick one off the floor by the buckets: "Stop picking your nose." Eek!

So now, once a day, I randomly pull out a note and read it to myself in front of the kids, smile, touch my heart if especially meaningful, and put back in all without saying a word. Keeps them focused on PURPOSE of the notes.

As the year progresses, compliments become more meaningful and heartfelt. Such an easy activity to implement and one that parents, kids, and I all love!

I bought my buckets in Michael's about 10 years ago. You can use beach buckets, baggies, lunch doesn't matter what you use as long as the kids fill them up!


Included in my FREE packet are these posters. Which one is your favorite? Mine? Be the Nice Kid.


Here are a few books focusing on Kindness which I love to share with my class.

Here's an anchor chart I made with my kids about a month after introducing Bucket Filling. I want them to have a good sense of what Filling Buckets looks, sounds, and feels like. I like to wait a bit before making this with the class to be sure they understand the concepts presented. Plus, I want these words to be theirs...not mine. (Headers included in free packet!)


Who doesn't love a good headband?


Are You a Bucket Filler is a short book for the kids that also follows a pattern.

Do you share with your friends? You do? Then you are a bucket filler!
Do you help others when they need it? You do? Then you are a bucket filler!

Class books like "We Are Bucket Fillers" are fun for the kids to contribute to and so easy to do! In this book, kids simply fill in their name at the top: ___ is a Bucket Filler. Then they draw and write about how they fill a bucket. (Also a version with no writing included.) Because of the repetitive phrase, kids can at least read half of the book independently.


The below activity can be done at any time. I tend to wait until the second half of the year and have the kids work in small groups to read and complete. Why do kids love little flaps so much?


Another way I keep my Bucket Fillers motivated is to leave one of these certificates on their desks. Kids bring them home and parents have a great visual as a conversation starter. Anything to strengthen the home-school connection is another win.

I've had kids come back from lunch, specials, assemblies, etc. and ask if they can bring one to someone that THEY caught being kind and caring. LOVE IT!


Bookmarks, bookmarks! I never have enough in my room! Very popular in my class!

I run off two colored bookmarks for each child in the beginning of the year. One for school, one for home. Then I have lots of BW bookmarks available that kids can color in school during free time.

Bracelets are huge motivators too!  A badge of honor!


I wrote a little song , BUCKET FILLER, to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb that often becomes a song we sing for transitions. By the time we finish, desks cleared, cleaned up, snacks done, etc. are over. Just another way to keep the Bucket Filling message front and center each day.

Each time we use this Chit Chat, I send it home hoping parents can also have a chit chat about it!

Is there a child you never gets compliments?
Short answer: No.
But in reality, yes.

I have a rule that EVERYONE must get at least one in their bucket before we can take home on Friday. If there are empty buckets, the compliments stay in buckets until following week when we'll check again.

We have some deeper conversations about this:

1. Looking for the good in someone.

2. If you are not getting many, why could that be?

This is hard for First Graders BUT it can be done.

I had a child recently who wasn't kind. To me. To his peers. To teachers. To himself.

Did he get compliments? Yes. But not many. Not deep ones. Not nearly as many as others.

Did he care? Yes. A lot. More about NOT GETTING them than concern about his behavior.

BUT the dialogue started. It helped. His behavior started- slowly- to change.


It's a start, right?


Would you like all of my Bucket Filling activities for FREE? Sign up for my newsletter here and get lots of tips and freebies to help strengthen your classroom community.

Keep on filling those buckets!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Can Your Students Smell Their Way to a More Successful and Peaceful Year?

The power of smell is so strong that it's made grown men and women weep from awakening fond memories.

I'm raising my hand here.

Think about your childhood. What scents bring you right back to your cherished memories?

Once in a while, we have a sweet, much older nurse substitute in our school. When I walk by the office, I'm instantly flooded with the smell of her compact Cover Girl foundation. I love it! It reminds me of my grandmother. It's the EXACT same smell.  I'd know it anywhere.

So while my colleagues find the smell revolting, it makes my heart burst.

A whiff of coconut ANYTHING instantly brings me back 45 years to summers on the beach.

Vanilla candles? My parents house.

Pine trees? Family camping trips and Christmas tree shopping memories.

Burning wood?  Sitting for hours with my dad in front of the fireplace when I was little.

I want this candle!

We recently opened up a box of old greeting cards from my husband's parents' house.  The overwhelming aroma of his parents house overcame him and he grew misty eyed. A few minutes later, my son came into the room, sniffed the air and said, "I smell grandma in here."

For a brief second, it was if she was still with us.  We felt peace and comfort in a familiar but almost forgotten smell.

What about you?

Years ago a former student visited me after school. As soon as she walked in, she took a deep breath and smiled. "Whenever I smell cinnamon, I think of you and our class. It was so peaceful. They're such good memories."

I used air fresheners back then purposefully to create a lovely warm scent because MY first grade teacher did the same. I wanted to recreate that warm fuzzy feeling with my own students through their sense of smell.


I'm still adding scent to my classroom but there's a difference now.

I use Essential Oils (no chemicals / natural) with the added intention of boosting my students' moods, calming kids down, and helping them focus / achieve more academic success because there are many studies that have proven these connections. 

As teachers, we spend a lot of time making sure our physical environment is best suited to learn so why not make sure the scent in the room is conducive to learning as well?

The stats in the highlighted study above are impressive.  (Google other studies if you'd like.  So many to pick from!)

Why not use this information to boost your students social, emotional as well as academic learning?

For me, it's all part of the total package to creating your thriving classroom community.

In my class, I tend to use THIEVES  or FIGHTING FIVE (same stuff pretty much!) which is a cinnamon smelling oil that is said to boost immunity.

Other oils I use: Lemon, Lemongrass, Orange, Peppermint, Rose and Lavender (just a little!) after lunch to help sooth and calm kids down, and several blends that "claim" to boost brain power, serenity, focus, etc.

I say "claim" but I believe it. I love this blend as well!

I have no affiliation with Eden's Garden. Just love the products.  Believe in them.

THAT BEING SAID: Before you use oils, ask parents if it's okay. You have to be mindful of allergies, asthma, and any possible breathing or immune conditions.  One year, a para in my room didn't have a good reaction to lavender so I shelved it that year.

(And animals are extra sensitive to Lavender. I wouldn't use at all if I had a class pet.)

Although I haven't used this, a homeschooling friend of mine uses this.

I'd say, based on feedback from parents, at least 40% of my kids used diffusers at home this year.

My favorite diffuser I use at home.  (Going on 4 years.) Timer/changes colors. Pretty!

WHAT NOT TO DO: Don't put ANY oil on a child.  Ever. I was horrified when I read on Instagram about a teacher dabbing LAVENDER on kids' hands each day. EEK. If YOU want to dab on yourself to relax (which I often do) then go for it. BUT never put ANY oil directly on a child.  (And I pointed out to her that a DAB of any citrus-based oil could lead to severe burns at recess.)

Always do your research.

I tend to have Thieves / Fighting Five diffusing BEFORE school and sometimes during.  I believe in the health benefits (I now actually use the cheaper equivalent FIGHTING FIVE by Eden's Garden. Free shipping!), and the other oils above during the day for memory boosting.

Lavender is used after lunch BUT I use very little. Do I think it calms my class down and makes them feel more relaxed?  Yep. Adults who walk in ALWAYS comment on the ZEN feeling they get.

I'd love to know your thoughts and if you use essentials oils in your classroom.

If you like using oils, I urge you to click on this earlier post about a blend you can make for your serious and not so serious skin ailments.

Honestly, bookmark it.

It's a miracle worker!  A life saver!

Friday, June 12, 2020

My Top 3 Books to Support C.A.R.E.S. (Part 5: Self-Control)

Do you have a few students who need some lessons on self-control? Maybe more than a few?

Kids lacking in self-control aren't able to focus, are impulsive, and often make poor decisions which leaves them frustrated.

But here's the good news. I believe kids WANT to make good choices and they wish they could control their behaviors. They just don't know how to. Yet.

We need to help them find strategies that work and give them plenty of opportunities to use them.

Lucky for us, there are some good books that kids can identify with and see some strategies in action. If you're searching for some, in addition to "self-control," be sure to look up self-regulation.

Here are my Top 3 books I use to reinforce Self-Control:

1. What If Everybody Said That? written by Ellen Javernick and illustrated by Colleen M. Madden

I picked What if Everybody Did That? for Cooperation but I'm positive it could be featured here with this companion book.

Very much like the other book, it's not really a story but a series of events asking, "What if everbody said that?"

Leads to great discussions on self-control and when you lack it, the chaos that can follow. BTW, my kids loved learning and using the word chaos!

It's easy for the kids to understand the situations presented and they love joining in on the repetative phrase.

As a BONUS: When a child says a not-so-kind thought or a negative remark in class, my kids refer back to the book.

Snarky kid: "I'm the smartest kid in this class."
Rest of class: "What if everybody said that?"

2. My Mouth is a Volcano written by Julia Cook and illustrated by Carrie Hart

Get Louis a BLURT CHART!


My kids really enjoy this book. Not only do I read it to them in September to help set the tone for sharing and reminders about calling out/needing self-control, my Guidance Counselor shares it with all classes later in the year.

Why is it a must have for me? Because my kids love it so much that many of them, when they START to have an explosion of their own, will cover their mouths and say, "My mouth almost exploded."

Now if I can just have them say that to themselves instead of the class!

Take a peek at this cute trailer to see what it's all about.

3. I Just Ate My Friend written and illustrated by Heidi McKinnon

If you're a Jon Klassen fan, you'll love this as much as me. Deadpan humor for sure. If you don't like I Want My Hat Back by Klassen, then don't bother reading any further. Just keeping it real!

This is short. Direct.And I love it! My kids have giggle fits when I read it.

The irony is fantastic and teh kids recognize it right away.

Would I say this has overt lessons on self-control like the others? Nope. Not happening here. Am I stretching it a bit?

You may think so but, hey...if you can't control yourself and EAT your friend, then isn't it worth discussing needing a little self-control?

It takes 2 minutes to read and I haven't mentioned "self-control" to my class at the end. THEY made the connection.

It's fun. It's silly. It's a huge winner in my classroom and I bet it would be in yours, too.

That's it, my friends.  Five days and 15 books recommended to you all focused around:

If you know of any new teachers or Guidance Counselors that may want to peek at these books, send them the link.

Have a great day!  (And weekend!)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

My Top 3 Books to Support C.A.R.E.S. (Part 4: Empathy)

At the beginning of each year, there are always a few students who stand out to me. Shock me. Who are they?  The kids who show empathy to others.

The child who sees a new child cry because she misses her mom and walks up to that child and says, "I miss my mom too.  But you'll see her at 3." Then proceeds to share a tip with her: "Bring a picture of your family in and keep it in your desk. When I get sad like you, I take it out and hug it."

Clearly, this child was empathetic. This child continued to impress me throughout the year with her empathy and compassion for others.  Her innate ability to know what to say and to make children (and adults!) feel that she really understood what they were going through astounded me.

People: this sweet girl was just five years old when she came into my class. FIVE YEARS OLD.

She obviously learned these skills from watching her parents.  No doubt.

If we want empathetic and compassionate children, we must show them what it looks like. Sounds like. Each and every day.

Most kids can't grasp the concept at this age but, by the end of the year, you may see some changed behaviors. Some light bulb moments!

I've worked hard to use the word EMPATHY or EMPATHETIC each day in my classroom.  Whether it's referencing my actions, what I'm observing in others, or pointing out a character's empathy in a book.

Books are the perfect way to introduce EMPATHY and I have a few gems to recommend.

NOTE: You can easily Google and find dozens of book lists to support teaching empathy in your classroom. Because of that, I'm just going to highlight the top 3 books that have served my students well.

1. Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill

I was gifted this book on Valentine's Day when it was released two years ago.  It skyrocketed onto The New York Times Bestseller list and after the first few pages, you just know you MUST HAVE IT!

It will FOREVER be used by me to introduce what Empathy is...what it looks like. So perfectly perfect for the K-2 crowd!

Tanisha spills grape juice all over her dress.  The class laughs at her- except for the child telling the story (Nameless. Not entirely sure if a girl or boy but since I "think" a girl, I'll go with that here.)

Instead, she tells Tanisha that purple is her favorite color.  She paints "purple splotches" for Tanisha and sits by her.  

Later, she wonders if she did enough: Should she have given her a napkin?  Her sweatshirt? Should she have spilled her juice too so people would laugh at her instead of Tanisha?  

Then the child asks us directly, "What does it mean to be kind?" and gives simple examples. 

She acknowledges it's not always easy to do the right thing...the kind thing and although she may not be able to solve Tanisha's purple juice problem, she can sit with her in class and paint purple flowers for Tanisha because she knows purple is her favorite color and Tanisha likes flowers.

She hopes that kindness can "spill out of our school" and spread.  (Great intro to Random Acts of Kindness here!)

Love the last picture!  A must-read to your class. Make sure your school librarian purchases multiple copies of this book! 

2. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

This is such a fun and fantastic book that is at least 10 years old. One of my all-time favorite picture books. Check out the trailer and then go directly to your local bookstore or Amazon and treat yourself. Today. :)

3. Charlie the Caterpillar by Dom Deluise and illustrated by Christopher Santoro

This book is realllly old but still holds up today. 

Charlie was born a happy and carefree caterpillar. He was loving life until he was repeatedly told by monkeys, rabbits, and an mice playing games together that he was UGLY. And they didn't want to be seen with an ugly caterpillar.

Poor Charlie!

Right away, kids can identify with kids being mean and not welcoming them into a group or activity.

Charlie transforms into a butterfly and the same characters don't recognize him but beg to play with him now that he is so beautiful. Of course he refuses knowing they aren't real friends.

He hears "Katie the Caterpillar" crying because she's being mistreated in the same way. He tells her he KNOWS EXACTLY HOW SHE FEELS and then shows her what's it store for her:

Isn't that the sweetest picture?  Genius on the illustrator's part.  And I am embarrassed to admit this: I never noticed that Charlie was behind Katie with his wings reflecting in the water until one of my students pointed it out.  Gulp.  True. 

Besides empathy, friendship, loyalty, assertiveness...all have a voice in these books.

Tomorrow, I'll bring you my Top 3 books I use to showcase SELF-CONTROL.

Follow me over on Instagram by clicking here

Hope to see you over there!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

My Top 3 Books to Support C.A.R.E.S. (Part 3: Responsibility)

If you're looking to infuse lessons on helping your students understand what RESPONSIBILITY means, one of these books can help you start the conversation.

Wow! You can see how much is packed into being a responsible citizen! As with all social skills, kids need to be given opportunities to practice being responsible. As a teacher, it's important to read books that give them different situations that encompass being a responsible person.

NOTE: There are so many book lists out there that give you a ton of recommendations for books on Responsibility so I'm highlighting three that have served my class well.

My Top 3 books to teach RESPONSIBILITY:

A Bike Like Sergio's written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

When no one is looking, Ruben quietly tucks the dollar bill he saw a lady drop in the grocery store into his pocket.  

He wants a bike like his best friend, Sergio. He's embarrassed being the only one in the neighborhood who can't afford a bike. 

While $1 isn't much, every bit helps. When he gets home, he discovers it's actually a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR bill.

(This is where my kiddos start to yell out opinions: Buy the silver bike!  No! Give it's not right." I refrain from joining in and continue reading the story. I want the kids to form their own opinions, not parrot mine.)

He is ecstatic and can't wait to finally get the bike he's always wanted but couldn't afford.

The author does an excellent job showing you how Ruben changes over the course of the story.  

He goes from gleefully happy to, when he sees the same lady once again in the store, empathetic.  and does the right thing...the responsible thing... and returns it.   

It takes courage to admit your mistakes.

The story stays true to a child's point-of-view. After returning the money, he says:

"I am happy and mixed up,
full and empty, 
with what's right and what's gone."

Wow!  That page alone leads to such honest and deep conversations.

The Summer My Father Was Ten: Written by Pat Brisson and illustrated by Andrea Shine

This is such a powerful read.  One of my favorite all-time read alouds.  

SIDE NOTE: I once read a review that said "make sure you stop several times while reading to discuss the talking points."

Um.  No.  Please don't.  This book packs quite an emotional punch. Don't take the kids out of the story. My six year olds "get it" just fine on the the first read through. Let them soak it in.  Feel it.  Feel the anger.  Feel how ashamed the boy is.  

If you want to read a second time and discuss as you go along, go for it! 

(BEFORE I read this, I do explain the the father in the story is really telling the story when HE was a little kid.  So, the kid is the father.)

While planting a garden with her father each year, the father shares the same story of when he was ten years old and playing baseball with his friends next to a once empty lot.

He says a man, Mr. Bellavista, saw that empty lot and turned it into a lush garden with flowers and vegetables. It was a lovely garden until he and his friends ruined it.  

When a ball accidentally landed in the garden, the father ran to get it and thought it would be funny to toss a tomato back instead. Within minutes, the friends had uprooted every flower and vegetable and threw them at each other.

They see Mr. Bellavista by his window but ignore him and keep playing.  The next day, the garden is completely cleaned up.  Nothing but dirt is left.  

Beautifully written, some of my kids cry each and every time at several parts.  

It's a powerful story of redemption. Forgiveness. Friendship. 

His understanding of how his action caused so much pain and loss for Mr. Bellavista feels real.

He'e terrified of seeing Mr. Bellavista- ashamed- but he knows that he must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and make it right again.  

It's not an immediate fix for the two of them. In fact, it takes a year before the boy is able to make amends. It's honest. Raw. 

And beautiful. A life-long friendship develops.

I cry every single time I read this.  

I wondered if The Summer My Father Was Ten was autobiographical for Pat Brisson. Here is her answer.

The Empty Pot: Retold and Illustrated by Demi

This folktale is always a favorite. Demi's version is my favorite and, once again, kids FEEL this story. Besides teaching responsibility, it also shines a light on honesty and trustworthiness.

Ping loves to garden. Anything he planted thrived. Everyone in his community loved flowers but the Emperor perhaps loved them most of all. 

But the Emperor was old. He needed to find a replacement but how would he choose?

The Emperor decides "to let the flowers choose."

He issues a proclamation to the children. "Whoever can show me your best in a year's time will succeed me to the throne."

He gives the children special seeds.  No matter what Ping does, he cannot get his flower to grow.

In a year, everyone gathers with their beautiful potted plants in front of the Emperor and Ping is mocked for his empty pot.  

The Emperor sternly asks, "Why did you bring an empty pot?"

Ping says he "brought my best" and the Emperor rewards his honesty after he reveals that he gave "cooked" seeds to everyone.  They are impossible to grow.

Kids easily see that Ping did the right things when no one was looking.  He's trustworthy and dependable.  

Click to watch video at Storylineonline.  (It's also on EPIC!)  I read the book first and then share again via video.)

I do have a product that goes with this book but you certainly don't need ANYTHING to share this story.  

Tomorrow I'll be back to highlight my top book pics for EMPATHY.

See my other choices for C.A.R.E.S. books.

RESPONSIBILITY  (You are here now)

EMPATHY (coming)


Once again, leave me a comment to discuss these books or let me know your favorites for teaching responsibility.  

I'd appreciate it if you sent this link to anyone new teacher friends or someone looking to expand their classroom library to include more social skills books.