Tag Archive | Responsive Classroom

I Didn’t Realize

Inevitably, each school year this pops up, and when it does I love the teachable moment it provides.  We were walking outside the other day and a kiddo came to me, upset that another kiddo waved his skyball in his face.  I was talking with the upset kiddo and he said he felt like the other kiddo was picking on him; rubbing in the fact that he couldn’t play skyball that day.

I do a lot of work with kiddos around I Statements and was working with him to word his feelings in this way so that he would be ready to chat and express his thoughts.  Once he very proudly stated, “It really hurt my feelings when you rubbed the skyball in my face because I can’t play today.”  The other little guy stopped and looked at him, stating, “I didn’t realize that.  I was just so excited that I got a skyball I wanted to show it to you!”

After that they had a brief conversation about the awesomeness of skyballs, and then I stopped them for a quick chat.  I said something like this, “You know guys, I just realized something.  Jack, you were upset because you felt like Cordell was picking on you for not being able to play skyball.  And Cordell you were excited to get the skyball and wanted to share that with your friend, but didn’t realize it would hurt his feelings.  You know, sometimes we do things, and without meaning to we hurt someone else’s feelings.  Sometimes we just don’t know what is going on with someone else, how they feel, and we don’t know how our actions are going to effect them.  This is a really important reason why we need to talk to each other.”

Both kiddos thanked me when we were done chatted and happily ran down the stairs together.  I truly do love moments like these, because it shows kiddos how necessary dialogue is.  Dialogue like this encourages them to be honest while being kind.  In the end, both parties demonstrate empathy and are empowered.  In addition, the more we can help kids work through misunderstandings like these the more trust we build and they know that they can come to us for anything.


Shower Keyboarding

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but can’t (click the picture to see it in action).  I saw it somewhere about ten years ago and have been using it ever since. I love that it not only teaches kiddos how to use a keyboard, but they can move around the board and practice spelling while doing so! I know that so many kiddos can just do the real thing on a computer, phone, or tablet, but for me it’s about the movement. Below are what I can remember of creating this.

  1. cut a shower curtain in half
  2. measure out 5 equal rows
  3. mark out the keys; the space bar is equivalent to 5 letters & others are equivalent to 2 letter key
  4. outline the keys in chisel point permanent marker
  5. label each key in chisel point permanent marker
  6. store in giant Ziploc bag, after folding flat

If kiddos have to keep their shoes on when using this, make sure they understand that they need to walk on it. If they can go barefoot, they can hop around from key to key and it will still in tact. I’ve used it for kiddos to practice spelling, collaboration skills, Morning Meeting Activity, and for kiddos who need a bit of extra movement in their day.

Two other ideas, that the kiddos brought up today were to also make a calculator to practice facts and a clock to practice time.  For the clock, their arms become the hour hand and their legs become the minute hand.  I’ve done this with hula hoops in the past and they love contorting themselves to tell the correct time!

Tech Fail

“Boys and girls, today we are going to explore the app Talking Tom Cat, an app that we’ll be able to use often.  I bet some of you are familiar with this app.  What do you know about the app?”  And so began my well-planned Guided Discovery.  Until we discovered that, after an hour and a half, the app had only downloaded on a handful of the iPods.  Although I had wanted my students to explore this app, I quickly provided them with another option, to explore Doodle Buddy.  Again it was only downloaded on a few iPods, and the disappointment was growing amongst my students.

Tech fails happen.  The wireless can shut down or slow down.  Access can suddenly be blocked.  Batteries can die in the midst of an engaging project.And when it does, I have found a few things helpful.  Remain calm.  Having integrated technology into my classroom for a number of years now, one thing I have come to expect is that it rarely goes as planned.    “Boys and girls, it looks like it’s taking a while to download on the devices.  That’s okay.  Let’s take a look at Doodle Buddy.”  Remaining calms shows our students that we can not only expect the unexpected, but that we can beyond a disappointment and try something else. It’s good to have a backup plan, but even if you don’t you can still try something else.  On this particular day I chose Doodle Buddy.  It would have provided me with a slight alteration in how I was going to provide the choices that day, but what can you do?

Not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but…when all else fails let them play“Okay everyone, there must be a problem with the wireless, and we won’t be able to do what was planned today.  We will try again tomorrow.  In the meantime, explore one app that has gone unnoticed before and be ready to share about it.”  I have discovered over the years that once a huge tech disappointment has occurred, no matter how calm you remain, it can create problems throughout the day.  The kiddos just had this expectation to be working with tech, you got them all pumped up about it, and now you’re going to rip it out of their hands?  All it takes is one to two minutes for them to explore something else and an additional three to five for them to share.  In the end they feel fulfilled and they were able to become the new expert in the class on a particular application.  Not to mention that they have now added to their “I’m done, now what?” list!

Thankfully, the next day Talking Tom Cat downloaded on 90% of the devices and the children were able to produce their multiplication stories. Talking Tom Cat was a choice, but they all choose to use it.  It provided a great opportunity for us to talk about everything that I had initially planned in the Guided Discovery.  Not to mention the conversations we had about fluency and rate.  This app has now become something the kiddos use to create videos for themselves: they read their multiplication facts into it & listen to them repeatedly.  It may be lower level on Bloom’s but, it is making a difference for those who have chosen to do this!

Talking Tom


Does this face look familiar? It may as it is one of the most popular apps on the iPhone or iPod. I know it from my nephew who uses it to say silly things and once in a while slap it around or pull his tail. Because of this I never considered using it in the classroom. Too violent. But, scrolling through my tweets, and then downloading and reading a suggested book about using apps to encourage higher level thinking I changed my mind. The ladies at Appy Hours for You made me realize how beneficial it was. I did not realize that the speaking you do could be recorded and then shared with others! How beneficial!

Once the app was downloaded on all of the devices (a future post coming about that) a Guided Discovery followed. Because of the possible cruel nature of the app I knew that it would be important to do. The kiddos noticed a great deal of what the app could do: record, repeat what you say, feed Tom milk, Tom scratching claws and more. A few important things came up during the sharing of our Guided Discovery. One thing we had a quick chat about was advertisements. There are advertisements at the top of the app for similar products. We talked about how this is common in free applications and the goal was for the developers to make money.

An important conversation we had was about the option of slapping Tom and pulling his tail. One of my students said, “You can slap Tom in the face.” So I asked, what does he do when you do that? They stated that his head goes back and he makes a face. I replied that it sounded like he didn’t like being slapped too much. I then reminded them of our Twittequette and the part that says, ‘Be honest, positive, and kind’ and asked them if we would be following our Twittequette by slapping Tom. They agreed that it would be unkind and that if we slapped him we would not be following it, but one kiddo said, ‘Yeah, but you can do it.’ I loved this comment! Here’s how I responded, “You are right we can do it. There are a lot of things we can do in life if we choose to. We can also hit the people in our lives, but is that the kind thing to do?”. They understood and when we went to use it, they were all kind to Tom. Some pouring milk for him to drink. Once they were using it, they realized that another kind thing you could do was pet Tom and that he showed his appreciation for that by purring.

After the Guided Discovery, which lasted about ten minutes, the kiddos used the application to record one of the multiplication stories they created the day before while playing a game. It may sound redundant to have them record the stories after that, but my intention was that the more they say it, read it, write it, the more the story structure becomes a part of their repertoire. There stories are posted here. Please check them out. As my husband said, “They are really cute.”


Having worked in a variety of customer service jobs I know how hard it can be to be cheery when there is a continuous flow of disgruntled and just plain grumpy and crotchety folks.  It doesn’t matter how rude a customer was, I had to be kind.  Or what type of nastiness a customer unleashed on me the day or week before I had to be kind the next time I saw them.  

But what I know is that being in a position that requires you to be cheery and smile (no matter what) does something to you. 

For one, smiling and being friendly all day makes it really hard to be upset about the small things.  Being friendly to others helps them be friendly to you.  And if you have a tremendous amount of friendly interactions in a day, every day, every week…well then things appear to be rosier and you are in turn a more cheerful person.  Not to mention your upbeat attitude most likely brightened someone else’s day.

Imagine what our students’ lives would be like if we set and expected this model in our classrooms?  lmagine what the world would be like if everyone behaved like this everyday? Try it and see.

Tattling, Telling, and Teaching

Kiddos will come up to adults at all times of the day stating various wrong doings of others that may range from minor to severe.  So many, including children, view this is as tattling.  Over these last two years I have given this serious thought, and I disagree with this label.  Other people’s feelings and/or perceptions are real and need to be valued.  Outside of fear of retaliation, children often don’t tell anyone because they don’t believe anyone will listen to them.  Why would kiddos think someone would listen to them if they shared an unkindness towards them?  So often they are told to get over it, do something else, or ignore the problem.
We need to teach children how to be assertive.  No one deserves to be treated unkindly.  Teaching children how to use I Statements and engage in reflective listening will help them kindly assert their social-emotional needs.  It also creates a safe way for the child being unkind to hear the impact of his/her words and/or actions.  Books that I enjoy using to engage children in conversations about assertion include Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and Mean Jean the Recess Queen.  Each has a simple message and is told in a fun relevant way.  Rich conversations always ensue about how to treat others and what to do when unkindness ensues.  My teachable moment is then created and I can teach my students how to use I Statements.

About I Statements and Reflective Listening… They are difficult for kiddos to do independently without a lot of modeling, coaching, and support.  BUT well worth the time and effort.  They empower children to own their feelings by naming them and recognizing what their limits are.  Not to mention how valued they feel when their classmate hears what upset them and why.  Also, it provides a way for children to understand their behavior, or reactions.  Over time they come to realize that snatching a pencil out of someone’s hand because of something that happened an hour/day/week ago in an unhealthy way of releasing anger.

If a child comes up to me to tell me about an unkindness and I don’t have the time to listen right then I say, “I want to hear what you have to say, but I am unable to listen to you right now.  I will make sure to get to you by _____ (and give them a time frame).”  This does a couple of things.  First, it lets them know that I value them.  Second, it gives them time to reflect.  This is invaluable because often times, by the time I am able to talk with them, they were able to utilize a strategy that I have taught them (I statements, ways to agree), they have deemed it unimportant, or they have had time to calm down which allows them to be more objective.

About making the time to listen.  I do just that.  Sometimes I will thank them for telling me, particularly if I can tell it was a difficult thing for them to do.  I help the children work through it.  This may mean helping them articulate their feelings.  Often I can be heard saying, “It sounds like you are feeling _______.”   It may mean helping them understand the situation, “It sounds like ____ was upset about _______ and _______ reacted to _______.”  But most often it means helping them talk to the other person.  At the beginning of the school year kiddos expect me to ‘chew out’ another kiddo for what they have said or done.  As the year goes on, they request that I help them talk to the other person.


There are numerous reasons why children lose control.  And there are times when children lose control as a group. Adults monitoring or working with an out of control group have many proactive strategies available to them that may include interactive modeling, engaging content, and clear expectations.  For those times when that seems not to be working there are alternatives to threats and screaming.

I have found myself in situtaions where I walk in and my students  are screaming, running around, or doing other off-task behavior in the presence of an adult.  When this happens, the best thing to do is to immediately stop the misbehavior. This can be tricky because I am one who does not like stepping on the toes of another adult.  However, the most important thing is to help the children regain their self control.

During these times a strategy I use is redirection.  If I walk in and find my students engaging in off-task behavior that clearly demonstrates they are our of confrol I give a clear direction for them to do something else.  That may be to sit down or come to the rug.  It may be to take out a book to read.  I may even begin singing a relaxing song and get them to join in.  None of these are rewards. And none are punishments.  Because my goal is to stop misbehavior and help them regain their self control and engaging them in a calm task will help to do this.