Compliment Jar

Creating a sense of community is important in the classroom (and in our individual families).  During the year, I helped foster our classroom community through compliments, having a servant's heart towards helping each other, and writing thank you notes to outside helpers.  

I also wanted to give my students a unique end of the year gift.  Like all of you, I don't have much spare time and couldn't devote the hours to the lovely projects out there in Pinterestland!  I turned to technology and created word shapes filled with the compliments of each other.  

During the last 2 weeks of school, I introduced the Compliment Jar!  Actually it was not a jar, but a lovely empty Kleenex box....!  (I came up with the idea kind've quickly, and grabbed what I could find!!!)  I filled a separate bin with cut up scraps of paper for students to use.  It wasn't fancy, but it was the compliments that counted!  I told my students to think of a fellow student and write down a compliment on a piece of paper and fold it into the box.  They were to include the person's name, but NOT their own name.  It was more fun to be anonymous.  As a bonus, I found out which boy was "cute"!

Then during the last week of school, I led the class into a group compliment session.  I gave each student a paper with their classmate's names and instructed them to write a couple of words to describe that classmate next to the classmate's name.  I helped them a bit, writing some examples onto the board.  I told them they couldn't use the same word for every person...and it had to be encouraging and nice.  :)

After awhile, my students asked if they could include my name on their paper.  That touched my heart!  

I collected papers and the Compliment Jar slips and entered the key character words into a site called "wordle".  The words are saved into practically any shape/color you want.  I printed them, signed my name, the date, and our school's name, and placed them into page protectors.  On the last day of school, I called each student up to give them their gift and compliment them in front of their peers.  It was moving and a gift they will hopefully treasure for years to come.  I know some of the students were going to rush home and frame them!

Here is the my wordle from the student's kind words:

It's in the shape of an apple and I had each student sign it for me.  To make it simple (and to decrease any disappointment in the children), I created every one in the same color palette   I made every girl's into a heart shape and every boy's into the United States.  

Here's a link to try it for yourself: wordle

Children and reading

I've been running through my first year teaching, sprinting to the end, and I am now pausing to catch my breath.  School was out 3 weeks ago and I have packed up my classroom (summer school was NOT an option for me, and my room will be used), remodeled my bedroom and family room, and spent time with my kiddos relaxing at the neighborhood pool.  My youngest talked me into buying a family pass and I now know he is a genius.  Let's see, my children can burn energy and enjoy their childhood while trained professionals keep them from drowning, AND I can bring my ever growing stack of books to leisurely read while I even get some badly needed sun?  :)

Oh yes, children and reading~ why are children not reading?  There is no passion.  There are other things to steal their time and children do not see the value in books.  Yes, there are those rare book addicts, but as a general rule, children read in school to get their grade, get by, and move on.  I want more than that for them.  

At the beginning of the year, I introduced the "book shelf" to my students.  This was a living bulletin board that was to run around the entire perimeter of our room.  The rule was simple: every time a student read a book (anywhere), they were to fill out a "book spine" that included the title of the book and the student's name.  The students were motivated and thrilled.  Their goal was to not only cover our room, but to leak out into the hall, showing the entire school their reading strengths....!  :)

Here is an close up of a section of our book shelf:

My read-alouds to the class were also put up on the wall; the students simply insisted!

As the year progressed, more and more books were read....(including students who were not "officially" in my class, but who were with me for a couple of weeks at a time...they wanted to read and join in the fun!)

Here is where it ended.  We counted over 250 books!  Quite an accomplishment!  Keep in mind, I work in a remedial math and reading school for students who are behind in a normal school setting.  I had a classroom library filled to the brim with over a thousand books, and I created time during the day to simply read.  During independent reading, I let them read anywhere in the room.  I would confer with them about reading, answer questions, and simply let them be.  If we are to teach the importance of reading, yet not allow ample class time to read, what messages are we sending?

Along those lines, I have fallen in love with a new book which is validating my thinking regarding children and reading:

Have you read it?  You must.  It's an easy read.  Curl up on your favorite chair, grab a pencil to mark up all those great points/ideas, and enjoy.  It will inspire you to allow your students to simply read.  Instruct them too, absolutely, but let them choose books and step into the world of adventure.

Video of my class