Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kindness Matters!

"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." ~Scott Adams (1957)

Ripple effect on water
Water Drop ~Explored by Sergiu Bacioiu licensed under C.C by 2.0

What are the most important things you want your students to know? -- How to write a multiple-paragraph persuasive essay? How to solve a multiple step mathematical equation? What about identifying the unique characteristics of each region in the USA? Or, how about carefully & accurately recording the results of a science experiment? How about creating & sharing a book talk based on their latest chosen independent book?

These are all things that I want my 4th graders to know. But, even more importantly, are these things that I want them to understand:
*how to be kind
*how to be a friend
*how to work as a team
*how to show empathy to others
*how to respect & celebrate differences
*how to be persistent in dealing with challenges

In an earlier post, I mentioned that this would be my mission: a kindness campaign to help my students understand the value of kindness and in turn show that to others.

With more ideas than I can even wrap my head around, I've decided to set up an outline plan of how I intend to implement "KINDNESS MATTERS" in the classroom this year.

**I was so thrilled to do a GHO (Google +Hangout) with Jena Ball & Marty Keltz a few weeks ago. They have offered to work with me & my team on a project. Using literature (including Meet the Mutts and Lead with Your Heart both by Jena Ball) we will listen to & read stories as well as do PBL using blogs, Pinterest, local animal shelters, and more. I can't wait to see where the students take this. Check out the CritterKin website and CritterKin Pinterest pages for more info about what they do. After planning this project I was able to get a class set of Lead with Your Heart books thanks to some great people that donated money for a Donors Choose project I submitted. In the spirit of kindness and "passing it on" I donated some $ to another educator's book project.

**The book Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a piece of literature that will be a key story in my effort to show my students that "different is special" and the spirit of kindness and understanding can go a long way.

**A few favorite books I've used before and will fit nicely into this unit:
      The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
      Every Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

**Many of the book suggestions from Pernille Ripp's (@PernilleRipp) blog post about her students' favorite picture books were found to be perfect pieces of literature to integrate into my kindness unit. You can read her blog, "Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension" at, and this specific post here. A few picture books I chose to use from her list include:
      Pete & Pickles - a cute story about a pig & elephant that have a special relationship. This will be good for showing how to value your friends and include others that are different from you.
      Zero - a story about how zero feels compared to the other numbers. This book shows how you can add value when joining together with others.
      Spoon -a story that shows how spoon feels less important than the other utensils. Good book for showing how everyone has unique abilities and should love the way they are.
      The Invisible Boy - a story about a boy that feels invisible in his classroom. This will be an excellent story to share how leaving others out might make them feel & as well as how including someone can change their whole perspective.
      Bluebird - this unique "wordless" story is about a bluebird and a boy. It's touching without even including a single word and gives you a sense of kindness and friendship.


**The fourth grade classes at my school will be packaging meals for Meals from the Heartland's Annual Hunger Fight during their August 27-30, 2014 event at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. This is an annual "first field trip of the fall" for our fourth graders and has been for several years. It's an opportunity to bond as a team and to do something that helps others. The two-hour shift goes by quickly with lots to do a "cheers" every time a box is filled.

This video will give you an idea of what the students do to
package meals that help our state, country, and world.

**RAK - (Random Acts of Kindness) - anywhere, anytime. I want to extend the idea of RAK and make sure my students know that it can happen anytime, not just when we usually emphasize it in February. Tamara Letter (@HCPSTinyTech) has a blog, "Celebrate Kindness", with incredible stories of RAK. I encourage you to read some of her posts - you can help but smile. The people that do the right thing are often gifted with the blessing of being in the right place at the right time.

**Kindness through Writing Projects - Writing is always more meaningful when it's in an authentic context. I was inspired by Derek Bezeau (@MrBezeau) and his blog post about his 4th grade students. They were given a chance to participate in a writing contest about the opportunity to give $100 to a charity. Even though only one child was able to win, the rest of the class still wrote to their chosen charities. The outcome was very touching. I think this helps students know that there are others that need our kindness and generosity.

**I was inspired by Andy Smallman (@kindnessandy), who is the founder and school director of Puget Sound Community School. The following video shows how he built a school on the concept of kindness and integrates ideas of appreciation and gratitude into the school's plan. This is so AWESOME. I especially love how some of the students wrote notes & left them in places such as library books. I think leaving kind notes in other students' desks, books, cubbies, or lockers could be little bits of kindness that could spread a long way. Thanks Greg Armamentos (@dashthebook) for mentioning Andy and his work.

Puget Sound Community School

**Morning Meeting (or afternoon): I think briefly meeting as a class to discuss issues & learn about each other is a great start to building our community of learners. Simply sharing how we've observed kindness, respect, & friendship could start a positive discussion.

**Kindness Quotes - choosing quotes to share with students on the topic of kindness is a great idea for think-pair-share, quick writes, and idea brainstorming.

**Kindness Corner -(I did a small version of this on a chart paper last year). Have an area set up where students can share something kind that someone has done for them, positive comments about each other, and news stories about kind acts.

Other Kindness Resources: and and @TBKtobekind "To Be Kind" is an anti-bullying organization that focuses on being kind. I like their daily challenges on Facebook. I was introduced to this organization by Adam Sherman (@AShermanEDU). Check out links for "Be Kind Breaks" & Kindness Ideas "Dance for Kindness" on November 9, 2014 & other ideas

Thanks for reading ~ I know this was a bunch of thoughts and ideas, but it was important for me to think through the ideas I had found so far this summer before school begins. There were many more connections and posts I didn't mention here that will probably find their way into my kindness plan this year.

In the meantime, work hard and be kind - it matters, and so do YOU. #YouMatter


  1. I want to be a student in your class! This is going to be an awsome foundation that will guide these kids for the rest of their lives! You are blessing people, by teaching them to bless others.

  2. WOW! What fantastic ideas. I will definitely be looking into some of the things you mentioned, Jen. Funny--I spent the morning yesterday reading about the Bucket Filling Idea.
    There's so much great stuff out there and it sounds like you will be building a fantastic community of learners/friends/classmates. I want to be in your class, too! Great post.

  3. I love, love, love your ideas . . . beautiful! I want my children in your class. :) I may be borrowing a few of them myself.