Monday, January 1, 2018

THROW KINDNESS

I don't know about you, but the popular quote "Throw Kindness around like Confetti" speaks to my soul! Kindness, by definition is "the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate." These are all attributes that I strive to show to others both inside and outside of my classroom. Incorporating the theme of kindness into my classroom this year was a no-brainer for me, but I wanted to do it in a fun way that also incorporated my teacher style. Throwing a little confetti into the picture adds a fun, party-like, whimsical charm. Building and fostering a community of kindness, friendship, consideration, and fun in my classroom is so important to me. I strive to let each individual know and feel that they are valued, not only by me, but by one another. Today, I'm sharing one of my favorite community building activities that I start on the first day of school and build on throughout the year. Something I love about this activity is that you could start it in your classroom tomorrow! It requires little prep, but the impact is lasting. 

*The activity that I'm sharing with you today is based on an activity my cooperating teachers shared with me during my student teaching. Over time, I've tweaked it and made it into what I'm sharing with you today. I hope that you are inspired by my activity (as I was by theirs) and use it in a way that compliments your teaching style and your kids.



It all starts with a blank canvas. I took an empty space in my room and added the simple phrase "Throw Kindness like Confetti." I LOVE this freebie from Especially Education. It is so clean and bright and beautiful and added a wonderful pop to my "naked" wall. Don't fret, my wall didn't stay this blank for too long.

To kick-start this activity I had my 5th Graders sit on the carpet and read the beloved classic "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein to them. After the story was finished, I had students turn to an 'elbow partner' and share their overall thoughts and feelings of the book. After students had the opportunity to share in a smaller group setting, we came back together as a class and I pointed out the bright kindness quote. I then asked students what they thought that quote meant and asked them to share with partners. Having discussed both pieces separately, I then asked students to make connections between the quote and the story that we had just read. I was a little nervous to see how a "high rigor" activity would go over towards the end of the first day of school, but our classroom was electric. I could see leaders emerging at the different table groups, willing to share their thinking with others. But even the more quiet students were eager to connect kindness, confetti, and the Shel Silverstein classic. We came back together as a class and I asked students to share out. One of the most endearing responses shared was from a young man who said, "Confetti is really messy, but in a good way. If we give to others like the tree did, we can make the world messy with kindness and happiness. Like confetti it will be really hard to clean up when we start spreading it everywhere." After I gave several students the opportunity to share their thinking and build on one another, I introduced a tangible way for us to start spreading kindness around. 

Each student in class received a piece of confetti. The instructions were to choose a classmate, write them a short message of encouragement/appreciation/kindness, and deliver it. I let the students know that on our first go around, not everyone would receive one, but that over the course of the year we would continue this activity and eventually all students will receive multiple confetti pieces. We also talked about how good it feels to give (whether or not you receive something in return), just like the tree in our book. The electricity in the air shifted as students channeled their excitement into the words that they were writing down for a fellow classmate. I walked around and observed students writing to kids that they had just barely met a few hours before, taking the time to write an intentional note of kindness. 

After students had received and read their confetti pieces I collected them all and that's when the physical transformation began. Our wall went from a blank space, to a tangible reminder of the kindness that was being spread. 


Throughout the year, we've continued this activity. I typically pass out confetti strips every two weeks or so. I like to mix it up each time. Sometimes I let students choose who they would like to write to (but I remind them that it should be a different person than who they've written to before), other times I have written out the names of each student on a strip of confetti and let students grab one (or passed them out randomly), and sometimes I'll pass out two blank pieces so they can spread a little extra kindness. 

Something that is so sweet about this activity is actually watching the confetti "explode" more and more throughout the year. My students LOVE it and often are the ones who ask to do it and remind me to pass out strips. I've placed in a few gold glitter pieces (because why not) but mostly this space full of kind, thoughtful, generous words. 


I have seen this activity build community in my classroom right before my very eyes! Students have branched out and made new connections based on a kind comment that they received from another student that opened their eyes to the possibility of a new friendship. This kindness exercise has challenged my students to get to know one another on a deeper level so they can give more than just a generic compliment when filling out a confetti strip. I've never heard a student complain about not receiving a note, but I've heard several students comment on how good it feels to tell someone else "how awesome that they are." Just like the sweet tree we read about on the first day of school, my students are looking for ways that they can give to others and encourage them, which in turn makes them feel happy.

You really could start this simple activity at any point during the school year. I could see this working in any grade level, and I've even done a similar activity with staff at my school. 
I would love to hear how this inspires you to throw kindness around like confetti in your classroom. Please share your results in the comments below!




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