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Top 5 Friday: Records, animals, smiley faces, and more

Well, it’s not Friday anymore, but I promise I have a good reason for not finishing my Top 5 post finished two days ago! After school on Friday, I zoomed to the airport to fly out to meet my niece for the first time. We’ve been bonding ever since, and even though she’s wailing in the photo below, I like to think she’s crying tears of joy at meeting her favorite aunt.

Let’s get to five of the many great things that happened in Love Hall last week:

5. Record-breaking swimming success: The culmination of the swimming units for Third, Fourth, and Fifth Graders in P.E. is one of the most exciting times of the year. At the Third Grade meet, the excitement was worth the slight hearing loss due to the constant cheers (screams). Two Pre-First classes made the trek to Turner to watch their buddies participate in relays and individual events. We saw history made! McKinley Bandy and Nyvette Gray’s student, Cate, broke the record for the Girls 25 Yard Butterfly. The record had been in place since 1985! Way to go, Cate!


Can you hear the cheers/screams echoing? Third Graders have so much spirit!

Cate, our Third Grade record breaker

4. Wildcats, horses, and chickens: I learned a lot about Westminster by reading this blog post by Pre-First teachers Kimberly Rimmer and Jennifer Griffith. Assistant Headmaster Scoot Dimon visited with students to share the history of our school, how we became the Wildcats, why we enjoy Coke products, and lots of information about the rich family history of Westminster. Also, First Grade teacher Andrea Haan visited with the students to tell them all about Cluck Hall!

3. GOAL: A great highlight of the week was the launching of GOAL groups. So much time, careful thought, and detailed planning went into creating the groups of students receiving small group instruction. We’ve had two meetings so far, and the students in my group have shown compassion for each other, self-reflection skills, a genuine interest in the materials we’ll use throughout our sessions, and a sense of humor. If you have questions about your child’s GOAL group, email your child’s homeroom teachers.

2. Chalk time: If you’ve walked through Carpool A and the garden, you’ve noticed the chalk drawings decorating the area. Members of the Kindness Club spent Tuesday afternoon adorning the concrete with happy messages and pictures so that the first thing people see when they arrive at Love Hall is love! Some of the First Graders created a game in which one can step only on the smiley faces on the stairs, avoiding the frowny faces.

KC chalk game 10-6-15

A new game: Step only on the smiley faces! Avoid the frowny ones!

KC chalk 10-6-15

Happy chalk drawing!


When the message is encouragement and love, we’re not sticklers for correct spelling

1. An honor for one of Westminster’s finest: Did you see the announcement in the Weekly Parent Update about the one and only Nancy Beane? Mrs. Beane, Westminster’s wonderful Associate Director of College Counseling, recently was named president-elect of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Here’s another article about this exciting announcement.

Happy long weekend! Teachers and staff will be at school on Tuesday, and students will return on Wednesday. Enjoy the extra time together!


Curriculum night video

If you missed PF-2nd Grade Curriculum Night (like I did!), here’s the 3-minute video parents watched during their SEL/Guidance and Bible Values rotation, 45 seconds of bloopers included. No one’s perfect, right? Enjoy!

Proud Pre-Firsters!

In our Pre-First classes, we’re reflecting on how much academic, personal, and social growth the students have experienced this year. The students are proud of their work — especially learning how to read and write! And they should be proud! It’s nice to be proud of ourselves when we’ve reached a goal, accomplished a difficult task, or shown kindness toward others. There is a difference between being humbly proud of ourselves and bragging, and we’ve examined that distinction.

Check out these students’ proud accomplishments. Way to go, Pre-First!


Reading, writing, and problem solving


Being a good friend, loving my mom, and reading Pigeon books


Great athletic feats!


He’s proud of himself for: not to make a mess and to be nice and to be respectful and to be good and last to be a BFF…. but also, he learned to be helpful!


Someone loves to read…


This student is outwardly-focused (and knows that Ms. Strother loves great manners!)

Good sportsmanship in Pre-First

In our recent Pre-First classroom lessons, the students learned about and demonstrated good sportsmanship. We watched a short video/animated book on called “Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Sportsmanship” in which Howard initially displays terrible sportsmanship. He cheats in a card game, calls his teammates ugly names when they make mistakes, talks back to his soccer coach, and trips another runner in a relay. Yikes! Also, he thinks that winning is the most important part of the game. He’s dissatisfied with anything but a first place trophy. Howard’s negative attitude and behavior affects his teammates. The students and I agreed that we wouldn’t want to be on a team with a kid like Howard.

Howard’s soccer coach sits him out of the game, and Howard sees his teammates having a great time when he’s not playing. They treat everyone with respect, share the ball, and have fun. Finally, he realizes he has displayed bad sportsmanship and vows to turn things around. Coach allows him to rejoin the game, and Howard shares the ball and accepts the team’s second place trophy with a positive attitude. A happy ending!

After the video, we reviewed Howard’s tips for sportsmanship and what a good team player does.


What does a good team player do?

To put their sportsmanship skills into action, students engaged in games during a follow-up lesson. Some of the games we played were horseshoes, block tower building, and ball relays. Students also practiced high-fiving opposing teams. For some students, it was challenging to discern how much to cheer for their own team before it sounded like bragging. “We shouldn’t say our team is the best,” offered one Pre-First girl, “because then how would the other team feel?” Sportsmanship and empathy at work!

horseshoe measuring in prefirst for sportsmanship

Green team won this round by .25″!

horseshoe action shot for prefirst sportsmanship

Red team action shot

It's a true ringer for the Green team!

It’s a true ringer for the Green team!

serious teamwork

serious teamwork

Our block tower falling down -- let's build it again quickly!

Our block tower is falling down — let’s build it again quickly!

sportsmanship high fives in prefirst

High-fiving the other team — great job, everyone!

Hey Little Ant in Pre-First

In our recent Pre-First lessons, we read Hey Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose, a father-daughter team. (Hannah was just nine years old when she and her dad wrote the book!) After raising topics such as empathy, point of view, and peer pressure through fun, rhyming lyrics, the book ends with a question: “What do you think the kid should do?” Pre-First students wrote and illustrated their own endings to the story. What did they think should happen at the end? Should the ant get squished? Should the ant go free? What if the kid were in the ant’s shoes… what would the kid want the ant to do? Students were free to write the endings they wished. Some chose an ending in which the ant would be squished; most chose endings in which the ant lived to see another day. See below for diverse endings from Mrs. Dick and Mrs. Widness’ class!

ant 3

“I think that the kid should not smush the ant because they can go on a plane.”

ant 2

“The ant should go free.”

ant 1

“I think the ant should not get squished and the kid should buy the ant a remote control car!”

ant 6

“I think the boy should go to the movies with the ant.”

ant 4

“I think the ant should get squished.”

ant 5

“The kid should not squish the ant because ants are sweet. They should go to outer space.”

Prejudice lessons in Pre-First

A year ago, Pre-First through Second Grades heard the story of Froggy, a frog who makes an error in judgment by refusing to entertain the idea of getting to know Begonia Skunk and her family — just because they’re skunks. Froggy’s being prejudiced against Begonia. It’s a good thing that Rachel Rabbit and Begonia help Froggy see that his actions and beliefs not only are unfair but also are keeping him from befriending a really great potential playmate!

To introduce this year’s Pre-Firsters to Froggy and talk about prejudice, we used the story, three puppets, and a worksheet. Skin color was the most obvious connection for the students, especially when making connections to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but we also discussed prejudice against people with disabilities and other differences. To complete the worksheet, students made the connection between the beautiful array of skin colors that we see at Westminster and all over the world and the beautiful colors of a rainbow. A rainbow isn’t one color or two colors; our skin colors aren’t either. Students were encouraged to color their rainbows as wildly beautiful as they desired. See some of their unique creations below!

prejudice picstitch 2

Colorful rainbows — take note of social media references in the bottom left

prejudice picstitch 1

Colorful rainbows — see child using a wheelchair on the bottom right; the student who drew this said, “I drew a girl in a wheelchair because I would always try to be friends with everyone, especially if they might feel different.”


Shredding negative thoughts in First and Second Grades

“You’re lazy.”
“You’re unhealthy.”
“Your child isn’t as successful as his friends.”
“You’re not as successful as your friends.”
“Your marriage isn’t as good as other Westminster parents’ marriages.”
“You’ll never get anywhere if you keep that up.”
“You’ll never get promoted.”

It’s no wonder that a Google search for “negative thoughts” produces 3,920,000 results. Search for “negative self-talk” and you’ll be looking at 440,000 hits. Everyone battles powerful negative thoughts throughout the day. They change our mood, motivation, actions, and eventually results we see in our lives. Aren’t they exhausting? Instead of attempting to block all negative thoughts, acknowledge a negative thought when it pops into your head — and then refuse to give it power. Don’t believe it. Counter it, disprove it, reframe it, “shred” it.

To practice this “shredding” in our First and Second Grade counseling classes this week, students wrote their negative thoughts on pieces of paper and then happily fed them to my paper shredder. Students had the option of showing their papers to me privately before shredding. Below are some of the heartbreaking thoughts students wrote:
“You are bad.”
“You make your mom cry because you are bad.”
“You’re dumb.”
“You are the slowest reader in your class.”
“You’re the slowest runner in the whole grade.”
“You are bad at sports.”
“You read baby books.”
“You act like a teenager.”
“You will never be good at math.”
“You will never have a best friend.”

We wish that the shredding permanently erased the possibility of the thoughts returning, but we know that they might creep in again. Students will work to acknowledge and then take power away from the thoughts when they come. During our next class, we’ll focus on reframing negative thoughts into positive ones.




Bright Wishes in Pre-First

Beautiful bulletin boards abound in Love Hall! A very sweet display outside of Mrs. Griffith and Mrs. Rimmer’s classroom is pictured below. The teachers asked the students to draw and write about something that they wanted for Christmas or other holiday they celebrate, but it couldn’t be a toy, game or other object for themselves. See their bright wishes below!

Griffith/Rimmer hallway bulletin board

GR bulletin board 1

“I wish sick people would feel good.”

“I wish everyone had a jacket.”

“I wish peace to the earth.”

“I wish all children would have a home.”

October lesson recap

October was such a fun month of classroom lessons! Here is what happened in First and Second Grade:

Students impressed me greatly in our follow-up lessons to the first “Tuned In” activity (click here to read about the first activity). We played a group game where the students stood in a circle and gently tossed a ball to each other without speaking. Eventually we added a ball so that two were going simultaneously. Girls had to “tune out” the boys and toss the ball only to girls, whisper-counting how many catches in row they made before the ball hit the ground. Boys had to do the same thing, tuning out the girls. (After one class I figured out that whisper-counting instead of “ONE! TWO! THREE!! FOUR!!” made for a much more enjoyable experience for all.)

During the next lesson, all students took turns but worked together to play this Memory/Concentration-type game on the SmartBoard. Instead of the game displaying pictures when a card was pressed, a word such as “Bart,” “bet,” “bait,” or “bite” was said aloud. One by one, students went to the board to try to find a match. All students had to remain as quiet as possible, tuning in with their eyes, ears, and brains to the sound and location of each card. I was genuinely impressed by some of the students’ memories for locations of the cards!

GGMThen, we worked during two classes on being tuned in to each other in order to have a fair, balanced conversation. My friend and fellow school counselor, Anthony Pearson, wrote a book of classroom guidance lessons called Guidance with Good Measure, and my favorite lesson is called “Teeter Talking.” Anthony compares a fair, balanced conversation between two people to a fair, balanced, fun time on a seesaw/teeter-totter. No one on the teeter-totter wants to be the one sitting on the ground (listening, never being able to share) while someone else is having a great time up in the air (talking and talking!). That’s a one-sided conversation, and it’s not fun. There will be times in life when two friends sit together, one talking/sharing more than the other, but in rotating pairs around the room, our First and Second Graders simply practiced the art of talking back and forth and asking each other questions.

When I asked, “What did you like about this activity?” students shared that they enjoyed learning about each other. “I never knew I had the same favorite game as the person who stands right in front of me in line!” shared one Second Grade girl. “We both love Battleship!” When I asked, “What did you dislike about the activity?” I was initially disheartened to see many hands go up. The overwhelming response, though, was, “I didn’t like that we didn’t have more time to do this! I wanted to practice teeter-talking to everyone in the class!”

In our Pre-First classes, students have been working on increasing their emotional vocabulary. Wouldn’t it be easier to discern how children really feel if they used additional vocabulary words to describe their emotions? Everyone knows “happy, sad, mad,” so why not spice things up with “ecstatic, miserable, and furious”? What about disappointed, stubborn, hopeful, embarrassed, joyful, frightened/afraid, confident, confused, jealous, worried, proud, frustrated, cranky, impatient, and relieved? Parents, try using a variety of feeling words in everyday conversations to model this for your child.

After working on learning and expressing these words, students were entertained by a few short videos from Sesame Street. Before telling them where the videos are from, I assure them that I’ll never show them “baby videos.” “I don’t need to show you a video about counting to ten or learning the alphabet! I’ll show you videos that are for older kids. Babies wouldn’t understand these videos, but you can get the meanings because you’re older.” Once the kids are convinced that they’re going to watch age-appropriate videos, I tell them the videos are from Sesame Street, and they’re usually accepting. Students who complain at the beginning are mesmerized halfway through the first video, though. 🙂

Also, to avoid advertisements and suggested videos by YouTube, I copy and paste all YouTube links into, save them to my laptop bookmarks, and have them ready when class begins. Here are five videos that I’ve shown in Pre-First:
– Jon Hamm and Murray Get Emotional (words discussed are guilty, frustrated, and amazed):
– Elmo and Jesse Williams Explain Furious:
– Sarah Michelle Gellar is Disappointed:
– Charlize Theron Gets Jealous of Abby:
– Nicole Kidman and Oscar the Grouch — Stubborn:

In some of the classes, we had time to talk about something that we’ve seen or heard that has made us feel amazed (like in the Jon Hamm clip). I learned that I should take the time to hear from all students in Love Hall what amazes them because the response were beautiful. They’ve been amazed by a double rainbow, a grand slam in their brother’s baseball game, leaping dolphins, a Frozen display at Target, a whale leg (?), and more.

Parents, if you ever have questions about our classroom lessons, please email or call me anytime! As always, thank you for your support in reinforcing concepts at home.

Starting empathy in Pre-First

Last year, all Wildcats in Love Hall learned about empathy through their Second Step lessons during Morning Meeting, schoolwide Community Celebration assemblies, classroom counseling lessons, and Bible Values lessons. In Pre-First this month, I’m beginning the discussion about this important topic by talking with students about the numerous feelings everyone has, different names for similar feelings, how to identify how we feel, and how to discern how others feel by looking at body language and listening to tone of voice. Together we look at the book, The Way I Feel, and students give a silent thumbs-up signal if they’ve felt the feeling described on each page.

Then, in pairs the students are tasked with looking at black and white photo cards from an earlier version of Second Step, identifying the emotions that the children in the picture might be feeling, and creating a short story for what might be happening. In looking at the cards, it’s simple for adults to identify the message the Second Step creators intended to deliver. When I give the cards to our Pre-First students, however, they come up with such different and imaginative stories! It’s fascinating to get a glimpse into what matters to our students by providing resources, time, and space and then letting them run with an idea. A simple black and white photo of a student waiting his turn at the water fountain leads to personal tales of unfairness and frustration for some, and in another class the same picture leads to a discussion of conserving water. Every lesson, every day, and every minute in Love Hall is different from the next, and our creative kids never stop learning!

SS feelings cards 1

SS feelings cards 2

SS feelings cards 3