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Learning in the lunchroom

In our recent Second Grade guidance lessons, we’ve tackled the universal issues of appropriate voice volume, manners, and respect in the lunchroom. All four classes discussed the problems we face during mealtime in the Hamilton Room, from children running to get more food to talking with mouths full to forgetting basic manners when speaking to the kind individuals who provide our food. Students made lists of specific problems and helpful solutions. We watched a video of lunch procedures in a Japanese school. More important than videos and lists, though, was the main reason for wanting to make changes in the first place. Why do we want a quieter lunchroom? Why should we clean up after ourselves? Why should we use good manners? One word: respect.


All students know that when an adult turns off the main overhead light during lunch, everyone falls silent. This procedure was put in place so that if an emergency situation arises, adults can get the attention of all individuals immediately. Unfortunately, we’ve been using the lights-off signal not only to practice immediate silence but also to curb the escalating noise level. Second graders agreed that they don’t want the lights turned off because of their noise level anymore, they want to solve the problems they observe, and they want to lead the way as role models of respect. They all chose a method of getting their messages of appropriate etiquette out to the rest of Love Hall.

Mrs. Bradway and Ms. Brown’s class created posters, and Mrs. DuPriest helped us strategically place them around the Hamilton Room for maximum exposure.


Ms. Padgett and Ms. Tedesco’s students replaced some of the napkin holder announcements with reminders about manners and general respect.


Mrs. Carroll and Ms. Mahoney’s class used iPads to photograph classmates acting out correct mealtime manners. Look for these photographs on the hallway TV soon!



Finally, Mrs. Dalbo and Ms. Hartness’ students will perform skits for other classes after the Thanksgiving break. Great job, Second Grade! We predict great overall improvement in voice volume, manners, and general respect… not to mention general enjoyment of mealtime with friends and colleagues!


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!

Top 5 Friday: India, smoothies, and a 5K

What a great week in Love Hall! Here are four things that made your children and their teachers smile and one that we’re looking forward to!

5. India Day: Second Graders celebrated the culmination of their studies on India today with food, music, dance, trivia questions, and crafts. Students rotated through the four classrooms, learning non-stop from parents and grandparents who volunteered to share about their culture. Teachers and some students dressed in traditional Indian attire. It was such a fun morning!

India Day!

India Day!

India Day April 2015

celebrating India Day with a candle craft


4. Fun with Food and FLIK: During Tuesday morning’s Town Hall meeting for parents, Westminster’s Director of Dining Services, Terrence Dromm, and Executive Chef Eric Centeno shared with attendees a wealth of information about the lunches they create for the school. The chicken parmesan on Monday’s menu? Hormone-free, hand-breaded chicken. The tomato sauce? Made from scratch. The brussels sprouts your child hopefully tried recently? A request from a student. FLIK does a ton of programming with the students; if your child tried the black beans available during the celebration of the black bean, he or she received a sticker and a recipe card. Also, FLIK’s wonderful intern, Ms. Busby, worked with Student Council members to educate students about food waste and how to reduce it in our Hamilton Room.

An added bonus at the Town Hall meeting — attendees were treated to a tasty and healthy smoothie made right before our eyes! Thank you, Chef Eric. Also, don’t forget to check out upcoming menus online!

Chef Eric and Mr. McKnight

Chef Eric and Mr. McKnight delight attendees with smoothies all around!


3. Be Responsible: On Thursday morning, Mrs. Plunkett and Ms. Jagger’s Fifth Grade classes taught the rest of the school all about responsibility. The audience enjoyed the older students’ take on well-known fables such as “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and “The Little Red Hen.” Mr. Chalmers and Mrs. Doster lent their expertise to the classes throughout rehearsals and during the assembly. Great job, everyone!

Be Responsible!

Be Responsible!


2. A Sublime way to start the day: He’s so humble that he won’t want recognition for his contributions to the happiness of the Love Hall faculty & staff, so I won’t reveal the name of the male Science teacher who brought Sublime Donuts to school this morning. He also wouldn’t want to receive any thanks for the bagels he provides on some Fridays. And he definitely wouldn’t want praise for the pancakes he’s cooked on a griddle in the faculty lounge. So, let’s leave it as a simple thank you to one of the teachers who cares for not only your children but also his co-workers.

Sublime Donuts? Yes please!

Sublime Donuts? Yes please!


1. Girls rule! Tomorrow morning at Georgia Tech, approximately 20 female Wildcats will run their hearts out in the Girls on the Run 5K. If you’re not familiar with GOTR, take a few minutes and check out their website. Parent coaches, Becky McKnight, and other adult leaders have been teaching a wonderful curriculum and running with the girls for the past few months. Rain or shine, they’ll be running tomorrow! Best of luck, girls!

Have a wonderful, safe weekend!

Positive thoughts in First and Second Grades

In a recent two-part counseling lesson in First and Second Grades, we talked about positive and negative thoughts and how powerful our brains are. To demonstrate this power, we closed our eyes and imagined a food that we love. We imagined how the food looks, smells, tastes, and makes us feel. Physically and emotionally, we felt relaxed and happy just thinking about this food! Then we turned our imagination to the appearance, odor, and taste of food we strongly dislike. Yuck! The physical reactions were real. Just by changing our thoughts, our bodies and moods changed.

Negative self-talk can be powerful and extremely detrimental, affecting work performance, self-esteem, and much more. It’s normal to have negative thoughts, but as we talked about in lesson one, it’s important to “shred” our negative thoughts and refuse to give them power.

After “shredding,” we must work hard to reframe the negative thoughts into positive ones. In lesson two, students played a game in which they selected an orange or yellow “negative thought card,” read it aloud to the class, and then found a green “positive thought card” that would be an example of reframing. (See photos below.) Some of the green cards applied to more than one orange/yellow card, and the students enjoyed determining positive thoughts they could generalize to multiple real-life situations. Then, students completed a worksheet to take home and share with family members!

negative and positive self talk cards, 1st and 2nd grades 2015

Don’t allow negative thoughts like these to take over your brain!


“Shred” your negative thoughts and then turn them into positive thoughts like these!

negative to positive self talk worksheet, 1st grade Jan 2015

First Graders’ worksheet — color the negative thoughts red and the positive thoughts green

negative to positive self talk worksheet, 2nd grade Jan 2015

Second Graders’ worksheet — reframe the negative thought by writing it as a positive one


Relaxation in First and Second Grades

What do First and Second Graders think of when they hear the word “stress”? Some students immediately go to their own sources of and reactions to stress, and others first think of their parents (mainly mom!). Here is what four classrooms of students shared in our lessons last week about how to deal with stress:

– “I imagine ropes are tied all around me, and I have to be really still and tight, and then they fall down.”
– “I think of ropes tied to my hands and feet, and they’re all pulling me in different directions. I don’t know what to do.”
– “Worry. Anxiety. My lungs can’t get enough air.”
– “I am stressed when I think about maybe getting diseases. Am I going to get this disease? Am I going to get that disease? What if my mom and dad and brother get a disease and they die?”
– “When you’re reading at home, and you don’t know a word, and you can’t figure it out… that makes me stressed.”
– “It’s when people pull their hair out!”
– “I think of my mom because when my sister and I say, ‘Mommy mommy mommy mommy,’ it stresses her out.”
– “My mom gets stressed out when she has to take me to gymnastics, my brother to a baseball game, and my little sister to a party.”
– “Stress is when you’re trying to work with a group and the other people aren’t working, and you’re like ‘Aaaahhhh!'”

During our discussion, all students agreed that everyone feels stress every day! Stress affects our thoughts and our bodies. If we allow stress to consume us, we don’t work as well, we can’t concentrate as well, and we’re not as happy as we wish to be. By practicing relaxation techniques and other strategies for de-stressing, all of us can work to manage our stress and improve overall health throughout the day.

After our discussion, the students found a comfortable place in the room in preparation for 13 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation. We listened to this relaxation video and learned how to tense and relax our muscles to de-stress. Students can use some of these exercises silently at their desks or anytime they’re experiencing stress. Throughout the rest of the school year, we’ll discuss additional techniques for conquering feelings of stress.




The Quiltmaker’s Gift part 2

After reading The Quiltmaker’s Gift in our First and Second Grade guidance classes recently, we had part two of our lesson this week. Students talked about what they wish they could give to others. We imagined that we could give our friends and family anything at all, as long as the gifts are thoughtful. We wrote our wish gifts on holiday shapes and glued them to posters. Here are some of the sweet gifts the students wish they could give:

“I would give my sister a huge gym because she loves gymnastics.”
“I would give my mom a day off.”
“I want my grandma to have a lot of health.”
“I would want to give my mom a new baby.”
“I wish I could give my dad a new laptop.”
“I would give my teachers a year of everyone listening.”
“I want to give my brother new football figures; he lost 5 out of 7.”
“I would give my mom an RV.”
“I want to give Katie a house right next to mine.”
“I would give my mom a robot that does her chores.”
“I wish I could give my crazy sister a crazy pig.”
“I want to buy my parents a new house.”
“I would give my brother golf lessons with Tiger Woods.”
“I want my mom to have a beach of her own.”
“I would give my teachers a money tree.”
“I would give Ms. Strother a Coke machine that doesn’t need money.”
“I would give my nanny New York Giants tickets.”
“I would get Olivia new cleats and shin guards.”
“I wish I could give my elves a reindeer.”
“I would send my teachers on a trip to anywhere!”
“I would give Mrs. Steele a million pieces of gold.”
“I wish I could make my sister’s dreams come true.”

I would give pic

wish posters

The Quiltmaker’s Gift

QMGift cover

The Quiltmaker’s Gift

In the first part of our two-part December classroom lesson in First and Second Grade, we read The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and discussed the joys of giving and consequences of greed. This story is so beautiful. I knew it was a hit with the students when a boy in Ms. Hartness and Mrs. Hines’ class said loudly, “That was a great story!” as I finished reading the final page aloud. Later that day, a boy in Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Haan’s class said, “I really liked that book!” (I checked it out of the library, so if your child wants a chance to look more closely at the amazingly detailed and complicated illustrations, check it out in January!)

In the story, a greedy king wants to buy a quilt from an elderly quiltmaker, but she does not sell her stunning creations. She gives them to the poor and homeless. She instructs the king to give away his thousands of possessions, and when he has emptied his palace, she will present him with a quilt. As the king experiences the joy of giving to those in need, he realizes that it’s not things that make us happy.

To hear the students react to the story has been inspiring. They get it. They know that although it’s fun and lucky to have a lot of “stuff,” most of us have more than we actually need. The children offered personal stories of collecting clothes and toys they’ve outgrown and donating to Goodwill and The Salvation Army. They shared special moments with family members who help them shop for others when the holiday season comes around. “It’s really great when I get lots of toys,” said a First Grade girl, “but what happens is that I can’t play with everything. The things get kind of wasted. I think I could give some away.” We all agreed that it’s ok to accept gifts because of the joy that others feel when we appreciate their thoughtfulness, but it’s not ok to be greedy.

During our follow-up lesson, we will talk about what we would give to others if we could give them anything. I can’t wait to see what our thoughtful little Wildcats will say!

Funny Families

tgivingIn our First and Second Grade lessons this week, we read The Perfect Thanksgiving by Eileen Spinelli. In the book, there are two families. The narrator’s family is messy, loud, and full of love. Abigail Archer’s family is “perfect” and also full of love. We talked about how there is no family that’s actually perfect. No one is perfect! And no family is better or worse than another family. If the students visited my family for Thanksgiving, they’d be lucky to find a seat among the 20+ laughing and joking and storytelling adults and kids. We’re far from perfect, and we have a lot of fun!

Then, I gave each student a sticky note. Anonymously they wrote one funny/silly/embarrassing/nonperfect/happy fact about a family member or pet. We stuck them on the board and then had a great time guessing who wrote each one! Below are some of the students’ funny family facts:

  • When my mom is watching soccer, she screams when someone gets close to the goal
  • My brother is scared to brush his teeth
  • My cat drinks dog water and eats dog food and acts like a dog
  • My mom has crazy hair — it is like she is Albert Einstein
  • My grandma snores
  • My mom snores louder than my dad
  • My sister wears the same shoes every day
  • My dad leaves the garage door open even when my mom reminds him to close it
  • I always leave my jacket
  • My mom burned the pumpkin seeds
  • My dog takes my socks

Parents, please remember the school-home rule agreed upon long, long ago. We’ll believe half of what your child says about you if you give us the same courtesy. 😉

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.

Being “Tuned In”

In our classroom counseling lessons last week, First and Second Graders demonstrated how carefully “tuned in” they can be to what’s going on in the classroom. In First Graders’ Second Step lessons, they’ve learned about how to pay attention using these four instructions: “Eyes watching, Ears listening, Voice quiet, and Body still.” Those instructions are crucial, but the most crucial is having one’s brain focused! Students understood that they could appear to be paying attention, but if their brain isn’t thinking about the speaker’s words, they’re not really listening!

Using the four Second Step tactics plus “Brain focused,” the students played a game in which they took turns carrying out actions throughout the room. The game is like dominoes; each student’s action (printed on an index card they’re holding) leads to another student’s action. The children have to be “tuned in” carefully to everything around them while “tuning out” distractions. The first few index cards read as follows:

“When someone says, ‘Begin,’ say ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon.'”
“When someone says, ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon,’ clap your hands three times.”
“When someone claps three times, say, ‘Today is a great day.'”
“When someone says, ‘Today is a great day,’ stand up and turn around three times.”
“When someone stands up and turns around three times, go to the board and write your name.”

And so on for 30 cards. The kids’ favorites are mooing like a cow, barking like a dog, turning on and off the lights, shaking the school counselor’s hand, and writing things on the board. In most classrooms, we had time to go through the cards three times, and the students saw that the more they practiced and the more they were “tuned in,” the faster they completed the cards. They loved beating their time from the previous round!

Tuned in at the board Sept. 2014

being “tuned in” and following directions at the whiteboard

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Look at the improvement from the students’ first round to the third!