Teaching Kindness

The beginning of the year is full of routines and procedures. I also use this time of year to set a tone of kindness and respect in my classroom. On the first day of school I read Have You Filled A BucketToday? 

This is an amazing book that teaches kids how treating others affects how others treat them. Then I explained a system I have in class to help them fill each other's buckets. Every time one of the kids does or says something nice for someone else in the class, I place a cotton ball in the bucket. It's the size of the Target dollar bin buckets. (Sorry, forgot to take a pic!) You can really use any size according to how fast you want the bucket filled.

They can also earn cotton balls if my bucket is filled when others compliment them or they go out of their way to do something nice. Once the bucket is overflowing with cotton balls, they can vote on a class celebration. A couple of celebrations from last year were a junk food party and a game party. The parties only lasted about an hour so they fit into our very busy schedule. This really helped us celebrate being kind to one another and becoming more aware of our actions. 

A new activity I did this year was centered around making the kids aware that once they say something they can't take it back. I passed out a heart to each student and had them decorate it. Then I read the book Chrysanthemum which is about a character that gets teased for her name, by other classmates.

As I read, I had the kids put wrinkles into their heart every time someone said something mean to Chrysanthemum. After I finished reading the book, I told them to put their heart back to the way it was when I gave it to them- without wrinkles. I sat and watched as they said things like, "But it's never going to be like the way it was." Then I explained that words do this to our hearts. When we say something, we can't take it back. We can apologize but they will still leave a mark on our hearts. I loved seeing their understanding of this topic. We had a great conversation and then they glued their hearts to the chart titled, "Our words leave a lasting mark." 

What kinds of things do you do to teach about kindness in the classroom? I'd love to hear how others teach this very important topic.