MAT Blog

Bucket Filler Ideas for the New Year. Transform your Classroom Community!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Dec 24, 2012 5:06:00 AM

Marygrove College Maaster in the Art of Teaching offers tips on bucket -filling You made it through to the holidays! Congratulations. Use your time off to relax and reflect on the things that you’d like to change when you return. But by all means don’t worry—that pesky behavior problem you’ve been dealing with in your classroom over the last six weeks does not need to persist into the New Year.

You’ve probably tried every behavior modification trick in the book, yet your classroom culture seems unaffected.  There may be one or two “repeat offenders” who always seem to command your energy, and the classroom as a whole usually suffers.  Right?  Time to grab a bucket.

If you have never tried bucket-filling, you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to transform your classroom into a cohesive, caring team. There’s a great book, Have you filled a bucket today?  by Carol McCloud that is simply written and quite effectively introduces the concept to children.  To begin your bucket-filling program, read the story aloud to your class. Then, perhaps a week or two later, ask a student to read it again. This only takes a precious few minutes, and can be easily incorporated into your morning meeting. In fact, re-reading it is a great way to reinforce the basic concept.

Bucket-filling is all about recognizing the good things our students do, rather than focusing on negative behaviors. The beauty of bucket-filling is teachers can choose to do a little or a lot, depending on the unique needs of the classroom. Our free download from teachers, for teachers, offers lots of tips on how to implement an effective program that gets results.

But first, let’s back up and take a look at how bucket-filling first emerged on the scene. We can trace its roots back to the 1950s, when Dr. Donald O. Clifton, a psychology professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln became increasingly aware that the field of psychology at that time was based almost entirely on the study of what’s wrong with people.  Clifton published a book with Tom Raft in 2004, How Full is Your Bucket? based on many decades of research about how human behavior can change dramatically when the positive is emphasized over the negative.

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Well, if it were easy, we’d all be humming “High Hopes” as we go to work each day—“Just what makes that little old ant…Think he'll move that rubber tree plant…”  The point is, positive feelings and attitudes need to be practiced, and honed. It is learned behavior, and can be habit-forming, not unlike remembering to take an umbrella when it rains. (And who hasn’t forgotten to do that from time to time?)

Clifton and Rath’s book was a New York Times Bestseller and workplaces soon began initiating bucket filler programs. Clifton found that people’s lives are shaped by interactions with others, and most of the time, we interpret them as either positive or negative. Carol McCloud realized its application for the elementary classroom, and the rest is history. McCloud lectures across the country on the virtues of bucket-filling, and she continues to publish on the subject.

The bucket and dipper metaphors are easy for children to understand, and Clifton’s research maintains that we each have an invisible bucket and dipper within us. When we use our dipper to fill other people’s buckets— by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions— we are also filling our own. Download our Guide to Successful Bucket-Filler Techniques and use your creativity to find unique ways to infuse this concept into your classroom community.


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Tags: download, Classroom Community, Bucket Fillers

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