MAT Blog

2 Active Listening Activities for Elementary Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 6, 2012 1:29:00 PM

active listening in the classroom 2We’ve seen the documentaries and heard the buzzword enough to know that bullying is a problem—despite the fact that it isn’t a problem in our school. Confident as we may be, scholarship from Alan E. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, suggests something to the contrary.

According to him, administrators witness a mere 4 percent of bullying incidents. Now couple Kazdin’s findings with the results of another recent survey of 40,000 high school students: Nearly 50 percent of these students admitted to bullying and 47 percent of the students said they had likewise been bullied.  

Perhaps our schools need more work than we originally thought.

But how does it happen? How do we wipe out bullying? Giving a single answer would grossly oversimplify the issue and we’re not prepared to do this. What we do know is this:

Kindness, empathy, respectful listening and general politeness are learned behaviors—behaviors we have to teach and model for our students if we are truly serious about creating a compassionate environment where bullying cannot thrive.

A few weeks ago, we talked about creating a “Get-Along Classroom,” an idea we gleaned from Naomi Drew’s book, No Kidding About Bullying. We’d like to share two more of her ideas.

Two Active Listening Activities for Elementary Teachers

Activity 1: Teaching Respectful and Active Listening in the Classroom
Gather your students in a group and ask a student to come to the center of the circle next to you. This is going to be a role-playing exercise, but don’t let your students know what you are doing.

Now ask your student a question: “Tell me a few of your favorite things you did last weekend.” As the student talks, start looking around the room, fidgeting your hands and shifting your feet while you say, “Yes, uh-huh, I got you.”

Once you finish, the student can go back to his seat. Now you’ll want to ask your students to tell you what they saw during the role-play. What were you doing? What was the student doing? Make a list on the board and have them describe the implications of your body language. What did it seem to suggest?

Now try the role play again with another student. This time, model respectful listening: Make eye contact; ask the student questions and prompt her to give you more details about events; nod your head when you understand and stop the student when you need clarification.

Again, have the student return to the group and ask everyone what they saw. How did it make them feel about the conversation you were having with the student? Now make a list and have students add their own suggestions for what respectful listening might look like.

Now it’s their turn. Divide the class up into groups of two and ask them to take turns talking about something they are passionate about. The object, of course, is for them to practice respectful listening, so have them refer to “respectful listening” behaviors they helped you compile on the board.

When you are done, you might collaborate with your students to create a Respectful Listening Poster that you can display in the classroom.

Activity 2: Identifying active listening in our own lives
To help students engage with the previous activity in a more critical way, you might consider giving them a short writing assignment where they engage with the following questions:

  • Why do you think respectful listening is important?
  • Who is a great listener in your life?
  • Why do you consider this person to be a great listener? Show your reader what this person does when s/he is listening to you.
  • How does it make you feel when this person listens to you? Be specific.
  • Think back on our Respectful Listening poster. Which things on the list are you good at? Which could you work on?

If you found this article helpful, check out our Bucket Filling guide where you'll find more creative ways to nurture kindness and respect in your students and your classroom!

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Tags: classroom management, behavior, Bucket Fillers, bullying, anti-bullying

"The get-along classroom," an environment where no bully can thrive

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 1, 2012 11:03:00 AM

No BullyIt’s funny…so much of an educator’s most important work literally has nothing to do with books. Think about it this way: We can teach our students to write a grammatically perfect sentence, but if that sentence and the writer behind it lack compassion, empathy and respect for others, it matters very little if the subject and the verb agree.

It’s easy to forget that kindness, respectful listening and general politeness are learned behaviors—behaviors we have to teach and model for our students if we are truly serious about creating a compassionate classroom where no bully can thrive. All teachers want this, but how do they accomplish it? We’ve been reading Naomi Drew’s book, No Kidding About Bullying, a practical, no-nonsense guide that offers readers 125 activities to help teachers collaborate with students to build a bully-free environment. We like her ideas so much that we’d like to share one of them with you:

Introducing the Concept of a “Get-Along” Classroom
This activity is an ideal one to start off the school year with, but you could also introduce it once students return from Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter break—or at any time during the year when you and your students need a “fresh start.”

The idea is to have students collaborate to identify qualities of a “get-along” classroom—that is, one that is safe, supportive and best suited for learning. Once your students have identified these qualities and everyone agrees to them, draft a get-along constitution, have each student sign it and display it in your classroom. This will be a useful teaching tool in the future: Rules won’t seem arbitrary to students, especially when you can remind them that they not only helped create the constitution, but they also agreed to it.

What you’ll need
students gather in a circleDrew recommends that teachers purchase a soft globe, something that you can pass around or lightly toss without anyone getting hurt. Globes are a useful “talking object” you can pass around; they are also useful for reminding students that they are a part of the global community, that what they do impacts the world around them.

You’ll want to document and collaborate with your students to review their ideas, so you should have a white board or chalk board on hand. You’ll also need a large piece of poster board and perhaps an easel to display it. If you don’t have one, the tray on the chalk/white board will work just as well.

What you’ll do

Step 1
Gather your students in a circle and ask each of them to say what their hope is for the rest of the school year. After each student has contributed, hold up the globe and remind them that their classroom is connected to the global community. Next, ask them, “What kind of world would you like to grow up in?” Write their responses on the board.

Step 2
Next, ask them to close their eyes and take a minute to reflect on what kind of classroom they want to be a part of. Ask them, “What does it look like?” While your students are reflecting, draw a line down the center of the board to create two columns. Then write “Qualities of a Get-Along Classroom” at the top of one column. After a minute or two, toss one of your students the globe and ask her to share her reflections. Write these on the board. Now ask the student to say the name of one of her peers and lightly toss the ball. Continue this until each student has shared.

Step 3
Now have your student look at the list they’ve compiled and ask them, “How can we make this possible? In other words, how do we create a get-along classroom?” Again, have them close their eyes and reflect on this. As they reflect, write “Our Agreements for the Get-Along Classroom” above the second column on the board. Repeat the activity by passing the globe around and documenting each student’s answer.

You may need to ask your students to be more specific. Don’t settle for generic responses like, “Be nicer to my peers.” Instead, prompt them to be more specific; ask them how they can be nicer to their peers.

Step 4
Once you’ve compiled your students’ answers, rewrite them on the poster board and have each student sign it. Writing on the chalk/white board first will allow you and your students to further refine their constitution before committing it to paper.

Following up activities
To reinforce the qualities of a get-along classroom, draft a short letter to your students’ parents. In it, describe the activity and list all of the qualities the students came up with. Ask the parents to help remind their child of these qualities. You might even include a picture of the get-along constitution to help illustrate the point.

If you found this article helpful, check out our Bucket Filling guide where you'll find more creative ways to nurture kindness and respect in your students and your classroom!


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Tags: classroom management, behavior, Bucket Fillers, bullying, anti-bullying

Bucket filling aids in addressing bullying prevention in schools.

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 4, 2012 5:30:00 AM

beach bucketThe popular children's book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" has just sold a million copies and is quickly becoming an integral tool for many teachers’ classroom management. As many districts address and re-address their policies on bullying, and bullying prevention, this engaging K-5 children's book encourages positive behavior and teaches children that showing kindness, respect, and appreciation really makes a difference.

Although the bucket filling concept isn't a new one, Carol McCloud's book offers child-friendly explanations in simple prose and beautiful illustrations. Teachers have found that integrating the bucket filling concept into their classrooms benefits their established character education curriculum and helps clearly define appropriate and beneficial ways to interact with one another.  After reading the book we hope you'll be inspired to begin bucket-filling as soon as school begins, and stick with it throughout the year.

As you consider the beginning of the school year, plan to:

  1. Read the book aloud several times. As you are creating a classroom climate, establishing classroom rules, and learning routines you should also read (and reread) the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?"  This introduction to the metaphorical concepts will help students of all ages understand the relation between their buckets and their mental and emotional selves. Students will quickly connect to the concepts and begin to use the new vocabulary to describe their emotions

  2. Create a bucket filling list.  Along with the read aloud you can also work as a class to brainstorm ways to fill others' buckets. This is an important step so students can understand and relate the bucket-fillers to concrete behavioral examples.  This list should be posted in the classroom and given to students to have their own copies.
  3. Make bucket filling visual. There are multitudes of ways to accomplish this and you'll want to find a way that the bucket filling process can be visual.  You may want to invest in actual buckets for each child or use paper buckets on a bulletin board.  As students feel their emotional bucket being filled they can add to their physical bucket using stickers, pom poms, or other items to represent the kind words and actions of others.  Some teachers require a student to record the bucket-fillers on a slip of paper or in a notebook before they're added to the bucket and others rely on an honor system. These implementation choices are completely up to you!

  4. Implement methods of self reflection. It is important for students, regardless of age, to reflect on times their buckets have been filled or dipped into.  Young children can draw a picture and older students can record in writing.  You may choose to keep these in a personal journal or display them as part of the bucket-fillers bulletin board.

  5. Celebrate bucket-fillers!  Since this program is designed to encourage internally motivating behaviors, the celebration is never the goal. The goal is to encourage children to view their behavior as having an impact on others.  However, finding simple ways to celebrate bucket-fillers is crucial.  Some teachers read aloud one bucket filler a day while others find ways for students to reflect as a group on the program and to thank others.

There are a variety of websites that provide even more ideas for teachers interested in implementing a bucket filler program when school begins.  Check out these sites and resources:

Teaching Heart
My Fun Teacher
Bucket-Fillers 101 

We asked teachers to share some of the ways they’ve used bucket filling in their classrooms. Download our Marygrove MAT Guide to Bucket filling for teacher-tested ideas and hints to make your classroom climate even sunnier this year!

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Tags: cyberbullying, behavior, Bucket Fillers, bullying, anti-bullying, district policies

Top Ten Tips to Head off Bullying in Your Class.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jan 7, 2012 5:32:00 AM

Marygrove MAT discusses the top ten tips for heading off bullying.Approximately 25 percent of students in the U.S. have reported being bullied in a school setting, according to STOMP Out Bullying  --a national anti-bullying and cyberbullying program for children and teens. Research shows that bullied students are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, have mental health problems, engage in physical fights, or bring a weapon to school. As worrisome as these facts are, the good news is that there are things teachers can do to help prevent bullying in the classroom
  1. Know your school and district bullying policies. Knowing and understanding the policies helps you implement them fairly and effectively regardless of the specific incident.

  2. Treat everyone with respect and warmth. Consider every interaction that your students witness on a daily basis as an opportunity for you to model effective communication techniques.  Also, tell your students often that you are always available to help. And really mean it.

  3. Plan classroom activities to teach students about bullying. Just as students need direct instruction on academic areas, they also need learning opportunities related to bullying.  Role playing, video clips, and classroom discussion allow students to learn from and participate with one another in a healthy, supervised manner. Teaching the “Bucket-filler” technique based on a book by Carol McCloud is very effective for elementary school students.

  4. Practice close supervision. Bullying tends to happen more often when adults are not present.  Evaluate your school day and identify times when supervision could be strengthened.  Consider asking parents to volunteer at recess or lunch. Be aware that girls tend to bully in much more subtle ways—ways that may not be readily apparent. A great primer for all teachers about the insidious nature of girl bullying is Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons. To help young girls understand what bullying can do to the victim as well as to the aggressor, read aloud the 1970’s classic The Hundred Dresses by the late Eleanor Estes, of Ginger Pye fame. This one really sinks in.  
  1. Work with your colleagues. Just as students need opportunities to work with their peers toward anti-bullying habits, teachers need the support of their colleagues.  The school as a whole will be better able to prevent bullying and monitor the school environment.  In a professional setting, teachers can discuss both bullying in general and specific instances of bullying in the school. 

  2. Help create anti-bullying habits. Children need constant coaching about appropriate social behaviors.  Regardless of age, students need to be taught what to do (be kind, be empathetic, take turns, stand up for your friends) and what not to do (don't use mean words, no pushing, don't tease others). Start early with the bucket-filler concept, it really helps to redirect adverse behaviors.

  3. Have a literature library that addresses bullying and anti-bullying habits. Children's books are a great way to teach students to identify bullying, anti-bullying behaviors, and what to do if they are being bullied. The Recess Queen, Simon's Hook, and The Juice Box Bully are all wonderful titles for primary students. If you teach intermediate grades Confessions of a Former Bully, We Want You to Know, and Real Life Bully Prevention for Real Kids are a few of the great titles for your age group. Make them available.

  4. Work with your school counselor. School counselors likely have more training in bullying prevention and are a great resource for teachers. A school counselor could be invited into the classroom to conduct a series of lessons with the students or work with small groups on anti-bullying behaviors. When a bullying problem surfaces, the counselor can help with immediate intervention and counseling.

  5. Involve parents. Teachers can be a great resource for parents regarding bullying prevention and anti-bullying behaviors. You can update parents via newsletter or email about classroom activities and what they can do to support their student’s learning. Additionally, parents should be notified immediately if their child is either being bullied or is bullying another student. 

  6. Take immediate action. If you witness, or are made aware of a bullying situation–don't waste any time addressing the issue. Failure to act can signal the school's compliance with bullying and can cause adverse behaviors to spread. Students need to know and understand that bullying will not be tolerated and will be addressed immediately.

Bullying and the media attention it receives is not a fad. It is a serious issue that every teacher must understand. Our Guide to Successful Bucket Filler Techniques is a compilation of teacher-practiced tips that help diffuse bad behaviors and reward good ones. Download your free copy now and see how you can make a difference in your classroom, today.


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Tags: cyberbullying, download, Bucket Fillers, bullying, anti-bullying

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