Saturday, 22 February 2014


Over the holidays, one of the books that I read was Focus by Daniel Goleman. I was looking forward to this because his book Emotional Intelligence was excellent.   I was also interested in Focus because of the classroom implications. 
Edutopia has a nice article and a video playlist of the key ideas from the book. This video, on Breathing Buddies really got me thinking about how I might be able to utilize this with my students.

I started sewing up these Breathing Buddies for students to use, and then I realized that it would be SO much better if students sewed their own. Afterall, sewing a button is a good skill for everyone to have----- plus students would probably be more engaged when creating their own buddies.

We started by learning how to thread a needle and sew ------ up and down, up and down ------ on a paper plate. 

Students then drew a circle, rectangle and triangle pattern on a paper plate and sewed around the perimeter of each shape (a math connection). Next, students chose their felt colour(s) and the buttons that would make the cutest, strangest or scariest face depending on student preference. After making choices, it was time to sew on the button eyes. Threading the needle and sewing on the paper plate had been great practice for students.

There was some frustration - and that was ok! We were discussing strategies that we could use when we get frustrated. We talked about how anger, sadness, frustration, fear and joy were all normal emotions. We also had discussions about how we don't always make the best decisions when we are angry or frustrated, so we all have to have strategies to help us calm down.

Here are some of the Breathing Buddies or Calming Creatures as some students named them. The idea is to put the buddy on your belly and take a slow breath that is big enough to inflate your belly like a balloon so the buddy rises up - then you slowly breathe out so the buddy doesn't fall off your belly. After your buddy rises and falls 5-10 times, we all decided that we felt more calm and relaxed.


apologies about the misalignment of the pictures....something is not working correctly :(

Reader's Theater Part 1

To introduce grade 2 students to Reader's Theater, we started with a Read Aloud of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieska and watched an example of how this book was performed as Reader's Theater.

After seeing the first Reader's Theatre example, we co-constructed success criteria. Despite my insistence that Reader's Theatre does not require masks, my students argued that without masks it would be very difficult for the audience to know which character was which. So we included masks. Here is the first iteration of our co-created success criteria. 

We then watched a second Reader's Theater version of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs & used our success criteria to evaluate it. Students were not impressed with the performance, but thought about new items to add to our Success Criteria List.

Next came our discussion about scripts. Everyone wanted to play the role of the Wolf, so we decided that we would do several different Reader's Theater plays, ensuring that everyone who wanted to play a wolf could do so. (They did not realize how happy I was to agree to this - more Reader's Theater = more excitement about reading, more willingness to practice at home, more discussion and more opportunity for students to see the pattern of stereotypical 'wolfness' in fairy tales.)
Knowing how important the masks were for my students, I did some searching and found this instructional video for creating a wolf mask.

Each student (even the reluctant writers) jotted down a materials list while watching the video and every student gave me specific feedback on how I could improve the sample mask that I made.

Here are a few pictures of our mask making in progress (you will also see some bird masks which are for the script is The Wolf and The Seven Birds).

Did you notice that the wolf in the middle is eating a bird? !!!!

Now that our masks are almost complete, students are rehearsing on their own and with their groups. Students playing the same part, but in a different group, have become Guided Reading groups (all Mother Birds in one group, etc.)
The student's Drama teacher was impressed with the masks and we've started discussing how we can work together to allow the students to move beyond Reader's Theatre by adding movement, props, etc.
I will post Part 2 when we have had some run-throughs. Hopefully I will get permission to post some video :)
***apologies for the picture formatting - something is not working correctly :(