These days, my third and fourth grade teachers would disagree if you told them students knew the difference between the concepts of friendly & respectful and unfriendly & disrespectful. It seems like either my students are being mean just for the sake of being mean, or they genuinely do not understand when they are not being the nicest to their fellow classmates. After seeing the desperate look in teacher’s eyes and numerous complaints from students, I knew it wasn’t coincidental; I had a problem on my hands. As much as I dislike to admit it, some of my students were tearing each other down and raining on everyone’s parade when they should be building each other up and making others feel like they can fly.
They just needed to be introduced to the idea in a different way.
I realized that the concepts of respect and disrespect are abstract to my students. When teachers ask students, “Why are you being disrespectful?” they are met with blank stares. It’s not that the students want to be disrespectful, or that they don’t want to answer, I’ve learned many do not know what disrespectful means. They get stuck on the verbiage, respectful and disrespectful. They don’t get it.
So I changed the wording. I started saying to my students, “What just happened that caused you to act unfriendly?” That change made all the difference. Once I knew that they understood unfriendly, I liken it to being disrespectful, they seemed to grasp disrespectful when they could anchor it to unfriendly.
In that, this idea was born.
By changing my wording, guided discussion and a few fun printables, here's how I changed the classroom climate in my unfriendly third and fourth grade classes:
Step #1 – Question Cube -I Get Them Hooked
I use this nifty Question Cube to introduce the concepts
It’s super simple to make. You print cut, fold on solid lines and paste together. It can be done in under 5 minutes!
I laminate and hot glue it because I like to wipe everything down, I’m a bit of a germaphobe!
of friendly and respectful, unfriendly and disrespectful, as well as the meaning of “make them feel like they can fly” and “rain on their parade.”
To start making some character changes happen, I have students roll the cube and answer one of the six questions. We talk about the question and/or answer as a class as appropriate:
If they land on friendly or respectful for the first time:
I explain and provide examples of friendly & respectful. I go on to tell them about how if we are friendly and respectful to others, we build them up and make them feel like they can fly. I ask for a few examples of a friendly action that would make you feel like you could fly.
One little girl said, “If I drop my banana and someone stepped on it and then the lunch lady gives me another because she saw that yours got squished and wanted to be the hero. That would make me feel like I could fly.”
I like her passion for bananas and love of heroic lunch ladies.
If they land on unfriendly or disrespectful for the first time:
I then go on to explain and provide examples of unfriendly and disrespectful. The kiddos never run out of examples to provide, information to add, or tattles to tell for this category.
I ask how it feels when someone is being unfriendly and disrespectful. The students all agree; it is a sad, hurtful feeling. I tell them that being unfriendly and disrespectful rains on people’s parades, it brings them down and makes them sad.
If they land on “feel like flying” or “rain on their parade” for the first time:
The concepts seemed to further stick more with my students when I put it under the umbrella of making people feel like they can fly vs. raining on their parade. My students are somewhat familiar with those phrases and knew the vast difference in the emotions evoked. I knew that would be the hook they needed to solidify their understanding of these six different, yet similar, concepts.
When I feel like the class has grasped the concepts, or I’ve reached what my time limits will allow for, we move on and dig further into the content.
Step #2 – Puzzle Piece Questions - Explore the Concepts in Pairs
While students are still at their desks, I pass out the appropriate number of pieces so that in the end, every student has a piece and a partner.
Also super easy to make. Print, laminate, cut down the middle and done.
I keep the puzzle pieces in order in two separate bags to ensure that the pairs match up during the activity. If I have an odd number of students I jump in and join the fun (I secretly hope there is an odd number of students).
I tell the students to stand up, find and then pair up with the person who completes their puzzle, talk about the bolded statement and then ask each other the four listed questions.
If time allows, I have each couple pair up with another couple and discuss their answers to get a different view of the statements.
Step #3 – Situation Cards –Instill the Concepts (Whole Group)
I have students finish up their conversations and head back to their desks.
I put this poster on the overhead projector so that students can have a visual of the concepts during the discussion.
I then let each student, one at a time, pick and read a situation card to the rest of the class. The cards are designed to teach students the concepts of friendly & respect & making others feel like they can fly and unfriendly & disrespect & raining on people’s parade.
I like to keep them in a personal size pizza box. I went to Jet’s and they gave me a ton of them. I’m so happy. They hold my cards perfectly and is easy to carry around, although I’d be annoyed if I went to get pizza and got that small of an amount, but that’s just me.
I like to switch it up between letting the student answer the questions, picking a volunteer to answer, and letting the whole class answer the questions using formative assessment (thumbs up if it is friendly and/or respectful, thumbs down if it is unfriendly and/or disrespectful).
Step #4 – Interactive Whole Group Activity – Worksheet
Once every student has a chance (or I run out of time) I pass out the activity sheet/worksheet. I like to see how much the students grasped the concepts to check for strengths and weaknesses. If the students consistently cannot answer a question, I know I need to focus on that concept more in future lessons.
What do you all do with your unfriendly little ones?
Comment or message me, I'd love to exchange ideas :)