5 thoughts on “Week 8: Update on your practice project

  1. I am gearing up to start week 3 of my practice project this week on character strengths and mindfulness with my first graders! Before starting, I went through and chose a children’s book to match every character strength. I also printed each character strength on a big poster with a child-friendly picture to match the strength. Each morning during our morning circle time, we discuss a new poster and read the book to match the strength (1 character strength a day). After reading, we discuss how the character(s) in the book was showing (or not showing!) the character strength. We also talk about ways we could show the specific character strength at school. I currently have a bulletin board in my classroom to display all of the character strength posters we have introduced thus far, and the students really seem to be enjoying it! Each morning they come in, they look at my chair near the rug to find the new poster and book we’ll introduce that day.

    I have also been using strength spotting with my students as a part of this project. The same poster that I introduce in the morning with each character strength on it was shrunk down to about the half the size of a credit card. When I see a student exhibiting strength, I find the coordinating tag and pass it out to the student for them to display on a little lanyard necklace they can choose to wear or hang on the wall. The students really enjoy earning the strength cards and talk and compare with each other what strength cards they have earned so far! I really enjoy how it has focused my attention on student’s strengths, as well!

    Finally, after our poster introduction, read aloud, and strength discussions, we have also been participating in a mindfulness activity before beginning the meat of our instructional day (2-hour literacy rotations and 1.5-hour math rotations). This has been challenging for my squirmy first graders! I am calling on my own character strengths of perseverance, hope, spirituality, and self-control to continue to model these mindfulness activities, keeping a positive attitude, and showing patience as we continue to practice each and every day!

  2. It has taken me longer than expected to create my curriculum. I wanted to make sure I had a true understanding of each element of social-emotional learning and how character strengths can effectively improve these skills. In trying to be realistic with the time frame originally set, as well as actual group session times, it has been challenging to figure in the time it may set to actually build a rapport where the students participating feel safe and trust me enough to open up. For some it will be easy as I already work with them, others it will take more time.
    On the other hand, I am excited to get started with actual sessions. Although I’m not expecting drastic change I am hoping to see gradual improvement. In a way it has helped that I fell a bit behind because I was able to utilize some of the topics in the videos and readings assigned. I am confident that I will be able to successfully complete this project and hope to be able to use it regularly in my schools.

  3. My practice project is moving along; and I feel like I am gaining a better understanding of my boys. I am also seeing a (small!) difference in how we interact. While I can’t say that they have completely opened up to me, I can say that they are more comfortable around me. I am pleased with our progress so far. and am looking forward to the second stage of my project. I am working towards using our relationship to help them find a way to improve their attitudes, and hoping that it will also help them improve their academics.
    The first challenge that I faced was the same one that everyone faces; time. I am using the two by ten method to develop a relationship with each boy. It was difficult to maintain consistency with the ten days, because something always comes up. We have been working around it, and even though the ten days are up tomorrow, I plan to continue meeting with the boys. They seem to be enjoying it, and one of them even asked if I needed him to stay longer to talk!
    The second challenge that I encountered was taking off my teacher hat and just listening. Two of my boys are not very talkative, and on a few of the days, the topic of discussion was difficult for them. I had to try hard not to fill in the silence with words. But I have gotten better with that, and our conversations are flowing more smoothly.
    I am still unsure how I am going to present to the class, but I am feel like that will come together as I move forward.

  4. Update on Practice Project:

    For my semester project, I will be planning and facilitating an art-therapy themed camp called “Art for Your Heart.” The camp has officially been approved by the New Kent Parks and Recreation department and will be taking place the first week of August! It will run for four hours each day, five days total. I’m hopeful that we will have a lot of students register.

    My ultimate objective in running this camp is to create self-awareness amongst students about their emotions, personal character strengths and how they can be expressed through the visual arts. In addition, I’d like to consider ways we can promote positivity throughout our school building through collaborative, student-created displays. Finally, I plan to teach my students different mindfulness techniques using art as a channel for relaxation and meditation. I’d like for most of the camp to be centered around journaling, but will also plan projects using other types of materials. Mixed media collaging seems to be a favorite art style amongst my students this year and I’d like to build upon that this summer. I plan to open the camp with an exercise where students can learn whether their strengths are more left-brain or right-brain based. I have planned a series of journal activities and collaborative indoor and outdoor projects that students will create not only to improve their skills as an artist but to beautify our school as well.

    The challenging part about this project is that there is SO much out there pertaining to the field of art therapy. I also do not want people to think that I am claiming to be an art “therapist” because I’m not. I am simply trying to incorporate some strategies and projects into the curriculum for the camp that are themed around art therapy in hopes that students will be able to use them throughout the school year and in their everyday lives. I also have to be realistic about how long the camp is going to be and must plan accordingly. There is a lot I want to be able to do with students, however, not all of it can fit into a one-week summer camp. This has prompted me to consider how I can incorporate the projects I’ve found into my school year curriculum, not just the camp’s.

  5. Practice Project Update:

    So, my practice project is coming along, just moving much slower than anticipated. My original plan was to have my class meet with another lower grade class multiple times, and to assess whether the peer relations helped to improve the students’ sense of belonging and purpose. My first challenge was to find someone who was willing (during a crazy part of the school year) to jump in on this adventure. I talked to my administration about the project, and she gave me some options of which teachers would have open times in their schedule, so that it wouldn’t be a scheduling nightmare to get the two classes together. I sent an initial email to those 3 teachers, and nothing. I then resorted to opening it up to k-3 and any of the teachers that would be willing; I would just have to make the scheduling work. I did finally find a 1st grade teacher that was willing. That being said, finding a survey that was appropriate for 5th graders and 1st graders on belonging was challenging. I ended up finding a survey, and tweaking it for 5th grade language, and then changing it even more for my 1st grade partner class.
    At this point, both classes have taken the initial survey, but due to scheduling conflicts, we have yet to have our first session yet! On a positive note, I think that my students really took the survey seriously, and answered very honestly, which is what I was hoping for! I had students coming up to me asking about the ratings, and they were so concerned about it truly representing how they felt, so that was nice to see 10 year olds take this so seriously. We do have benchmarks this week, but I am really hoping to get our classes together at least once this week. My hopes were that I would be much farther along in this process, but things have come up that prevented that, so I am going to continue trying to work on scheduling conflicts, and hopefully get our students together as frequently as possible.

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