impromptu interview

I had an impromptu interview with a 1st and 3rd grader yesterday after school.

Ginny and I have been talking about doing a parent and teacher survey, but it dawned on me as I was talking to these students that we should also consider doing some formal interviews with some students. Here is what I learned:

I wanted to get feedback from the 3rd grader about why we have been getting fewer home challenges from this grade overall. Of course she is one of the students that regularly turns them in, which made it harder for her to answer, but she did confirm what we thought – 3rd graders have more homework than 1st and 2nd graders, and our homework is optional. She also confirmed something Ginny and I picked up on early on with the home challenges – students prefer the challenges that ask them to draw their responses vs write.

What this student really wanted to talk about was TALK. She said that it has really helped her and her friends. This student is female, and I had to chuckle when she said that often girls just stop talking to each other without really knowing why when there is a problem (why is this true?). Now she knows that she needs to Ask about the problem!

This student also reported that a few students in the class were preventing the class from completing some of the class challenges (specifically Collider and Destroyer Of Fun). Apparently the teacher is holding the entire class accountable for a few students’ behavior. Not our plan, and definitely speaks to the need to clarify that our program is for regular ed students. Ones that need more support should get that support, but the rest of the class should not be penalized for their behavior.

The 1st grader had some logistical advice first. Her class lessons are on Thursdays at 2pm which means that she does not get the home challenges until Friday (students are all packed up before we get there b/c we sometimes are working on the lesson right up until the bell rings for dismissal). She wanted to know if we could get the home challenges to the teacher before the lesson so she could have it to work on the day we did the lesson.

She also suggested that we do more class challenges that had the students color in letters like we did with the THINKING ABOUT OTHERS class challenge. For more on that challenge, click here.

What great feedback to get, and it really spoke to the need to do some student interviews. This will require parent permissions, but I think we will get more good information!


class challenge reflections

I blogged a while back about some earlier reflections with our class challenges. For more on that post, click here.

10 of the 13 classes have completed 6 of the challenges and have earned the extra specials class (art, music or PE). To hear the students talk about the special activities they have gotten to do has been priceless! And, the extra special time gives the classroom teacher some extra planning time. So actually both the teacher and the students are being rewarded.

This is what the game board visual looks like partially completed. And, if the stars are not colored in when we go to a class for a lesson, we are choosing a Superflex helper to color them in with us 🙂

We have noticed that it has been harder for classes to complete the class challenges around problem-solving. There are 3 lessons focusing on problem-solving (lessons 7-9). We are thinking of doing one problem solving class challenge next year that classes can work on during all 3 lessons. This will also help classes that are struggling with certain challenges. This is why we did the pilot program. Live and learn.

And speaking of classes that are struggling with some of the challenges, I have had some thoughts. Specifically, Collider has been tough for 2 classes to defeat. When I thought about these 2 classes and the possible reasons they were having a hard time defeating this Unthinkable, I began to see similarities with the 2 teachers. Both want to truly cultivate a classroom environment where students do not interrupt. In other words, it took them longer to complete the challenge (in my opinion) because they were not just coloring in the letters to SWAT to get the challenge done. Students *really* practiced the skill of not interrupting. My opinion was validated during our last lesson. Even when we wanted the class to collectively answer, in these 2 classes, hands went up in the air first 🙂

I think the challenge area is where Ginny and I have learned the most this year. Not all teachers are as passionate as we are about the thinking part of learning, but the challenges have given the teachers a concrete way to reinforce the skills we are working on. Without being in the classroom every day, I think it is the next best thing 🙂


videos and reflections from lesson 10

Warning: this is going to be a long post. I have so many ideas swimming around in my head. I decided to just start writing and sort them out as they come to me.

First, video clips of introducing Mean Jean to students and the book reading of How Full Is Your Bucket are below. I think Ginny had a lot of fun being Mean Jean. It is, in fact, SO different from how she really is 🙂

After reading the book, we ask students to pick 6 book scenarios from a bucket. Their job was to figure out if the scenarios were Mean Jean moments or Superflex moments. We added pictures of buckets with water to Mean Jean and Superflex (water emptying out of Mean Jean’s bucket, water filling up in Superflex’s bucket).

We then introduce “thinking things” and “saying things.”  When you say thinking things, you empty people’s buckets. Saying things fill people’s buckets.

Note: Ginny and I are thinking of breaking this lesson into 2 lessons in the future. It was a lot for students to take in, but I think they did great.

The class challenge for this lesson is to practice filling people’s buckets. In one of the 3rd grade classes, a student complimented another student who had gotten a new hair cut. We used this as an opportunity for her to put the first pom pom in the class bucket. She was super excited when I asked to take her picture 🙂

When going over the class challenge, I asked students the following question: “so, if you slip and say a ‘thinking thing’ do you think your teacher is going to take a pom pom out of your bucket?” The responses from classes, to me, really reflect the culture in each classroom. In some classes the students said “no way” while in others they felt like the teachers would take out a pom pom. And, in one class, a teacher assistant chimed in to say yes when I asked the question. Sigh. What would we really be teaching students by emptying their bucket? Ginny reminded me that the “take away” approach is just more of the old school way of looking at behavior. It reminded me that we need to continue teaching both students and teachers. Changing people’s way of thinking takes time.


lesson 10 – Mean Jean

Mean Jean is the Unthinkable who does not think about how her words or actions make someone feel. She makes a person say hurtful things, often knowing that it will hurt someone’s feelings. Mean Jean may even make a person take something from someone else, yell at someone, and insist that things always go that person’s way. 

After introducing Mean Jean, we talk to the students about “thinking things” and “saying things.”  

Thinking thing: A thought we have that if we said or did it would be unkind and hurt someone’s feelings. Therefore, this thought should stay a “thinking thing” and not be said.

Saying thing: Kind words we say that encourage others and make them feel good about themselves. 

We also talk about filling people’s buckets. Each of us has an invisible bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel happy and good about ourselves. When it is empty, we feel sad and badly about ourselves. Everything we say and do to other people fills or empties their buckets, so it is important to understand that what we say and do is important, and that every moment matters.

Mean Jean tries to get you to empty other people’s buckets. Superflex helps you fill other people’s buckets.

Kids really like Mean Jean, and we are stressing in the lesson that it is not ok to call someone Mean Jean. What they can do instead is talk it out (solving problems the Friendship Way!) and let their friend know that what he or she said hurt their feelings (and emptied their bucket).


the gym connection

A friend sent the email below last night. Needless to say, it made my day 🙂

Hey there- just wanted to tell you- this evening when I was dropping J and L off at the gym’s playroom there was a Perry Harrison student explaining “social thinking” skills to a group of younger kids.  I had to smile- keep doing what you’re doing Kristan- it’s obviously sinking in!!

Have a good night 🙂

the soccer connection

So, I have blogged about the RtI connection and the Social Studies connection. Now for the connection I never anticipated: the soccer connection.

My son is playing Chatham Rec soccer at Perry Harrison. At practice this afternoon my daughter and I were stringing some TALK beads when two 3rd graders came over and asked if they could help (their younger sister and brother are on the soccer team). Knowing that we have to put together approximately 325 this week, I eagerly said yes to the help.

Now for the great connection. As we were stringing the beads, one of the 3rd graders said this – “when you and Ms Ginny were in our class today talking about how to solve more than me problems, I was thinking about a problem I have been having with a friend at recess. I decided that I still want her to be my friend, and I think I have some ideas now about how to talk to her about our problem.”

I wanted to be “cool” and not overstep, so I tried to respond in a way that let her know I was glad she came up with some solutions to try with her friend. But, I so really wanted to know the problem and what she was going to do!!

When I thanked both 3rd graders for helping out with the bead stringing, they asked if they got something for helping. My response – “Of course! You got to be Thinking About Others kids during soccer practice.”  I also offered hugs and both accepted. I think I enjoyed the hugs more than they did. Some days I feel like I am always working to spread the Teach Social First message.  For that, I am forever grateful.


lesson 9 – the Friendship Way

We are doing 3 lessons around problem solving, mainly because we feel like this is a huge part of learning to be a “Thinking About Others” kid. So many problems come up in an ordinary school day, in lots of different variations, with different kinds of people. To sum it up: problem solving can be tough for elementary-aged students.

We are going to introduce “more than me” problems in lesson 9. These kinds of problems involve 2 or more people and coming up with solutions to these problems can be tricky. We are using the book I Love My New Toy by, Mo Williams to talk about “more than me” problems.

Now, what Ginny and I are super proud of is the the activity for this lesson. We came up with an acronym to help students remember how to solve problems the “Friendship Way.” Check it out –

For the activity, students will string the shapes and letters onto a string they can hook to their book bags. The materials came in the mail today, so my daughter and I made an example –

Super excited about this lesson!


All teaching activities, ideas andstrategies copyright © Kristan Shimpi and Ginny Thompson. All Rights Reserved.Reproduction in print or use in any form, including for educationalor therapeutic purposes, requires written permission of authors.