Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: February 2017
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Upper Elementary Morning Meetings: Compassion Theme

How do we teach our students to become more compassionate towards others? Today I'm sharing with you some of the lessons and ideas I've used in my upper elementary morning meetings during my compassion theme unit. These activities have helped me have conversations with my 4th and 5th grade students about compassion, empathy, and ways that we can show more concern for others.

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

I think it is so important to teach students to think outside of themselves, to become more aware of the needs and feelings of others, and to be able to relate to others on a deeper level. This endeavor is one of many reasons why I devote time to Community Meetings.

Not only can I impact students personally and socially, I am able to teach many of my literacy standards through theme-based morning meeting routines. Read on to find out how I focus on compassion.

First, introduce the theme topic and definition:
To launch my Compassion-focused Morning Meeting Theme Lessons, I define compassion for students as "having understanding or empathy for the suffering of others." From the Latin language, compassion means "co-suffering."

Read Aloud Each Kindness
Next, I read Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson as my key read aloud. Most likely, my students have already been exposed to this book during my "kindness" themed morning meeting lessons.

If you are unfamiliar with Each Kindness, you are going to want to grab a copy for your class. If you've ever read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, it has almost the same story line but in a picturebook format.

In Each KindnessChloe and her friends refuse to play with the new girl, Maya. Maya reaches out to Chloe's group again and again at recess and in the classroom trying to befriend the girls. We can tell from the author's details and the descriptions that Maya is poor and does not have proper winter clothes or ever wear new clothes. The girl's jokingly nickname Maya "never new." Abruptly, Maya moves again. Chloe is left with the guilt of knowing that Maya was lonely and trying to make new friends and that she continually pushed Maya away.

Although Each Kindness is a story about kindness, I think it's really more about having compassion and the consequences and guilt that are associated with not doing what is right and not having compassion for another human being.

How I turn this read aloud from Kindness-Focused to Compassion-Focused:

I like for each of my morning meeting read alouds to have a few key questions that get to the heart of what I want to discuss with students. For Each Kindness, we delve into the following key question:

How would this story be different if Chloe or her friends had demonstrated empathy and compassion? (Students jot their thoughts in their community meeting notebooks and then we discuss their ideas).

We focus on the quotation "Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering." I ask students:
If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
  • Did Chloe and her friends see that Maya was suffering?
  • Did they care that she was suffering?
  • What kept them from feeling compassion towards Maya instead of pushing her away?

Rewrite the Story with more Compassion {Day 2}
During our next morning meeting lesson, I put students into groups of three and have them revise parts of the story with Chloe showing more compassion towards Maya.
If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
I choose four pages of the book where I thought Chloe was the least compassionate. As students discuss the story's events more deeply and collaborate to rewrite a few scenes in the story, they get closer to the details of the text, the way Chloe treated Maya, and Maya's emotional responses as she tried to reach out. I think this rewriting activity really helps students "walk in the character's shoes" and realize that although Chloe was never outright mean or even bullying Maya, she was also never kind and never showed compassion for Maya's situation.

To close up this lesson, I allow students to share their rewrites of the story with the rest of the class. You can do this through a quick gallery walk, too!

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.Morning Meeting Discussions to Deepen Understanding {Day 3}
Now that students have a deeper understanding of compassion, I use my whole-group discussion journal page to have students brainstorm a few ideas about compassion. They focus on:
  • Ways We Can be More Compassionate
  • Verbalizing Why it is Important to try to Understand Others
  • How Being More Compassionate Can Improve our World
  • Create an illustration to represent compassion
I choose 1-2 of the journal prompts to discuss in whole group and create an anchor chart for. With this anchor chart, we can keep adding big ideas as we discuss the topic. At this point, I like to set a shared compassion goal as a class and have students set a personal goal for being more compassionate. {They have another journal sheet for this where they can record their goal for the week and reflect on at the end of the week.}

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.I also love that at anytime, I can pull this anchor chart back out and have students reflect on previously learned themes.

Compassion and kindness are not topics that I can just talk about for a few days and then expect students to perfectly behave with compassion. I like to spiral back to these themes during my morning meeting again and again. As a follow up question for a later meeting, you could ask "Has anyone found a new way to show more compassion? to be more compassionate?"

Build the theme with Additional Read Alouds, Video Resources, and Related Songs {Days 4-5+}
After introducing a morning meeting theme, I like to continue building the theme with additional read alouds and any online video resources I can find.

Other great read alouds to use in your Upper-Elementary Morning Meeting Compassion Themed Unit:
1) A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead

This video from Dr. Brene Brown is SO PERFECT and illustrative! However, it was created for adults and at 1 minute 56 seconds, it mentions miscarriage and divorce. If you can play up until that point, students can relate to the comparison of empathy versus sympathy. Students will even get a lot of benefit from watching the video without the narration. At the end, she has a perfect response when you don’t know what to say to someone’s situation, “I don’t even know what to say, but I’m so glad you told me.” You may want to fast-forward a few seconds and let students watch the end. Preview this video to see if it works for your needs, but I just could not leave it off of the suggested ideas list!

I also LOVE to use songs during my morning meeting lessons when I am able to. I think Bill Withers' Lean on Me is the ULTIMATE theme song for compassion! You know your students will be singing and humming along in no time and sharing the song together really creates a bond in the classroom. You can discuss how the song relates to compassion by having students write a quick text to text response (perhaps comparing the song with the definition for compassion) or by pulling out examples that shows the singer is compassionate towards their friends.

Incorporate Quotation Analysis into your Discussions! {Last day of theme reflections}

 Morning Meeting Compassion Theme SetI'm also a quotation lover and always incorporate at least two key quotations and some quotation analysis lessons into my morning meeting plans. The quotations, "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." and "You never really understand a person..." from To Kill a Mockingbird are two of my favorites for this theme unit.

Responding to a quotation is the PERFECT way to close up your theme study before you move on to your next theme. I LOVE using a response to quotation as a reflection and assessment opportunity to see how much students have thought about and learned during our compassion-themed discussions.

These quotation reflections can also offer you some insight into what themes you should plan to teach next and what ideas you want to come back to as you spiral back with similar themes like kindness, belonging, accepting others, etc.

Want more ideas? 
 Compassion Themed Morning Meeting Lessons for an Upper Elementary Morning Meeting Routine
If you are looking for other ideas and activities to spark discussions with your students about compassion and to encourage them to find ways to be more compassionate, I have additional ideas in my Morning Meeting Made Easy set 1 that also includes belonging, kindness, conflict resolution, and perseverance theme materials. You can compare and contrast the words "empathy" and "sympathy," create a recipe for compassion, generate compassion synonyms (and discuss their nuances), and more!

This theme set also includes key vocabulary and materials for creating your own morning meeting theme bulletin board display, student journal pages, and more video and resource links to help you plan for your compassion theme unit.

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
Can't get enough of literature theme-based Upper Elementary Morning Meeting Ideas? {Believe me, I'm with you!}

I've written a few other blog posts about my morning meeting lesson plans that you may also be interested in:
Integrity
Belonging


And if you are just getting started with morning meetings, I highly recommend reading these posts:
Why I Devote time to Community Meetings
4 Reasons I LOVE a Theme-Based Morning Meeting
Ideas for What to Do if you Feel like You Can't Squeeze in a Morning Meeting

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.

How to Modify and Differentiate your Word Study Routine

In January, I wrote a quick little blog series about my Word Study Activities and Routines and how I use Words Their Way. I could {obviously} talk about word study forever and I found that there was another aspect of word study that I'd like to share more about.
Are you hoping to tweak your word study routines to better meet your students' needs? I've got a few modifications, suggestions, tips, and ideas for differentiation in your Words Their Way word study activities. Those lower and higher spellers often need something a little different and these ideas are useful for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms. Plus a link to a FREE word study resource!
If you have not read about my word study routine, I highly recommend reading that post first. The main activities I incorporate into word study are 1) "blind" word searches, 2) spelling city or other word study games, 3) meeting with the teacher to sort words, review word patterns, practice spelling, and discuss unknown words, and 4) "blind" assessment.

Although my average/middle groups of spellers don't need many modifications from the schedule that I shared with you, I've always done things a little differently for my lowest spellers and my highest spellers. You can probably see some of the differentiation steps I take for them in the schedule below:
Are you hoping to tweak your word study routines to better meet your students' needs? I've got a few modifications, suggestions, tips, and ideas for differentiation in your Words Their Way word study activities. Those lower and higher spellers often need something a little different and these ideas are useful for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms. Plus a link to a FREE word study resource!

3 Ways I Modify For my Letter-Name Alphabetic Spellers

Yes, even as a 4th and 5th grade teacher, I always had a small group of students in the Letter-Name group. Students in this group were also my struggling readers and needed a lot of basic spelling work and help making sure they could read the words correctly.

Here are some tips for how I further modify their word study routine:
I've found that my lower groups just need practice, practice, practice, and immediate feedback in order to improve their spelling {aka--more one on one attention}.
  • I always schedule a "meet with the teacher" day with them before their "word search day." This gives them exposure to the word patterns they will be working with and hopefully a boost of confidence as they search for their words the following day.

  • When these kiddos meet with me, I give them a white board, marker, and eraser and fire off words from the list they are on and from previous lists. We often have to focus on short sounds vs long sounds, words with double vowel patterns, and making sure we have represented all of the sounds found in the words. I want the time I spend with this group to be focused on spelling and immediate feedback. If students miss a word, I am sure to throw in another word with the same letter pattern later on in the meeting.

  • As often as possible, I try to pull in compound words that still fit the patterns these students are studying. Compound words are often made up of two words that follow regular spelling patterns (hotdog, pancake, birthday, etc.) This allows students to practice DOUBLE the words and will allow them to feel like they are working on words just as large as other groups in the class. This is a great way to boost confidence for a group that can become stigmatized. {You can even make coming up with compound words part of your meeting activities! How fun!}
Extension Activities for the Derivational Relations Spellers

Students who fall into the Derivational Relations Spellers (the blue group) are my best spellers. After years of using the Words Their Way Word Sort books with these students and incorporating my word searches, I still felt that the Derivational Relations Group needed a little something more for their word study activities.

Students who fall into the Derivational Relations Spellers group can often spell the words provided in their sorts with much ease. Typically, these students also find it easy to quickly attain word meanings and spellings for new words. Their word study assignments become more about learning word meanings and word etymology (the study of the history of words their origin). It's also important that they spend time connecting the words they are studying to other words in the English language.

In the past, I have had this group complete Frayer Model-type activities (pick 10 words, record synonyms, draw an illustration, make a personal connect, write a definition or a sentence, generate other words that contain the word part, etc). and create crossword puzzles for others in their group to complete as extension activities.

However, these default activities never felt organized or worthwhile enough, and quite frankly, I never gave this group enough attention or oversight.

So a few years ago, I finally decided I wanted to get ahead of the game and have individual extension activities that made sense for each of the Derivational Relations Units. I felt like word study notebook activities would give this group more structure as they completed extension activities and as I met with them to extend their learning about the words they were studying.

Extend the learning for your higher, gifted spellers with the Derivational Relations Spellers notebooking and extension activities. These are a great modification to your word study routine and activities that allow you to differentiate for your 4th, 5th, and 6th grade spellers.

These Word Study Notebook Activity sheets for each sort in the Derivational Relations Spellers book have students analyzing spellings, sound changes, and the meanings of their word study words.

The activities are designed for independent exploration and reinforcement of concepts that are embedded in the unit of study. However, these activities could also be used to guide your small group lessons with this group.

As a side note, I also think that the Derivational Relations Spellers sorts would be perfect for 5th-6th grade as a whole-class vocabulary/word study program combined with differentiated spelling/word study. 4th and 5th grade teachers could use these activities during whole-group language lessons to expose students to prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots--the main focus of the blue book.

Based on the level of difficulty of the activity pages and how progressed your students are with being “independent thinkers,” you may choose to have them complete some of the sheets independently and save others for their small group meeting with the teacher. These sheets can also be completed in partners.

To plan for this group, you can specify how you want the activities completed prior to students beginning the set of activities for each sort. Allowing students to work in partners at the beginning of a unit (say the first and second sorts in the unit) and then expecting students to complete later activities in the unit independently is another way you can provide extra support and scaffolding. I like to have students pair up and share their work after they complete the activities.

Since these students have an entirely different assignment to incorporate into their word study routine, you will notice that their activities (on the schedule) are different. 

My derivational relations group still starts with a "blind word search" activity to launch a new word list (this means that they do not receive a copy of the word list and must "blindly" search for correctly spelled words in the word search). This group spends day 1 and day 2 working on their word searches.

For their next two word study blocks, they work on the Derivational Relations Notebook Activities to extend their understanding of the words they have discovered. 

On the last day of their word study routine, I meet with this group. This meeting provides an opportunity for us to go over activities that students had difficulty with and to reinforce specific word study concepts based on the word list students are working on. I may also have saved a word study notebook activity for us to work on in whole-group. 

 Words Their Way Derivational Relations Word Sort Activities and Notebooking FreebieIf you are interested in taking the Derivational Relations Activities for a test drive, I have shared Sorts 1 and 22  as a freebie.










I've also created a similar set of Word Study Notebook Activities for the Syllables and Affixes group. These are your mid-higher spellers who may also benefit from completing extension activities with their word study words.

Are you hoping to tweak your word study routines to better meet your students' needs? I've got a few modifications, suggestions, tips, and ideas for differentiation in your Words Their Way word study activities. Those lower and higher spellers often need something a little different and these ideas are useful for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms. Plus a link to a FREE word study resource!
Modifying the Word Search Routine with Younger-Grades Students

If you a younger-grades teacher who is adding word searches to your word study routine, you may modify the schedule entirely to have your "meet with the teacher day" before each group works on their word searches. This will allow you to expose students to their word sort before they begin searching for their words in the word search.

You could also give students a copy of their list of words to accompany them as they do their word search activity.

As students become more confident with the word search activity, you could phase this scaffolding out and reorganize your schedule so that you meet with them after they have attempted to find words --perhaps at the start of a new quarter. I also encourage you to consider giving them a few words from the list to get them started and then having them search for words with similar patterns. The word searches are a challenge for students at any level, but I have found that they grow more and more confident as they repeatedly complete this activity. 

If you have not purchased the Words Their Way Word Sorts books, I highly recommend checking them out. You can find each one here (Note: These are affiliate links to Amazon. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.):

Letter and Picture Sorts for Emergent Spellers
Word Sorts for Letter-Name Alphabetic Spellers
Word Sorts for Within Word Pattern Spellers
Word Sorts for Syllables and Affixes Spellers
Word Sorts for Derivational Relations Spellers

If you can't get enough of thinking about how to improve your word study instruction and routines, you might check out my other posts in the series: a 7 Day Overview of my Routineshow I really organize my schedule, and my best tips for managing word study and making the routines go even smoother!

This post outlines how to modify, differentiate, and extend your word study routine for your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. Perfect for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade word study and spelling programs.

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