Embracing the 4 C’s With Kindness

With even our youngest students, 21st century learning is playing an essential role in education and Mrs. Homan’s kindergarten class is leading by example.  We often hear of the 21st Century “Super Skills” or 4 C’s:  communication, collaboration, creation, and critical thinking.  (Check out this poster for a visual!)  Mrs. Homan’s Superheroes of Kindness are working hard to accomplish all four in a way that gives them a voice, allows them to work together, and spread positivity.

I walked into Mrs. Homan’s classroom recently to ask her students how their kindness mission was going, one they launched with two other classes last month. I imagined they would give me the usual update, which typically consists of reporting the number of links in their kindness chain and examples of how they have been kind to each other. I was not prepared for what I heard.

They had gone above and beyond their call to duty. I discovered that her five and six year old students are learning to speak up whenever they have the urge to say something nice. It can even be while they’re working! Students explained they don’t even need to raise their hands. As long as they are not disrupting anyone’s learning, it’s free game with compliments. These young children are pouring love into each other’s buckets and at the same time, accomplishing their academic work with much success!

Mrs. Homan and I were so impressed we decided to give these moments of sudden kindness a name. When students now have an “On the Spot Kind Thought,” they have permission to go for it. Not only that, but as a reminder that it’s okay to give themselves the freedom to share their voices, the class often congregates to chant, “As long as you’re kind, no one will mind.” (as seen in the video above)

What are Mrs. Homan’s students saying?  Several ran right up to me just to let me know!

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Yes, you can play with us!

 I like your necklace!  

Good morning! 

 I like your shirt! 

 I love you!

Thank you!

You can go first!  

I like your pony!  

I like your shoes!  

Here, you can have my book!  

You can play with my ball! 

 I like you your basketball shirt.  

Wow, those are great E’s you’re making!

To our media specialist…I LOVE Library!

To Mrs. Homan…I LOVE kindergarten!  You’re the best teacher!

How do these “On the Spot Kind Thoughts” make students feel?  The whole class agreed that it not only feels good to receive them, but also to say them.  Students expressed to me that this is because they can actually see their classmates and peers smiling. The feeling of happiness is mutual and it’s clear students understand and, very importantly, hold high respect for this balance.  In addition, they are learning to communicate effectively as well as tap into their soft skills.

In speaking with Mrs. Homan at length, I learned that she loves experimenting.  She wants her kids to learn that it’s good to give and repeats to them often that a compliment is the easiest gift to give anytime and anywhere, because you don’t have to buy it, shop for it, or wrap it. Needless to say, her students are eating this up.

At times they do need some prompting.  “Look around your table right now and give someone a compliment.” In addition, she began asking her table captains to look for and report acts of kindness so students can open up their eyes and ears right along with her. Just like with anything else, it takes modeling, practice, and patience.  Knowing this, it’s important to Mrs. Homan to connect social and emotional learning to classroom literature as well as to the theme of the month.  This month, her students are focusing on friendship so, of course, Rainbow Fish paid a visit.

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Students were asked to not only share their perspective on the lessons in the story, but were also encouraged to use words to communicate friendship in their own way. To celebrate this idea, Mrs. Homan wrote every student’s most recent “On the Spot Kind Thought” and glued it to a picture of Rainbow Fish they had each decorated.  In creating the color design, they were reminded that Rainbow Fish ended the story with only one shiny scale.

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Soon after, I was able to work with students in small groups as we dove into BrainPOP Jr on the iPads.  Students love learning with Annie and Moby, especially on matters such as friendship.  After discussing ways to navigate within the app, students independently watched the video about friends.  We were then able to come back together to discuss the quiz questions, which brought up great conversation!  Students were forced to think deeply about how they would react to given situations, such as how to be approach a new student or how they might express hurt feelings to a friend.  Regardless of the question, it was clear that in students’ minds, kindness comes first.

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While the goal of teaching her students to give remains at the forefront of her day to day lessons, Mrs. Homan’s ultimate goal for her students is to notice the world outside of themselves.  In the beginning of the year, her students tended to complain a bit more and at times, react to situations with negative comments.  Mrs. Homan doesn’t see this anymore. Remarkably, her superhero students don’t hold their negativity in.  They flip it around, challenge themselves to find something kind to say, and spread positivity. Mrs. Homan has stretched her thinking and because of this, her students are stretching their hearts.  At the same time, they’re becoming active participants and leaders of  21st century learning.

A special thank you to Lourds Lane.  The “superhero code” she created in The SuperYouFUN was invaluable in kicking off this unique kindness mission.

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“We use our hearts to love, we use our eyes to see, we use our heads to understand, the superhero is me!”

These students are living this code every day as they dive into each “Super Skill.”  I’m thrilled to continue their journey with them and their exceptional teacher, whose intuition for teaching is truly inspiring.

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