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Educator Articles


Look Who's Special

By Chick Moorman

"Tonya helped Heidi take off her boots."

"Anthony knew his letter pictures today."

"Marcus spoke up in speech."

"Heidi shared her scissors."

These are just a sample of the comments appearing on the LOOK WHO'S SPECIAL board in Judy Brandt's kindergarten classroom. They were suggested by the children and recorded by Judy. They are now on display with many others on a giant bulletin board.

The project, which is an attempt to help the young students share positive feelings about one another, began with their teacher's observations. Judy noticed that many of her student's verbal responses to one another were delivered with a negative flavor. To put it another way, the kindergartners simply tattled a lot.

Judy observed the situation, defined the problem, and set out to effect a change. Her response was LOOK WHO'S SPECIAL, an activity designed to help children heighten their awareness of positive behavior among themselves and their classmates. It was one more effort on Judy's part to provide kindergarten children with experiences at extending language usage and verbal expression skills.

Judy kicked off the special project with a class discussion on what a special person might be or do. The five and six year olds responded with notions that included: 1.) Someone who shares with you. 2.) Someone who does nice things for you. 3.) Someone who helps you with something. 4.) Someone who is doing better or improving.

The discussion of special people helped the students recognize and articulate special contributions from classmates. That was beneficial, but Judy wanted more. She wanted to add visibility and permanence to the activity. That desire led to the creation of the bulletin board and a daily sharing of positive comments.

As a result, the children now gather together at the end of each school day for a class meeting. At this time they share verbally. They tell nice things that have happened to them during the day. They also share observations of nice things that have happened to others. Their comments include observations such as:

"Jason drew his washing machine good."

"Becky helped Walter unbuckle his boots."

"Curtis shared the blocks with Marcus."

As the students share verbally, Judy plays out her role as secretary. She simply takes dictation, copying down each child's comment word for word. The comments are added to the bulletin board under the name of the child who was observed being special. Each person in the classroom has his own spot on the special board marked with a self-portrait and special gold paper.

Two limitations govern the possible responses. No one may comment about themselves, as all contributions must be observations of others. And all comments must come from the children. Judy does not add her observations to the board. All comments, within that framework, are accepted.

Not every student comments every day and not every student has a comment made about her every day. Judy is careful to see that everyone does participate and that everyone is included at some time. Each day more special things are added to the board. It evolves and grows with each positive comment that is verbalized and recorded.

At any time in the school day children can glance at the board and see written proof of their existence in that classroom. They can see the list of items other have suggested about them. And they can visualize the sprinkling of positive comments that they have shared about others.

When a child's gold paper has been filled with comments, it is removed and a new blank sheet replaces it. The list of positive observations in then folded in half and fastened with a gold seal. The "special" message is then sent home to be shared with family and friends.

Because Judy found a special way to help kids notice and share specialness, positive communication has increased in this kindergarten classroom. Kids now say more nice things about each other. Now that's special. And so are Spirit Whisperers like Judy Brandt.