Be Safe! Program

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Canadian Red Cross Be Safe! Program. The program is aimed at children 5 to 9 years of age and teaches them personal safety, covering sensitive topics such as sexual abuse. My school division purchased the kit, which includes detailed teacher lesson plans, posters and visuals for each lesson, parent and administration information and communication packages, Trusty the puppet, stickers, the program songs on CD, and a Your Body is Yours book. The resources are in both English and French. I shared the program information packages with my administrator and connected it to the Saskatchewan Grade 1 Health curriculum outcome: USC1.3 – analyze, with support, feelings and behaviours that are important for nurturing healthy relationships at school (and home). Then I took the online educator training to better familiarize myself with the program before sharing it with my kiddos. I sent a letter home with each child so that their parents could better support them if sensitive topics came up at home. I’m not going to lie, after I sent the letter home I felt anxious and wondered what the response would be and how the program would go but…

  1. The program is phenomenal! 
  2. I received ZERO complaints and instead, praise from caregivers! 
  3. I was supported by my administrators and division to teach this important topic.
  4. And, most importantly, my students loved the lessons and were able to retain the information! 

Let it be known, this is not a sponsored post but it may start to seem that way as I rave about this program. I believe that everyone’s favorite part of the program is the puppet, Trusty. It has helped my kids engage and connect with the topics. Now having a puppet is all the rage in Gr. 1 and students are asking their parents for their own puppets!

Image from: https://www.redcross.ca/history/artifacts/trusty-the-be-safe-puppet

The lesson progression is well-timed and has so far followed the thought process of my students. It starts with comfortable topics that may have already been discussed throughout the year but adds new information of interest. For instance, the program starts with the rights and responsibility of children by introducing learners to the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My students loved to learn that play and rest is their right! When asked to clean up at home, one of my students tried to use this newfound knowledge to her advantage, citing play as her right! Her mom and I had a laugh about this and then she thanked me for challenging her daughter with topics like this!

Rights vs. Responsibilities (student answers)

The program continues with lessons on safe and unsafe friends and adults. All of my students now understand that a safe adult has to be someone you know and trust. The program moves into body positivity and accepting diversity and my students loved reading People by Peter Spiers, focusing on the cultures and diversity that we have in our own classroom. Since teaching the lesson, I have overheard three students talking to others about why they are proud of their bodies and the cool things they can do!

Safe vs. Unsafe Friends and Adults (student answers)

These three lessons set the tone for the future lessons and help to gradually and naturally arrive at more serious topics such as public versus private. We started with public places, items, and internet safety and worked our way into private body parts. I appreciate that the program properly labels private parts of the body. I told my students that they needed to know the real names if they wanted to be farmers, doctors, nurses, teachers, moms and dads, firefighters, police officers, veterinarians, EMTs, etc. and that while we only say these words when we are hurt, are in the bathroom, and/or need help, it is important to know these terms even if they make us laugh. One of my students said it was a bit weird to hear me say those words and others were shocked that girls and boys have different body parts. But by the next day when we discussed caring for our bodies, the laughing and awkwardness had subsided.

The program teaches the personal safety strategy – Say No! Go! Tell! – and the students are able to remember this quite well. The teachers across the hall have heard us yelling ‘no’ on numerous occasions and I’m proud of how firm my students will be. We are learning that touching should always be safe. A student said to me, “Is my mom brushing my hair a safe touch because it hurts me?” Another student was able to compare this to getting a needle (necessary and from a doctor) so the class decided it was a safe touch. That is complex social thinking from a group of six and seven year olds! At the end of the lesson, a student asked if we would be talking about secrets, which just happened to be the next topic of discussion. If that’s not well-timed, I don’t know what is! Students are learning to identify their trusted people and that they are always allowed to say ‘no.’ They are able to define terms such as safety, secrets, bribery, etc. I’m so proud of the learning that has occurred.

While I felt ambivalent at the start, I am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to teach this program. It has more than exceeded my expectations. But if you are not yet convinced, I will leave you with this information from the Be Safe! Kit Information Package: 

The safety of our children matters. Their rights matter. Having adults that protect them matters. Our children matter!

Sask. Reads Instructional Approaches in My Classroom

The Saskatchewan Reads: A Companion Document to the Saskatchewan English Language Arts Curriculum – Grades 1, 2, 3 is a document that every Saskatchewan teacher should familiarize themselves with. It highlights curriculum connections, learning environments, big ideas of reading, assessment for, as, and of learning, instructional approaches, and interventions. Today I want to focus on how I use the instructional approaches in my classroom.

There are four instructional approaches aligned with the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR):

  • Modeled Reading – “I Do”
  • Shared Reading – “We Do”
  • Scaffolded/Guided Reading – “We Do Together”
  • Independent Reading – “You Do”

Utilizing the GRR allows the teacher to “gradually transfers increased responsibility to the students” (Saskatchewan Reads, 2019, n.p.). It is an evidence-based strategy that allows for student growth and achievement.

Modeled Reading involves verbalizing reading strategies and thought processes in a planned way while reading to the class. Basically, the teacher is repeatedly practicing the reading skill(s) that students will eventually be expected to do. This can be accomplished through various forms of literature across any subject matter. It extends beyond a simple read-aloud because reading behaviors are emphasized, modeled, and then practiced by students afterwards.

Modeled Reading in My Classroom: One of my favorite modeling lessons involves fairy tale stories. I like to use fairy tales because students are often familiar with them and there are many different versions. During a reading of the Three Little Pigs, I modeled ‘skippy frog’ (skip the tricky word, read to the end, and then go back and try again) and ‘chunky monkey’ (chunk the words into smaller parts that you know). The comprehension strategies that I focused on were retelling in order (sequencing) and using prior knowledge. I am expecting my students to start using these strategies more independently and modeling them is the first step. The next day I modeled another version of The Three Little Pigs and emphasized comparing/contrasting in addition to the other strategies.

Shared Reading involves using different genres to share in reading and strategy use. It goes beyond choral reading or round-robin reading because the students and teachers are working together and the teacher continues to model their thought process.

Shared Reading in My Classroom: My students love poems and this genre is often perfect for shared reading. We read the poem “Straw, Sticks, and Bricks” which also supported their comprehension. I modeled the poem the first day utilizing ‘stretchy snake’ (sounding out the words) and ‘flippy dolphin’ (changing the vowel sound). Then the next day we reviewed the events of the poem together and any phonics generalizations. Students then got a chance to share in the reading. Afterwards, students practiced the reading strategies that we had been focusing on with our reading strategy cards.

Decoding Strategy Cards purchased from: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Decoding-Strategy-Task-Cards-Includes-7-Strategies-Posters-and-More-3395143?aref=1rpj2ve4

I also will be completing this sentence strip One Pig, Two Pigs book with the students to further practice our strategies in a shared way. Sentence strip stories lend themselves nicely to all four instructional approaches, especially when repetition occurs.

Scaffolded/Guided Reading involves targeted reading instruction in flexible groupings based on student needs. Students practice reading and reading strategies through a variety of content areas and leveled books. Instructional time and lesson focus varies based on group needs and teacher observations. This extends beyond round-robin reading because students can work at their own pace and the strategies taught apply to reading opportunities beyond that specific text.

Guided Reading in My Classroom: For Guided Reading (and Levelled Literacy Intervention), I used different levels of The Three Little Pigs based on student needs and we read them in their flexible groupings. Students got a chance to practice our previous reading and comprehension strategies, such as compare/contrast. We always read the books two days in a row before students take them home to share with their parents. On the second day, students will write about their reading to solidify their comprehension. The second reading also helps develop their confidence and fluency.

Independent Reading involves students selecting “just-right” texts and then applying their reading strategies independently. This differs from silent reading because of the discussions, written reflections, and goal-setting that occurs between students and their teacher.

Independent Reading in My Classroom: My independent reading time is scheduled alongside guided reading typically. I have a classroom library of over 500 books that students can choose from. Students read for 7-10 minutes and then conference with a peer for 3-5 minutes about what they read. They can also engage in a shared read or read-aloud at this time. I leave five minutes at the end of each guided reading lesson to check-in with students about what they read and what strategies they used. I use the attached document to conference with students about what they read and if it was the right fit. Sometimes I need to ask further comprehension questions but I like that this document ties back to our classroom anchor chart.

It can be this simple to use the four instructional approaches in your classroom! This concept can be applied to other genres, countless subjects, and any story (whether the reading materials connect or not)! I am planning to repeat this structure when reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Be sure to check out Saskatchewan Reads and please feel free to leave a comment about how you use the four instructional approaches in your classroom!

Legs Up The Wall

We have been learning about strategies to use when we are in the blue, green, yellow, and red zones. Yoga is a strategy we often use in the blue or yellow zones. One of our favorite poses is called Legs Up The Wall. In this position, students lay flat on their backs with their legs against a flat surface, like a cupboard or wall. Students can put their hands on their heads, by their sides, or on their body. Their legs can be straight up and down, bent into a butterfly pose, or open in a V-shape. The benefits of this pose include calming the nervous system, quieting the mind, reducing stress, releasing pressure and tension in the lower body, and inversion benefits without a lot of effort. It is quick and easy and students love it! One of my students told me about how she was practicing at home and her mom wondered what she was doing. While it may look silly, it is totally worth it!

Try with classical music for added calming benefits.

Amygdala, Hippocampus, and PFC on Grade 1 Terms!

My Grade 1s have been reviewing the five senses and applying this knowledge to the parts of the brain. We are learning about the amygdala (safety guard), hippocampus (memory), and the prefrontal cortex or PFC (decision maker). We did lessons on mindful seeing, listening, and touching.

Today the students had a lot of fun learning about mindful smelling and tasting. I put 9 food items in brown bags and numbered the bags 1 through 9. Students got to smell an item and track their guess on the whiteboard tables. At the end, I revealed each item and we discussed how our hippocampus reminded us of a time we had smelled a certain food. Some students were reminded of a person or place. We also discussed how the amygdala can signal us that it was scary to not be able to see the foods and that students had to make the decision to trust me. The students agreed that it was easier to do mindful seeing than mindful smelling. The next step was to have students taste the food. We discussed salty, sweet, savory, bitter, sour, and spicy foods and students got a chance to categorize the foods and explain why.

During mindful smelling, she easily identified pickles and connected the smell to family meals in the summer.
“This is sour, Ms. Gorham!” – Student

“Do you like it?” – Ms. Gorham

“I like that it makes me think of my family… but can I eat something salty?” – Student

Honestly, I was a bit worried about teaching parts of the brain to Gr. 1s but they have surpassed my expectations and are easily labelling the terms and learning about how they can use their brain and senses to explore the world around them!