Happy December!!  Yes, that's right - December. A month filled with lights and carols and joy and giving. And if you're in the classroom, add to that a month filled with a little craziness and excitement! We can all use some fantastic ideas for our classroom right about now, so I'm linking up with my friends over at I Teach Second for the first of what will be a monthly linky:
This linky is filled with great ideas you can use in your classroom - now and after the holidays!

Sometimes our little ones forget that this month isn't all about them. I go out of my way each year to actually TEACH my students how to be kind, respectful and caring towards others. Although kids can easily share some of the big things they do to show kindness - food drives, helping another student, etc. - they often don't realize that it's the LITTLE things that can count the most.
December 1st brings the entrance of a new friend to our classroom... meet the Kindness Elf.

I know that Kindness Elves are not new - I've seen many classrooms doing them now instead of the traditional OTHER elf.  For me, I was looking to use them to show students how they could show kindness every day - even in the little things they did... and that the result of that kindness could be very powerful, even if they didn't know it. I started doing this last year in my room after seeing a blog post from The Imagination Tree. Her post focuses on Kindness Elves at home, but I was inspired to come up with a way to infuse kindness into our classroom.  I decided to create a "Kindness Challenge!"
I found some little elves on Amazon and knew they would be perfect for my little covert operation.  There are 4 different elves and they each have Velcro on their hands - perfect for hanging around the room! (It seems that the price has gone WAY up from last year! I know I did not spend over $20 on these guys!)
The next part was to come up with 18 different ways (yep, that's how many school days till Christmas break!) students could show kindness.  I wanted most of those ways to be easy and quick.  It's going to be the little things that matter when we're trying to develop a culture of kindness. I wanted them to realize that it's not always the bigger things we do that count - it's the little, everyday actions that mean the most.
Soooo... after a bit of brainstorming... here are the "Kindness Cards" that the elves will be bringing each day! (You can click on the image to download them - black and white version, too!)

The plan is to have one of the elves bring a card every day until Christmas break.  They might show up in the morning, after lunch or even right before we go home.  I chose acts of kindness that would be easy for my kiddos to do. I also mixed in things they could do at home, as well. Spread the good cheer! Each day, when the elf, appears, we read the kindness challenge card and talked about how we can successfully accomplish it. We also talked about the impact each little act of kindness could have on our classroom, grade level, school and family.
I can honestly say the focus and conscious effort on teaching kindness in a meaningful way definitely had a positive impact on our classroom community. I noticed students continuing to do kind things even after Christmas break and they also began noticing when others did something for them.
This year, I'm changing it up a bit. I'm still going with the kindness theme, but after seeing this creative poster from Digital: Divide and Conquer, I knew the elves would be replaced by a kindness reindeer!


I printed and laminated (4 to a page) the cards to make the poster, and the reindeer will bring them along on the first day when she makes her appearance. (You can snag the posters by clicking on the image.) I'm excited to start this with my class this year.  I have such a wonderfully caring group of students I know they will really take this to heart.  And who knows - if kindness takes over classrooms everywhere, think of what a huge impact we can all have on our little part of the world!
If you're doing kindness elves - or any kindness acts in your classroom, I'd love to hear from you! And be sure to check out some of the other great ideas in the link up!

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