To Build or Destroy – The Power of Our Words

pink-shirt1Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and over the Internet. During the month of February, many organizations across Canada will work to raise awareness on this issue and give us the tools needed to stand up against bullying and step in when we see it happening. February 25th is Pink Shirt Day and it is recognized in schools across Canada and worldwide by wearing pink in support of anti-bullying. 

I would like to share an animation that highlights the power of our words. Words (which is also the introduction post to Words on a Limb) has truly become one of my favourite videos to share with students when discussing issues around bullying and raising awareness of the impact we have on others through speech and actions. The power of our words can never be underestimated. To build or destroy, it is always our choice.

Creative Commons License
Words by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Here is a snippet of the Globe & Mail article that describes how Pink Shirt Day began:

“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.

‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’

So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag.

As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled.

The bullies were never heard from again.”
wear-pink-shepherd-price-300x201


It is not always easy to broach difficult topics with our children and students. This is where great literature comes in handy in opening a platform for discussion and reflection. Below is a collection of wonderful picture books to provoke questions about bullying, both as victims and perpetrators. Feel free to share other great books you’ve come across in the comment box below.  I will be more than happy to add them to our list. Continue reading

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Happy Family Day!

Family cloudOur family is the proverbial egg that we were hatched from. Everything about who we are, both our nature and nurture stems from our early interaction with this group of people we call family.

There is no doubt that we all lead busy lives and the daily hustle and bustle make it difficult to stay connected with the ones we love. Special times like Family Day are opportunities to re-connect and re-evaluate those important relationships in our lives. As such, I will continue to focus on friendship and family with my students throughout the month of February.

Considering that many children no longer grow up in traditional nuclear families, the need for literature that is inclusive of varying experiences is of paramount importance in the classroom. I’d like to share a poem I wrote that can be used to springboard a discussion on what constitutes a family, moving away from a pre-defined understanding of what a family should look like and embracing what makes families unique.


My Family
Lora Rozler

She brings the sky within my reachgrandma
And bakes the best of brownies.
She tells me stories of long ago
And forgets about my bedtime.
Grandma Nia is the greatest – she is my family!

brotherHe piggy-backs me to my room
And makes monsters disappear.
He plays with me even when he’s tired
And let’s me win at checkers.
My stepdad is my superhero – he is my family!

They take me places all the timefamily
And buy me books and toys.
They care for me and teach me things
And help me with my homework.
My parents love me endlessly – they are my family!


Creative Commons License
My Family by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Below is a Family Day Resource package you can download for your personal use in the classroom. It contains the poem above and other fun activities for your students. The download link is found below the samples. Enjoy!

Poems

 ‘My family’ Poem, ‘my family is my treasure’ interactive poem,
‘love is…’ writing template


Creative Commons License
My Family is My Treasure by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Here is a fun activity I can’t wait to share with my class. Invite students to draw and colour a portrait of their family. Then have students cut the page along the faint lines to create puzzle pieces. Send the puzzle home in a zippy bag to share with families. It’s one I’m sure they’ll cherish.

Puzzle blank   Puzzle sample

‘we stick together’ Family puzzle


Students use the blank template rectangles to draw, colour and label their family members. They then cut and paste the images around their own on the family tree.

tree sample

my family tree


To download this family activity pack for your personal use in the classroom,
click on the family icon below.


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Words on a Limb Interviews A.S. Chung

Happy Family Day Everyone!


A.S. Chung jpgIf you are an author or avid reader, you are definitely familiar with Goodreads. If you are not, you are in for a treat, you should go ahead and visit goodreads.com. If you have visited our website often, you’ll know that we have often pointed you in that direction for further information. One of the joys of Goodreads is that we often meet terrific authors with special stories to tell.

One of those terrific authors is A.S. Chung. She reached out to us from her home in Melbourne Australia, to discuss doing a feature with her. After doing a little research, we realized that Amy (A.S.) was not only an author but she also conceived Pigeonhole Books as an avenue to create books that both empower and enrich families – especially non-traditional homes with blended, divorced, multiracial and same-sex families.

In general, mass market literature tends to shy away from books that do not depict mainstream family circumstances, understandably so if the goal of selling books is to bring as many people under the tent as possible. However, as Bob Dylan wrote, the times they are a changin’. Now, we see established authors delve into the non-traditional with titles such as Patricia Polacco’s In our Mother’s House and Leslea Newman’s Mommy, Mama and Me and of course I Wished For You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond.

This coming February 16th is Family Day in Canada. We are so encouraged that Amy does a great job gently introducing young readers to families that don’t necessarily look like everyone else’s, but are still overflowing with love. The stories are told with great energy and from a child’s perspective.

Author Teresa Villegas did a piece for us a while back, sharing with us neat ideas on how to talk to kids about being born into an egg or sperm donor family. Today, similarly, we feel inspired to share Amy’s story with you. Enjoy!


About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
Writing has always played a significant role in my life but it was always just something I did, be it for education, work or fun. I enjoy blogging and I have always loved putting pen to paper.

However, I first realized I wanted to become a bona fide writer when it became an outlet to express how I felt while going through my divorce. It was an excellent way to release all my feelings and thoughts and I was amazed how I felt afterwards. I haven’t been able to stop since then and I now write children’s picture books for kids from diverse family backgrounds.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
I read widely as a child. I read all the classics every child should and in most cases, the resounding style I enjoyed the most was anything which stretched the imagination. The likes of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis resonate with me, even until today. While my stories are less fictional and far from fantasy, these authors provided me with the courage to push past the boundaries and write what I wanted to, simply because I could.

When and where do you prefer to write?
Anytime is a good time! Ideas always seem to pop into my head at the most inopportune times. I’m often in situations where the concept and words flow faster than I can write because sometimes they come to me while I’m standing in a middle of an aisle in the supermarket! Most times, however, I do love to write in the comfort of my own home, in front of the computer with a cup of tea, as I lounge in my pyjamas.

What was your biggest challenge in writing your book?
Reducing the length of the manuscript. I could have gone on forever!

While going through my divorce, with a 4-year-old in tow, I was constantly worried about my daughter’s state of mind. There were plenty of resources at my disposal to deal with this life challenge, however, I felt that I needed to find an alternative way to communicate with her, to tell her that life is beautiful and that everything will be ok. I felt that telling and reassuring her was simply not adequate. So, I decided I would further highlight the good in what we currently have through loving words and beautiful illustrations. The message of the book is to hone in on the positives because at the end of the day, she has no choice. So let’s not wallow on the challenges and difficulties.

I also wanted a gentle resource for close family and friends. Divorce also affects the people around us and changes social dynamics. It makes for a difficult conversation to have with children when they’re not in this position themselves.

Based on this premise, my first attempt was a jumble of feelings on paper. There was no structure or body to the story. I simply wanted to write. When I finally finished everything I wanted to say, I had to peel it back and segment my thoughts. The result was an additional three manuscripts in the series that are currently being worked on.

What advice do you have for other writers?
Write all the time! Write about anything and have a great time doing it.

Believe in your words and your message. Don’t sway too far away from your initial goal as you may not like the finished product. Stay true to yourself.

About you …

What do you like to do when you are not writing (other than reading, of course)?
My most favorite thing in the world to do is spending time with my daughter and partner and we’re extremely active and social. Travel and photography take on a natural second and third place.

Travel continues to educate my heart and soul. I love discovering things about places I had visited before that I had never noticed in the first instance. Age, wisdom and maturity changes one’s perspective. I also love travelling with my new partner. He sees things I otherwise wouldn’t have and travelling with a child is even more exhilarating. Looking at the world through their eyes is always filled with wonder.

The camera (next to the laptop!) is my one prized materialistic possession. I love creating stories through pictures. My subjects are always people and I love being able to capture precious moments, when it was least expected.

Do you have any unique talents besides writing?
For a writer, I lead an extremely normal, left brain life. I’m afraid I don’t have any other special talents that would be deemed extraordinary.

What can we expect from you in the future?
A Brand New Day is but the first of many books in the divorce series to be published. However, I am currently working on the first book of the Pocketful of Pride series, entitled A Wishful Wedding, which delves into stories about same-sex families.

Quick Hits …

Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
I would love to have met David Eddings, an American fantasy writer. He was my “first love” and I was so engrossed and enthralled in his five book series The Belgariad as it introduced me into a wonderful world of fantasy. Much like J.R.R. Tolkien, he created an entire world, generations of characters and a language of its own. I have read all his subsequent books and feel like I have grown up with this fictional royal family! I wished I could have thanked him for immersing me into the kind of reading where I locked myself away for days and only left the room because I was hungry.

What book are you currently reading (eBook or paper)?
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and Adultery by Paulo Coehlo. Adultery was released while I was reading Annie Proulx and I am an avid fan of Paulo Coehlo. I turned to Paulo Coelho’s spiritual words to get me through the difficult phase of divorce and in many ways allowed the slow minutes become beautiful days.

Who designed your latest book cover?
The most amazing illustrator I know, Paula Bossio. She is so incredibly talented and she has a remarkable knack of translating my words into art.

What is your favourite quote?
Your children need your presence more than your presents.” Jesse Jackson


Visit with Amy:

 12166559 Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pinterest


A Brand New Day – A Banana Split Story
by A.S. Chung, Paula Bossio (Illustrator)
Pigeonhole Books
Amazon | Chapters

Mondays and Tuesdays are fun, going on cooking adventures with Dad. We look forward to Wednesdays and Thursday too when we get to be a green thumb with Mum. Don’t forget the holidays! Spring breaks with Mum and hot summer camping with Dad. Each day is a truly special day!

A Banana Split Story is a series within the Pigeonhole Books collection that features stories about children from separated and divorced families.


Amy on Facebook:

Amy on Twitter:


lomo-photo-effectWhen you take a moment to get to know Amy through her books, publishing, blog, interviews and social media, you’ll discover a woman who has found a way to make a difference in people’s lives, one shared story at a time. She encompasses the true spirit of Family Day – a chance to celebrate everyone who feels their family around them, no matter what it might look like.

We congratulate Amy on her success and wish her continued good fortune in her bright future. Great to meet you Amy!


Words on a Limb would like to wish everyone a happy, warm, love-filled Family Day.

Lora

Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentine-heart-girl

I made you a card,

With a poem in it too.

As my way of saying

Our friendship is true!

boy-with-flower

I picked out a flower

I got it for you.

It is my way of showing

How much I love you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  

Lora Rozler


bearTo download a free copy of the poem for your personal use in the classroom, click on the bear image to the right. 

Happy Valentine’s Day by Words On A Limb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – and what better time to show our family and friends just how dear they are to us (not that we should forget to do so during the rest of the year). So let’s take out the scissors and glue and get crafting!


Here is a free template for a valentine card craft. Simply photocopy (on plain, coloured or construction paper), fold in half (bear side up), and have students select from various greetings to decorate and glue inside the card. You may want to give students the option of drawing and writing their own greeting as well. I like to have several options available to accommodate many needs and levels.

Here are six greeting options:

Greetings

IMG_20150202_143758 IMG_20150202_145134

A sample of the finished product


bucket-filler2

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is one of my favourite picture books to build a great discussion on what it means to be a good friend.  The book helps students understand the concept of happiness and the role we play in creating it for ourselves and those around us. The language of bucket-filling has become associated with kindness and thoughtful acts.

In a previous post that focused on peace-making, I referenced this book and included free writing templates that encouraged students to fill each other’s buckets by writing Smile-O-Grams. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to revisit this activity and remind students of the importance of positive messages. Click on the templates below to visit my previous post and download free Smile-O-Gram templates for your personal use in the classroom.

Written iconBlank


Here is a really cute friendship-building poem I came across online. I especially love that it includes students’ names and gives it a personal feel. It is also a great way to teach students about action words. I plan on sharing it with my students this week and having fun with verbs while we are at it. Thank you Cliparts for the image contribution.

Friend of Mine


What’s Valentine’s Day without some friendship-building games. Here are some activities I have planned for next week. I’d like to thank my wonderful ECE, Deepa Talwar, and friend and colleague, Lucas Hannahson for their contributions.

valentines-day-kidsMy Other Half | Preparation: Cut out enough hearts so that each student has half of a heart (i.e., for 30 students you will need 15 hearts).  Make sure to cut each heart down the middle in a different way (i.e., big zig-zags, small zig-zags, waves, jagged lines, etc.). How to Play: Distribute the halves randomly among the students. Instruct players to walk around the room asking “Are you my other half?” while trying to connect the pieces together. When students find their match they sit down and hold their heart together. Partners then ask each other questions and prepare to share one thing they learned with the rest of the class.  It might be a good idea to brainstorm a list of good questions prior to starting – keep the questions posted somewhere around the room for quick reference (i.e., What is your favourite movie? What do you like most about school?).


wheelbarrowIMG_20150203_125346Heart Race | Preparation: Stack 6 plastic or Styrofoam cups together for each team (for a class of 30 students you will have 5 teams). Decorate the top cup in each set with some hearts so it will be different from the others in the stack. How to Play: Divide students into equal teams (if not possible, some players will simply have an extra turn). Line up the teams and have the first player hold their stack of cups.
IMG_20150203_125302IMG_20150203_125337Upon signaling, the first player will begin stacking the cups, from top to bottom. The object of the game is to keep moving the cups from top to bottom until the ‘heart’ cup appears on top again, at which point they pass the stack to the next player and proceed to sit down at the back of the line. The first team to have all their players complete the task, wins the heart race!


girl-making-valentine

IMG_20150203_134500Match My HeartPreparation: Cut and attach a set of 15 pairs of different colour hearts to popsicle sticks (one per child, so if you have 30 kids you’ll need 15 pairs, 15 different colours). How to Play: IMG_20150203_142336Distribute the hearts, one per child. Turn the music on and have students dance around the room . When the music stops, players need to stay in their spot and find a nearby match for their heart. They can stretch or bend to reach their matching heart but cannot move from their spot. Play the music again and continue. IMG_20150203_144153As a variation, or to add more of a challenge to the game, you can also write sight words (or Valentine theme words) and add images to the hearts. This way, not only can colours make a match, but words and pictures as well (either both or else one or the other).


boy-with-valentine-heart-drawing (1)Mystery Valentine | Preparation: Invite students to share one thing about themselves and write it on a mystery card (some students will be more independent than others). How to Play: While gathered on the carpet, read the mystery cards one at a time and invite students to guess who each mystery valentine is. This is a fun way to learn about each other!

 


bear-clipart-2-transparentFriendship Circle | Gather in a circle on the carpet and invite students to take turns sharing something or someone they appreciate (i.e., I appreciate the books we have, I appreciated it when Lily helped me find my glove). Give students the option to say pass if they do not wish to share anything at this point. This is a wonderful community-building exercise that fosters appreciation and encourages the show of gratitude. I like to pass around an object for the children to hold as they speak (in honor of Valentines day, perhaps a flower or teddy bear).


loveLetterLove LetterPreparation: You will need enough alphabet bean bags so that each child has one (for bigger classes you will need more bags – hacky sacks work well as fillers). How to Play: Students sing a variation of the song, Hot Potato while passing around the bean bags in the circle. “Love letter, pass it on, pass it on, pass it on, love letter, pass it on, the letter is – “. The teacher then announces a letter and students look down to see if they have the one that was just called. The student that has the letter goes up to write the letter on the board. Continue on, calling out a different letter each time, possibly spelling a Valentine word (i.e., LOVE, HEART, etc.). Once all the letters in the secret word have been called, students read the mystery word. For more of a challenge, select the letters out of order and have students unscramble them to make up a mystery word.


e2416fafe803443986442d2063a25fa6The Colour of My HeartPreparation: Cut out different coloured hearts so that there are enough for every student to have one. Place the hearts in a sac or box. On chart paper, write up corresponding questions to each coloured heart (i.e., red heart – what is your favourite food; blue heart – What are you most afraid of? etc.). How to Play: While gathered in a circle on the carpet, pass around the heart bag and have every student pull one out. When everyone has a heart in their hand, go around and have students answer the corresponding question to their coloured heart. You may want all the red questions answered first or in the order of the circle.


cute-valentines-day-cupidStuck on YouPreparation: You will need matching pairs of stickers (i.e., for 30 students you will need 15 different pairs of stickers). How to Play: Gather students in a circle and instruct them not peek or talk as you walk around placing stickers on their back. Upon your signal, students walk around and try to find their partner – the person who has a matching sticker to theirs. This is obviously tricky because they will not know what sticker they have. They will be dependent on each other for help, which is a great way to get them talking, listening and problem-solving. When students believe they’ve found their match (again, they will need to rely on others to confirm that this is so), they sit down and peel the sticker off their friend’s back and stick it on their hand.


AND NOW, FOR SOME SINGING… singing-clipart-LcKpyMyMi

If You’re Friendly and You Know It
(Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)

If you’re friendly and you know it, wave hello.
If you’re friendly and you know it, wave hello.
If you’re friendly and you know it,
And you really want to show it.
If you’re friendly and you know it, wave hello.

Substitute with other motions such as give a smile, shake a hand,give a high five.


Do You Know Our Friend?
(Tune: “The Muffin Man”)

Do you know our friend (name)?
Our friend (name), our friend (child’s name).
Do you know our friend (child’s name)?
He/She is really ____ .

Brainstorm words to describe students (kind, bright, creative, sweet, fun, caring).

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