I would like to share (with my many and faithful readers) a wonderful and valuable classroom activity I am currently doing in the computer lab with my third graders. Last year I did this with the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I haven't decided yet, but I may go ahead and do it again this year with 4th and 5th because I think it is a lesson that bears repeating.
I call it "inspiration appreciations" because it uses the software Inspiration and is an exercise in appreciating others. I believe that all humans, large and small, crave positive feedback from their peers. I also believe that a positive, cooperative classroom where students feel valued for their unique contributions is a safe place for children to take risks, which are necessary for learning and growth to occur.
The procedure is simple. It works quite nicely in the computer lab, but could be adapted for use in any classroom and doesn't rely on computer technology at all. I have students sit down out the computer, open Inspiration (a wonderful software for visual diagramming) and put their name and picture in the "main idea" spot. Then all the students stand up and move to their neighbor's computer, sit down and add an illustrated appreciation about that person.
Some guidelines we use:
-comments are anonymous
-no one reads their own comments until the end
-comments are not to be repeated more than twice
-don't use "generic" appreciations like "you are nice." Really think about a specific example of why that person is nice or something kind they have done for you.
I love this activity for a number of reasons. I love watching the kids go back to their own computer to read their "inspiration card" and seeing the pleasure on their faces as they read all of the things their classmates admire and appreciate about them. I have noticed that giving genuine positive feedback is challenging for them at first, and that, like anything else, they improve upon it with practice.