A few weeks ago, we noticed that there was an up-swell in a desire to create paper airplanes. Everyday, Katie and I had a gaggle of students requesting help with folding. On the third day, one of our more quiet students set off alone and folded her own airplane. She had not been one of the children requesting assistance. Her design was much more intricate than ours and flew significantly better. Soon, the other children realized her specialty and switched to her for help.
As we commented on her newfound joy of teaching, other students added that they could teach their friends something, too. We went in the most obvious direction and asked them what they would like to teach their friends.
You might have noticed an odd phrase popping up at home lately. Before Spring Break, we noticed that the children’s peer talk was becoming more and more demanding. This happens each year as the children grow increasingly comfortable with each other. By Spring, it’s like a huge sibling sea roiling between calm tides and wild rides. This year, we decided to try introducing the children to an old axiom,
“You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”
We didn’t spend very much time analyzing the words of the statement. Rather, we talked about and modeled the difference between using kind words to request something and using demanding words. The class labeled kind words as “sugar words.” Demanding, whining, or simply unkind words became “vinegar words.” While Mrs. Pless and I modeled a few examples, the children noticed that when we used “sugar words,” the other person was more likely to agree with us or at least listen. When we used “vinegar words,” an argument generally broke out or we were ignored.
We frequently hear the children reminding each other to use their “sugar words” these days. Luckily, “vinegar words” appear to have mostly disappeared. However, when they do appear, the request to “please use your ‘sugar words'” generally reminds everyone to take a deep breath and try again.