How Full Is Your Bucket?

Berry People CartoonsThe books that inspired this les­son have noth­ing to do with art, and the illus­tra­tions were not what attracted me! What I LOVE about these books is their mes­sage. And what bet­ter way to drive home a great mes­sage than with a fun art les­son??! Inspired by a bul­ly­ing episode at my school, I saw this idea as a way to make a dif­fer­ence, so I had to try it. I fig­ured if even one child was helped, it would be worth it!

"Bucket" Books

I dis­cov­ered these books after read­ing an inspir­ing review of the #1 New York Times best­seller How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath. When I noticed Rath had also writ­ten a kids’ ver­sion, How Full Is Your Bucket? — for Kids, I knew I had found some­thing spe­cial! This book, along with Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and Grow­ing Up with a Bucket Full of Hap­pi­ness by Carol McCloud, pro­vided my stu­dents with a metaphor for com­pas­sion and kind­ness and gave them a new vocab­u­lary they could use to talk about their feelings.

We began our school year on a pos­i­tive note with every­one “on the same page” by read­ing How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids (Kinder­garten and 1st grade), and Have You Filled a Bucket Today? (2nd through 5th grades). Both books com­mu­ni­cate the same mes­sage, the for­mer being writ­ten in a nar­ra­tive style and the lat­ter in a more expos­i­tory style. (With my mid­dle school stu­dents, I read short selec­tions from Carol McCloud’s chap­ter book Grow­ing Up with a Bucket Full of Hap­pi­ness over a period of a few weeks).

These books sug­gest that you think of every­one as hav­ing an “invis­i­ble bucket” over their head that rep­re­sents how they feel. When their bucket is full, they feel great. When their bucket is empty, they feel ter­ri­ble. Every inter­ac­tion through­out the day will either fill or empty someone’s bucket.

When I say “every­one” has a bucket, that means teach­ers, too! So I started my les­son by draw­ing a large bucket on the white board, and scrib­bled in about a third of it with “water”. As stu­dents would raise their hands, or exhibit other pos­i­tive behav­ior, I’d scrib­ble in a lit­tle more water. If they talked while I was talk­ing, got out of their seat, etc., I’d erase some of the water in my bucket. They quickly got the idea!

Soon I heard stu­dents talk­ing about their own “buck­ets” and got reports from staff that this new vocab­u­lary was pop­ping up as stu­dents worked to resolve their con­flicts in the class­room and on the play­ground. Bul­ly­ing prob­lems are com­plex with no easy solu­tions, but I can hon­estly say this “bucket the­ory” has helped in us move in a pos­i­tive direction!

In respond­ing to this story with an art project, we made thumbprint car­toon peo­ple inter­act­ing in ways that demon­strated “bucket fill­ing”. I wanted to use this project for our school dis­play at our County Fair, so I had to work back­ward from the space we were given, divid­ing by the total num­ber of stu­dents in order to have each stu­dent rep­re­sented (this gave us only about 4“x5” per stu­dent). We also needed to fol­low the theme of the fair, which was “The Berry Best”, so we decided to make our thumbprint peo­ple look like berries!

This project had to be com­pleted in one class ses­sion, so I chose to work with ink rather than paint. This way, stu­dents could draw faces on their berry peo­ple right away and not have to wait for them to dry. With my “spend as lit­tle as pos­si­ble” bud­get, I knew I couldn’t pur­chase enough stamp pads, so we made our own! We took a small piece of alu­minum foil, folded it a few times to make it strong, and col­ored over it with Cray­ola Wash­able Mark­ers. The ink would stay wet long enough for stu­dents to press their thumbs onto it, but it dried quickly once the print was made on paper. And the ink eas­ily wiped off of thumbs with a sin­gle “wet wipe”. Yes — this was one of my best ideas ever!!

Make Your Own Stamp Pad, step 1 IMG_2317 IMG_2318

Berry Thumbprint People CartoonRefer­ring back to the story, we brain­stormed pos­si­ble “bucket fill­ing” con­ver­sa­tions and listed them on the white­board. Then I showed stu­dents how to make “speech bub­bles” (write the words first so you know how big to make the bub­ble, then draw a “car­rot” point­ing to the per­son say­ing it).

It was a trick to make every­thing fit in our lim­ited dis­play space! We tried to keep classes together to make it eas­ier for fam­i­lies to find their child’s draw­ing… and they all did! Hope­fully our dis­play inspired oth­ers to be “bucket fillers”, too!

County Fair Display for "How Full Is Your Bucket?"

This project addressed our school ESLRs (Expected School­wide Learn­ing Results): “Thought­ful cit­i­zens who prac­tice self-control and respect for oth­ers”, and “Skilled com­mu­ni­ca­tors who appre­ci­ate and express ideas through the arts.” I also adapted my les­son as needed to address at least one stan­dard from each grade level, which was sur­pris­ingly easy to do!

Do you have a favorite book for teach­ing com­pas­sion and kindness?


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4 Responses to How Full Is Your Bucket?

  1. Kim Hyman April 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    I have never thought to make fin­ger­prints that way before. I’ve always had the kids color directly on their fin­ger. It’s much harder to remove from fin­gers. I’ll def­i­nitely give your way a try next time I try the fin­ger prints. I also have Carol McClouds book, what a won­der­ful way to use it in the Art room.

    • Cheryl Trowbridge April 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Kim, I spend so much time telling stu­dents they may ONLY color (paint, draw, etc.) on their paper and not on their skin, that if I let them color on their hands even once, I’m afraid I could never reign them back in!! ;-)

  2. Rina April 22, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I don’t know which I love more — the tip about using foil + marker as a tem­po­rary ink pad or your beau­ti­ful bul­letin board dis­play :)
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    • Cheryl Trowbridge April 22, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      Awww…thanks, Rina! Neces­sity is the mother of inven­tion, right?! The dis­play was a joint effort with some of the other teach­ers at my school. It’s always more fun to work as a team on projects like this!

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