ANT Buddies Activity Kit

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Is there anything better than when something just “clicks” for one of your students? That moment when you can see the lightbulb go off and true understanding of a concept takes place…it’s the best. That happened this week and here’s the short and sweet on how it went:

  • Student: “Mrs. Yoder, I haaaaaate math. It’s so stupid!”
  • Me: “Oh? Is it really? Is math really stupid?”
  • Student: “Yes! I had no clue what was going on today. It’s stupid!”
  • Me: “Hmmm…I hear an ANT Buddy.”
  • Student: (Insert 10 second(ish) pause) “Ugh you’re right.”
  • Me: “Which one do you hear? I hear a label being used. Who does that?”
  • Student: (Insert 10 second(ish pause) CLICK “Lester? It’s Lester!”
  • Me: “Yes! You got it! Now, let’s try using specific words to describe what’s happening for you in math…”

I seriously love it when this happens! I have a small group that has been working very hard on learning all of the ANT Buddies. We’ve been using the ANT Buddy Activity Kit to help with this, and it has been going beautifully! Keep reading to see more information about what is in this kit, and how I’m currently using the kit in my small group!

Learning About the ANT Buddies

After the introductory activity, which uses the ANT Buddy Video and a brainstorming/discussion time, we move into diving deeper into learning about each ANT Buddy. We learn about (1) who they are, (2) the most common thoughts they cause, (3) statements to stop them, and (4) statements to question them.

Each student in the group either receives a paper/pencil copy of the ANT Buddy cards or a digital copy (depending on preference or learning needs). The information on the cards is the same regardless.

The kit comes with an info card for all 15 ANT Buddies (print and digital). The digital copy is LOADED with information in the notes section about each ANT Buddy. There’s a script that you can use to introduce each bug, examples, frequently asked questions (just to name a few). You can even use the digital version to project the slides on a screen as you talk about each bug (this is what I do!).

I typically ask students to (1) write down the definition of the ANT Buddy that makes sense to them (as long as it mostly matches mine, (2) write down the three common thoughts in the bubbles, and (3) choose at least one stopping statement and question to put in the corresponding boxes. They don’t need to worry about understanding this part completely at this point because a more detailed explanation will come in later activities.

The activity kit does say to introduce 5 ANT Buddies at a time, but please don’t worry if your student or group is moving slower than this! Simply learning about these bugs has sparked amazing conversations in my groups, so moving a bit slow is totally worth it!

After we have learned about all of the ANT Buddies, students cut out their cards for me. I then laminate them, punch a hole in the top left corner, and connect all of them with a binder ring. This then becomes their own personal card collection to refer back to when completing the rest of the activities!

Memory Match

Who doesn’t love a good game to really reinforce a concept. After we have learned about all of the ANT Buddies, This is played just like a traditional game of Memory and has 2 versions. Students are asked to either match the correct ANT Buddy with their definition or an example of what they might make the student think.

Thought Stopping with the Fly Swatter

Alright, now the fun stuff begins. Who doesn’t like smacking a fake bug with a fly swatter?! Sometimes I’ll even bring out toy bugs and have the students swat the bug in front of them for extra fun. The students love this part, and I love teaching it. It’s seriously so much fun! I teach the concept of “stopping” the ANT Buddies in two main steps. First is the actual act of thought stopping. Then, we move on to the power of BUT and reframing our thoughts into the positive or neutral/realistic.

Step 1: Introducing Thought Stopping – This is where the fun begins. I ask students to think of something that an ANT Buddy might say to them. Something that makes them feel upset or frustrated, then I count to five in my head, bring out my fly swatter and yell “STOP” really loud while smacking the table. As you can imagine, this gets their immedite attention. We talk about what I just did and what happened to the thought in their head before trying again. This time, I do the same thing but yell “CUT IT OUT” instead. Eventually, I hand out fly swatters and they all get a chance to do this on their own with me coaching them through the process.

Step 2: Introducing Replacement Statment – So this is probably my favorite part in this activity. It gets really silly, really fast! I introduce students to the power of BUT – and obviously point out that I’m not talking about the booty butt (as my daughter would say), but the word BUT ::insert chuckles and giggles here::. We spend time going through several examples of this skill in action before using personal examples to finish it off.

Puzzle Match

This puzzle matching game follows the thought stopping lesson to reinforce the importance of the reframed thought. It also provides more examples of how to use the power of BUT with each ANT Buddy. I have really enjoyed using the digital version of this activity, simply because it requires little to no prep. It also presents only 2 ANT Buddies at a time, which really narrows things down for students.

When I’m going through this activity, I am sure to emphasize the power of BUT in the reframed statements. I try to teach my students that the reframe does not need to be positive, but (ha!) it does need to be realistic. Honestly, our lives are not all rainbows and butterlflies. Expecting everything to be perfect all of the time (or just wanting it to be that way), sets us up for failure and disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for gratitude and positivity, but sometimes our reframe just needs to focus on the here and now – what’s real and true about the situation going on in the moment.

Catch and Question Mason Jar Craftivity

Once students have practiced the reframe, we move on to catching and questioning the bugs. Stop here for a second, and think about when you were a kid and you caught bugs outside. What did you put them in? Maybe tupperware? Or maybe a mason jar?! This activity does take a bit of materials and prep, but in the end, students will have their very own “mason jar” to help them catch and question their ANT Buddies!

I do provide visual instructions on how to complete this craft, so I’m not going to go in to too much detail here. But I will say that you can finish these jars up with your students either using a laminator or sheet protector. Whichever you have on hand or is easiest for you!

So… what exacltly does catching and questioning look like? After students have finished their mason jars, we move on to the most important part – catching the ANT Buddy. We practice trapping the bug using example cards (included), and we learn the 4 steps to getting rid of the ANT Buddies.

  • STOP! This is where the fly swatter comes in. Use a thought stopping statement and a statement from the back of the ANT Buddy card to stop the bug. Ask yourself, how is this ANT Buddy making you feel? What was the spark (the situation that caused everything)?
  • Catch & Check! Once the ANT Buddy is stopped, you can then move on to placing the ANT Buddy in the jar. Then, take a closer look and determine which ANT Buddy you have lurking around. Is the thought true? Is it helpful? Choose a question on the back of the ANT Buddy card and find the answer.
  • Change! Reframe the thought and/or use the power of BUT.
  • Release! Let the ANT Buddy go by accepting the reframed thought, solving the problem, and/or asking for help.

We wrap up this lesson by getting blank slips and taking the jars with us. I have students keep two blank slips and their jar in their desk (or somewhere else safe nearby). Then, as they notice an ANT Buddy around, they fill out one of the slips and put it in the jar! This encourages them to start tracking their thoughts in a fun, hands-on, and non-threatening way.

Personal Examples and Releasing the ANT Buddy

Alright, this activity is dependent on students completing their 2 personal example slips prior to the meeting. If they don’t, then you’ll have to spend some time before this activity completing the slips together (been there, done that!).

Each student gets a mason jar, fly swatter and a magnifying glass. Students take turns sharing what they have “caught” throughout the last week on their personal slips. I then take the time to find the corresponding toy bug that matches what they are sharing and place it in front of the student. We then begin the thought stopping process with our statement and fly swatter, and the student physically catches the bug by placing it in the jar. We use the magnifying glasses to take a closer look at the bug and continue with the rest of the questioning process.

Here’s the most important part to emphasize (in my opinion) during this activity. The releasing of the bug. Going through the whole process of catching and questioning the bug means very little if we are not willing to let the bug go. At the end of the activity, students practice doing this by placing their bug in MY jar, and I remind them that I am always there to catch the bugs and keep them in order to prevent too many ANT Buddies from showing up in their day.

ANT Buddy Scoot!

I love a good scoot game! This is the perfect game to wrap up the ANT Buddies and check to make sure that you don’t need to revisit anything before everything is over. There are 30 total game cards that students will go through (ditigal or print). Students spend time answering the questions on the cards (on their own) and then we come back together to discuss our answers.

The discussion is often very telling. For one, you can see those ANT Buddies that students have mastered. This often means that they have noticed them popping up more often for them than others. Also, if there is a question that many of my students get wrong, I make sure to revisit that topic before concluding all of the ANT Buddy lessons. Obviously, because of Covid and social distancing guidelines, I have been using the digital version of this since students can’t really mingle in the room. But it still goes over well, and it sparks a lot of conversation!

PHEW! That was a LOT of information! Have questions or comments about this activity kit? Leave them below or on the SEL Sketches Facebook Page!