My first Masters course is called “Developing Character through Curriculum.” I can’t think of a better way to start the program. It’s so easy to get caught up with the details of what we want our children to know academically, but what do children truly need to become the kind of people we want them to be? This takes me back to an earlier post of mine: “Academics Aren’t Everything: Character”
When we send our children to school, we don’t expect teachers to just teach history, science, English, and math; we also expect them to teach our children honesty (no cheating), respect (don’t talk back to your teachers), kindness (share), empathy (being considerate of others who are different), responsibility (complete your work on time), etc. Values education (or moral or character education) should not just be a list of rules and consequences. Just as a good education helps students internalize what they have learned, a good values education helps students be internally motivated to be “good.” For example, if you tell your child not to eat the freshly baked cookies on the counter, will they eat one anyway if they know they won’t get caught? But, if you teach them to value honesty and respect, would they be more likely to leave them alone?
Most classrooms have problems with children getting along. One or more children may feel excluded or there may be teasing or bullying. How do we encourage respect, empathy, and a sense of community within the classroom? It starts by helping students get to know each other and to develop friendships. Here are a few ideas related to developing community.
Partners.1 Early in your school year, give children a chance to get to know each other. Divide into teams of two and give each team a list of questions, such as:
- What is your favorite food?
- What are two things you like to do?
- What is your favorite color?
- Do you have any brothers and sisters?
- What is your favorite subject in school?
- What is something you would like to do?
- Where is one place you would like to visit?
Give teams about ten minutes to share answers. Have the class come together and give teammates time to “introduce” their partners.
Show and Tell. Give children an opportunity to bring in and talk about one of their favorite things.
2 Truths and a Lie. Have each child write down their name, two things that are true about them, and one thing that is a lie. Collect all the papers. Read the child’s name, the two truths, and the lie and see if the class can guess which one is the lie. Repeat for each child. If your group knows each other well, omit the name and see if the class can guess the child’s name and the lie.
So, today I have a question for you. Do you infuse values (or moral or character) education into your teaching and if so, how?
1 Adapted from Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility by Thomas Lickona, 1991, p. 91-92.