Teach Your Students to Be . . .
Go out in the community. If you can, take your students on walks or field trips. Talk about community helpers and other things you notice on your outings. If there is litter on the ground, pick it up and throw it away.
Be a community. Make a city out of large cardboard boxes. Have the children pretend to live and work together in the play community.
Helpers are heroes. As a class, talk about how sometimes we help and sometimes we need help. People who help are not only good citizens, but also heroes. Set out a box in which kids can put drawings of things they need help with. Sometime during the day allow them to talk about their pictures and ask for volunteers to help.
Get personal. Use morning meetings to socialize with each other and foster a sense of community.
Make each other feel needed. Have your class work together to be good citizens by obeying rules, showing respect, and taking care of the classroom and the school. Kimberly Nelson from Mrs. Nelson's Class has good ideas for this, such as having your class work on a Goal of the Day, earn cotton balls for a "warm fuzzy" jar, and add to a compliment chain when they get a compliment from another teacher.
Demonstrate fairness while you teach. Follow the rules, listen to children by getting down on their level, don't place blame, and demonstrate the importance of taking turns. Use name tags or sticks, for example, to give everyone a chance to participate in group activities or to take turns doing things that nobody wants to do, like picking up coats and backpacks.
Have Show and Tell time. The kids can learn to listen and share by passing the items around so everyone has a turn to see them.
Talk about blaming. Read The Berenstain Bears and the Blame Game. Introduce the concept of "I messages," which state how you feel, versus "blaming messages."
Make a Care Bears Caring Meter. When the class is being more caring, turn the pointer toward the sun and the bigger hearts. When the class is being less caring, turn the pointer toward the cloud and the smaller hearts.
Show and recognize acts of caring. Provide a box of paper happy faces for students to give to people who are having a bad day, and paper hearts for saying thank you or for noticing acts of kindness.
Set up a flower shop. Include artificial flowers, plastic vases, and paper for greeting cards. Students can send each other flowers and cards to say "Congratulations," "I'm Sorry," "Get Well," or simply "I like you."
Set up a doctor's office and/or a vet clinic. Use a wagon as an ambulance. Hint: fill empty pill bottles with Good & Plenty candies (for general aches and pains), Tic Tacs (for tics), and Smarties (for headaches). Make sure the kids understand that real pills are not candy, and that they must never take any pills unless they're given to them by an adult.
Teach the Golden Rule. Make a sign with a golden glitter ruler.
Talk about obeying traffic rules. Set up a road and crosswalk with lights and signs. Have the children take turns being pedestrians, drivers, and police officers. When someone doesn't obey a rule, a police officer can ask for their license and give them a ticket.
Give class jobs. Jobs are a great way to foster responsibility, especially if you have a class pet to take care of. If you don't have a pet, let students fill bird feeders and birdbaths outside. Have a garden, too, or give each child some marigold seeds to water.
Set up a book and toy hospital. Show your students the proper way to handle books and toys, how to check for damage, and how to repair them in the "hospital." Outside, let them be playground safety inspectors and look for dangerous or broken things.
Encourage fitness and health. Do aerobics or set up a classroom gym with Redmon children's exercise equipment. To encourage dental health, ask a dentist for a class set of toothbrushes, and supply toothpaste, mirrors, and timers so students can practice brushing their teeth.
Teach respectful behavior using well-known storybooks. It's easy for small children to understand the concept of respect when talking about characters such as the big bad wolf, the evil stepmother, the wicked queen, the nasty troll, and even Goldilocks — who just walks into someone's house and uses their things.
Talk about how people are alike and different. Using a box of crayons, draw a picture to demonstrate how all colors contribute something to the picture, and how more colors make it look better. Discuss how this is like people who are different.
Practice using the magic word. Have students practice manners at snack time or with the game Mother, may I? Teach them to respect each other's privacy and personal space.
Show respect for animals and nature. Have some well-mannered pets come for a visit. Learn about trees from the Treetures, a community of tiny tree friends.
Put on a performance. Have students put on a puppet show after reading Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully. To teach self-respect, have students act out the books Giraffes Can't Dance, about a giraffe who thinks he can't dance because his neck is too long, and The Saggy Baggy Elephant, who thinks he can't dance because his skin doesn't fit.
Teach that lying can hurt you. Have them act out the story The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Make a Lost & Found box. Teach your students how, when they find items belonging to others, they should place the items in Lost and Found.
Talk about tattling. Tell students that tattling makes them less trustworthy to their friends because tattling is telling a secret. Talk about the difference between tattling to get someone into trouble and tattling to get someone out of trouble.
Practice positivity. Read the books The Little Engine That Could and Little Toot. Talk about how action and a positive attitude can help us accomplish anything — even if we are little — and help us show others what kind of person we are.
For more on character education, visit goodcharacter.com, Teaching Tolerance, and Search Institute. Discover the Character Critters and find character education songs for your classroom. Also, see my my character education booklist, and look out for my future post "Character Education and the Green Classroom."
What do you do to teach character education?
Have an ethical weekend!
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