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Character Education

On April 24, 2009, the University of Texas at Austin honored Barbara Jordan with the unveiling of a statue on the campus. This inspiring educator and civil rights champion had given a commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin in 1986. The speech addressed her belief in conviction values, which she defined as “firmly fixed, unwavering, and immutable; that there are some traits of character which are or should be non-negotiable.”  Barbara Jordan listed the following as her Conviction Values: education, kindness, justice, and responsibility.

As teachers, we address the education of the whole child, which includes teaching non-negotiable character traits. Working within the character education guidelines of my school, and inspired by Barbara Jordan’s conviction values, I have created a character education activity that has a dual purpose.
The first purpose is to address the conviction values we consider as non-negotiable for our student’s development.
The second purpose is to give the students an opportunity to meet each teacher on the grade level in a rotation activity. This helps to provide a sense of unity of expectations and an environment of support.
There are seven teachers on my grade level, so using the acronym of RESPECT works well for a rotation of lessons. Each lesson is based upon the author’s message. I have listed some possible books that can be used to start the discussion with each character trait. We try to include an art and writing activity along with the reading and discussion of the book.
If you happen not to have seven teachers, this would be a good opportunity to invite administrators, counselors, and librarians to get involved.

R: Responsibility

Before instruction for each subject begins, students will need to know their role of responsibility for learning. Expectations of learning behavior will be explained throughout the day for each subject. Students will also learn how to set short term and long term goals as part of their responsibility for learning. Some Everybody Book titles that can be used as an example of responsibility are:
The Three Questions ByJon J. Muth
Horton Hears a Who By Dr. Seuss
Horton Hatches An Egg By Dr. Seuss
The Little Red Hen By Paul Galdone
I Am Responsible By Sarah L. Schuette

E: Education

Students will learn the importance of education in their lives. The book, This is the Way We Go to School: A Book About Children Around the World By Edith Baer, is about children in many countries going to school. Classroom discussion will be about why education is important to all people. It might be a good time to have some parents included in this rotation.

S: Sharing

Sharing, for the elementary aged student, is more than sharing pencils or crayons. It is never too early to expose the children to sharing ideas, thoughts, efforts, and talents for the common good of our community. By building a classroom community through cooperative learning strategies, students learn to contribute and do their part.
An Everybody book title that teaches sharing is It’s Mine! By Leo Lionni.

P: Perseverance

Younger children are so proud when they can read this word and explain what it means. It is a word I use daily, as I comment on how students are persevering on tasks. Soon, the children are using it to compliment and encourage each other. No student is too old for this character trait, neither are the teachers. Some Everybody book titles for this concept are:
Little by Little by Stewart and Layn Marlow
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

E: Excellence

Excellence equals Quality. Each lesson includes a description of what the end product must look like in order to meet the excellent and quality criteria. Here again is a chance for students to set goals. This is also where differentiation plays a part. The quality of the product or concept learned is not diminished; rather it is presented in a manner suited to the child’s learning style where the child could be more successful in producing a quality product.
A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman is a fun book to read. It is about a frog who is not satisfied with just the ordinary things of frog life. With the help and support of friends and family, the frog pursues and achieves excellence.

C: Compassion

By modeling, teaching, and expecting compassionate treatment, students will be reinforced in showing kindness to their classmates and school community. Some Everybody book titles that are examples of compassion are:
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners By Laurie Keller
Rainbow Fish By Marcus Pfister
The Giving Tree By Shel Silverstein

T: Tolerance

Acceptance of change and diversity is important to model, teach, and set as a non-negotiable throughout the year. Individuals, who have problems in this area, will need to have private counseling with the teacher and school counselor, in order to help the individual attain this goal. Some Everybody book titles that are resources for teaching tolerance are:
Three Cheers for Tacky by Helen Lester
Different Just Like Me By Lori Mitchell
Whoever You Are (Reading Rainbow) By Mem Fox
The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most
What a Wonderful World (Jean Karl Books) By George David Weiss
The Sneetches: And Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

One Comment leave one →
  1. signe wrolstad-forbes permalink
    October 5, 2011 8:22 pm

    I was interested in your information after reading “The Character Test” in the NYTImes Sunday mag, Sept. 18, 2011. I teach in higher education and want to let my college students know about programs that are in place and working. I’m interested in the results of this program.

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