When it comes to character education, you might be wondering:
- How should I go about teaching about it?
- Where do I start?
- What do my students need to know?
- What resources should I use?
It seems that there is a lot of buzz about helping our students better understand character strengths, and with good reason! Ever since I read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, I whole-heartedly agree that a student’s success in school and life has a lot to do with the mindset they have!
Now you might be thinking “There is no extra time in our day to take the time to teach character education!”
Well, you will be happy to know that including character education in your day, isn’t it’s own separate time! I have some simple ideas on how you can embed it into your day!
1. Read Books
Read books that teach about character education and include them in your story time!
Do you read to your class after they come in from recess or lunch?
Do you have small gaps in the day with not long enough to start content teaching?
These are perfect times to bring in character education books to read to your class! After having read the books, you can have a class discussion about the character and what he or she might have learned. The best part about using books is that they can stay in your classroom library. Students can reread them often. Plus, you can refer to them whenever students need a reminder or if they lend well to the conversation.
Talking about character strengths naturally throughout the day might take some getting used to but if you have a shelf of character trait books, then you can, more easily, bring them up as examples.
In the book, Courage by Bernard Waber, the author explains there is awesome courage and everyday kind of courage! Then he gives simple examples of what courage can be for kids on a regular basis. This book is an excellent way to start to having conversations about courage! You don’t have to be a hero or have superpowers to show courage.
2. Model Often
Use real life scenarios that happen in your classroom involving yourself, students and school staff as models! It’s real and observable!
Praise with a Character Trait
Once students have learned about character traits, make sure to praise students when they are exhibiting a character strength. Be specific with your praise, so they know what it is they’ve done right.
Scenario: Max is working hard to solve a problem. He keeps missing a step but hasn’t given up.
Praise: Great job, Max. I can see you are trying!
Praise with character trait: Great job, Max. I see that this problem is challenging but you’re not giving up! Awesome job at persevering.
Point out Character Strengths
When you notice someone that is exhibiting a character strength share it with the class! Even better, when one student sees another student exhibiting a character strength, they can share it with the rest of the class too! When students get in the habit of noticing these strengths, they can start to be more reflective about it and start exhibiting them more. Don’t just limit the examples to what happens in the classroom. You can encourage them to share out about recess time, home life, after school sports or anything else that is relevant to them.
To get a better understanding of the character strength is, you can give examples of what it is not! Through conversations and modeling try to give you students non-examples. That way your students can compare and get a better idea of what the character strength is all about and what it’s not about!
For example, A character in a book throws a tantrum because she didn’t get what she wanted. You can point out that she isn’t practicing self-control or patience.
*Important note: I am sure you would agree that we should never use our students or other people from school as non-examples. That kind of criticism would be harsh and inappropriate.
3. Embed into Your Curriculum
Students can read about character traits, discuss them and write about them!
Throughout the day, students are reading, writing and discussing! One topic that can now be included in what they read, write and discuss could be character strengths!
I realized that to better understand the traits it would be fun to read about them during small group independent time. I picked 10 traits that I believe are important for students to focus on: curiosity, caring, perseverance, honesty, empathy, zest, courage, responsibility, gratitude, and self-control! Then I wrote a paired text to go with it. So each character trait has an informational text and a story narrative to go with it. To check out the whole resource CLICK HERE!
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