Saturday, July 27, 2013

Character Matters - New Camping Themed Character Unit

    Everyone likes to camp, right? Well almost everyone.  I just listed a new printable on TPT called "Camp Classy Character." I've taught mini lessons about character for a number of years, and decided to compile them into a unit while adding a fun camping theme.  It also includes classroom management forms that can be used to help students stay "on the trail" throughout the year.
     Why teach children character? Aren’t students supposed to develop character as a part of their family life with positive role models instructing them as situations arise in the home?  While this is true for many children,  some students receive little or no positive character development from their current home life.
     We all teach character in our classrooms, whether we realize it or not.  Teaching students to use polite speech, be responsible, wait their turn, or treat each other with respect, are life lessons that will be beneficial to them regardless of their age.  Our schools are mini societies which demonstrate to children the importance of individual actions and how each action effects the group as a whole.
     I have been teaching mini character lessons for a number of years, and can honestly say that I can’t imagine going through a school year without them.  My two major goals in teaching character development are:
  -to equip students with lifelong skills that will allow them succeed at whatever they pursue, while having a positive impact on their community, and
  -to create a positive classroom environment which allows learning to take place at the highest level. 
    It’s a joy to see students put into practice what’s been taught and modeled in these mini lessons.  Students begin using the vocabulary that are embedded in the lessons, and they are more aware of positive acts of character when they see them.
     For this reason, I decided to compile a complete unit dedicated to character development. The six character traits that I emphasize are respect, responsibility, fairness, truthfulness, kindness (caring) and citizenship – all presented with a camping theme (Hey camping’s fun right?).  I have also included many of the management forms I use in my classroom to help students stay on track and grow in the individual traits of character development.  Please note that these lessons and techniques work very well for my students (fourth graders), but it’s not a one size fits all unit.  I change certain components from year to year to better meet the needs of my students. 
     If you’re like me, you might be wondering how you can make time for character instruction in an already jam packed schedule.  That can be challenging – especially if your state keeps adding new curriculum requirements each year.
      I try to teach two character lessons per week (at the start of the day).  Each lesson lasts about twenty minutes.  It’s time well spent.  I find that my students enjoy discussing the topics and sharing stories relevant to the lesson.  They’re usually disappointed when we need to move on to something else.  
     A classroom that includes positive consistent policies and procedures, offers children stability and an enriched learning environment.  Now more than ever, this seems to be a vital component if our goal is to encourage students to be independent thinkers and problem solvers. 
     I have included some helpful links about teaching character development in the classroom.  I welcome your comments and suggestions.  
Why Character Counts
Teachers Develop Character Strengths
How Families Develop Character Strengths
Character Development – A Role For Community Leaders
How To Teach Character in the Classroom