Character education is exciting for upper elementary level children – and they love it – when your character education lesson plans and character education activities offer three captivating elements!
You want to know what those elements are, and we’ll get to that, but let me ask you a question. Do you know that many teachers say you can’t expect nine-to-eleven-year-olds even to like character education, let alone to love it?
I beg to differ! As a career teacher for more than 40 years, a principal, and parent of two adult children, I know that nine-to-eleven-year-olds can love character education.
Character education can be exciting for nine-to-eleven-year-olds. You can make character education “lovable” by stirring in three captivating elements.
1. Character Education TRUSTWORTHINESS
Remember Shakespeare’s words in Sonnet 116: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds…?”
You say, “How does that work in character education, Shakespeare?”
“Character education is not character education that changes when it finds change,” replies Shakespeare. “Character traits must remain fixed and unshaken, like love. They must stay the same in changing situations.”
Character education must exercise trustworthiness.
Picture this. A dog trainer promises you can housebreak your puppy easily. All you have to do is exercise trustworthiness in four principles:
- Never let Puppy out of your sight.
- Correct sharply when Puppy has an accident.
- Use one spot outdoors where Puppy eliminates.
- Use an odor neutralizer where Puppy makes a mistake.
You begin Puppy’s training. The first four days go well, but on the fifth, the phone rings and you forget to watch Puppy – oops! You start to correct, but Puppy’s big eyes make you melt into baby talk. When you take her outdoors later, it’s raining, so you don’t go to “the spot.” Puppy dances in the rain, but doesn’t eliminate. Back in the house, you go for a snack, Puppy sniffs the untreated mistake, and eliminates. Frustrated, you complain to the dog trainer.
He asks a few questions, and shows that you used situational housebreaking. You watched Puppy – until the phone rang. You corrected Puppy – but not sharply. You used one spot outside – until it rained. You used odor neutralizer – except when a snack called. Your training changed when circumstances changed. You confused Puppy.
Character education that changes is as hazardous to a child’s moral training as changing principles are to a puppy’s housebreaking! It confuses children. Character traits should never change.
- Responsibility for completing homework assignments is the same on the day after a holiday as it is on a regular school day.
- Responsibility for cleaning the hamster cage requires the same work of Shalonna as it does of Kimi.
Adults who teach changeable character education engage in situational housebreaking.
2. Character Education CREATIVITY.
Remember the teachers that don’t expect nine-to-eleven-year-olds even to like character education, let alone love it? They’re missing out on character education creativity.
An upper elementary school invited me to speak in their assembly. Before the assembly, I visited a weekly character education class. The character education lesson plans began with two small posters. The teacher spoke briefly about two character traits, asked her class what the traits meant – and let them pool their ignorance. Then she closed, pinning the posters to the wall and saying they would cover more character traits next week.
Those 10-year-olds hated character education. Their body language screamed that they hated it. In the following assembly, however, the same children listened eagerly.
What made the difference?
I told them a story. Rather, I read them the first chapter of my creatively written character book, Mystery at Lake Cachuma. Taking my cue from the world’s greatest teachers, I taught high moral values with a story.
When I stopped, they asked for more. I couldn’t read more, but I continued to use character education creativity.
I called two students to the front, named them Hailey and Charlie after the book’s main characters, and had them use the baking soda / vinegar reaction to demonstrate the results when Hailey and Charlie’s lack of character met their dad’s vacation plans. I closed with a teaser that hinted at the book’s creativity in teaching character traits.
Like most, those students loved learning character education with a story. That is why the Character Mystery Series of books became so popular among nine-to-eleven-year-olds as well as their teachers and parents.
3. Character Education THOROUGHNESS.
Stop! Are you reading this in the classroom where you teach character education? If so, look around. If not, picture your character education classroom.
What do you see?
Do you see reinforcement of character traits – thoroughness?
Character education activities help you instill character traits with thoroughness. Display math assignments with notes such as “You showed great responsibility on this!” Use a poster by food bank collections to urge, “Feel what others feel when they are hungry. Exercise compassion.” Display character education activities on bulletin boards.
Thoroughness tells your students the truth: high moral values should have priority in life.
Character education that nine-to-eleven-year-olds love will always contain those three captivating elements. Use them, and you will see astounding results.