Character education has been a very popular topic in recent years. In the noble effort to build character in children and respond to this important societal need, schools have launched a wide variety of initiatives and started a great number of programs. In my experience, the most effective character education initiatives cannot be add-ons.
When I speak of add-ons, I am talking about guest speakers, special assemblies, and other periodic activities that are not part of a studentâ€™s core schooling experience. In no way do I mean to put down guest speakers and special assemblies. In fact, I have seen many excellent ones throughout my career. The problem is this: unless character education efforts are embedded in the daily fabric of classroom life, results are likely to be disappointing. Effective character education cannot be â€œsomething extraâ€ that we offer our students every once in a while. Results will only be powerful and lasting when these efforts are a consistent component of our classroom experience.
During my career I have worked hard to incorporate education into my standards-based instruction. Without a doubt, one of the most effective ways that I have found to accomplish this task has been our â€œQuote of the Dayâ€ discussions. Two or three mornings per week, I put a quote on the board for students to consider. These quotes target 13 â€œHabits of Character,â€ a list that includes Cooperation, Courage, Fairness, Honesty, Kindness, Patience, Perseverance, Positive Attitude, Pride, Respect, Responsibility, Self-discipline, and Service. In addition, the quotes touch on other significant ideas, such as quality, success, and health & wellness.
After a volunteer reads a quote aloud, I give everyone a few moments to interpret its meaning or think of examples of how the quote may apply to our present and future lives. The kids then do a brief pair-share. Finally, a handful of students offer to share their interpretations with the class. Though the conversations take only a few minutes, the exercise is a valuable one because it encourages kids to think deeply, because thereâ€™s a high tone to the dialogue that appeals to the best in people, and because it allows our classroom to start the day on a positive note.
Further payoffs to consistent use of this activity include better student behavior, stronger work habits and social skills, improved attitudes towards school, greater enthusiasm for and increased dedication to learning, more connections made between school and studentsâ€™ present and future lives, and enhanced vocabulary development.
I am thrilled that after years of conducting these discussions with my students, 121 of these quotes, along with a set of talking points that teachers and parents can use when discussing the quotes with kids, will soon be available in my newest book, Changing Kidsâ€™ Lives One Quote at a Time: 121 Inspirational Sayings to Build Character in Children.
The book should be available sometime in September, and I will definitely keep you posted. Character education is a critical topic, and I think you will find that this new book can play an important role in helping children develop strong character.