Saturday, 30 October 2010 17:45

Tip #10: The 7 Life Roles

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This week’s tip continues our current theme: establishing an effective morning routine that prepares students for a great day of learning.    

The 7 Life Roles

For about five minutes every Wednesday morning, my students and I discuss one or more of the 7 Life Roles, sets of expectations and responsibilities that all individuals currently perform or will perform in the future.  Identified by author Dale Parnell in his excellent book, Why Do I Have to Learn This?, the roles include Lifelong Learner, Citizen, Consumer, Producer (Worker), Individual (Self), Family Member, and Leisure Participant.

Because students will be able to relate to these human commonalities, Parnell believes that the life roles offer teachers a promising start in the quest to help kids find meaning in their work.   Like the class mission statements described in Tips #5 - #7, the life roles can serve as a consistent reference point throughout the school year and serve as a bridge, helping students connect their daily learning to higher purposes.

When I begin these talks as part of our Wednesday morning routine, I spend the first seven Wednesdays introducing the roles, one per day.  On these days I introduce a specific role, define it, and share examples that I believe will resonate with my students.  I then ask students to offer examples of their own.

Once I have introduced and defined the roles, we spend our remaining Wednesdays connecting daily classroom learning activities to the various roles, promoting local events that may connect to the roles, and connecting the roles to items in the news.  Frequently, we have “open forum” discussions where the students simply pick a role and connect it to something we are learning in class.  For example, a child who wishes to beome an astronaut may say that learning about the Sun and planets helped her prepare to be a better worker.  Or, someone may point out that discussing the upcoming election helped him prepare to be a better voter and better citizen.   

These discussions remind students of the numerous ways in which their learning can be put to use and the numerous reasons why learning matters.  Incorporating these talks into the curriculum expands students’ perspective, encourages them to think beyond their present reality, and provides them with a glimpse of what a productive, well-rounded life can look like.     

In recent years I have used a teaching tool called “The Tower of Opportunity” to strengthen these discussions.  I hope to make this tool available to teachers in the future.  A complete description of the Tower, along with photos, can be found on this website.  In addition, a complete description of the life roles and their potential to enrich your academic instruction can be found in my book Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8.


New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.