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Character Education: Strengthening Core Values

Core Values with Character EducationCharacter Education in the Public Schools: A Guide to Strengthening Core Values

When I arrived to collect my 7-year-old from her after-school program the other day, many youngsters were gathered on the playing field to admire a fabulous rainbow arching across the sky. After a while, the rainbow faded. The children and the after-school teachers turned around and returned to their regularly scheduled activities. In a similar way, many educators and parents gather to admire the beauty of the notion of values in the school. Then, after awhile, the beauty of the moment fades and all return to the ongoing demands of school life. 

How to make values last? How to bring the beauty of the goal of holding laudable values such as compassion, persistence and responsibility, from outside the framework of the school day to a phenomenon that thrives within it?

There are no simple answers, only a tapestry of individual school experiences. For over five years, I've chaired the Core Values Committee of the Cabot Elementary School in Newton, Massachusetts.

Our committee is composed of our school's principal, Marilynne Quarcoo, teachers, and parents. When I came to the committee, parents and teachers had already identified three: Becoming Lifelong Learners, Respect for Self & Others, and Commitment to School & Community. From the outset, our challenge was how to weave these central concepts into the fabric of school life. "Core values allow the school community to remain focused on what's important", says Quarcoo. "They provide a mirror for our decision making, and provide a guide and reason for our actions and behaviors."

Here are some approaches to strengthening core values that worked for us, and may work for you.

(1) Define Your Core Values -- It Creates a "Default Position"

Nearly ten years ago, the principal, teachers, and parents at the Cabot School, over an extensive process (or so I heard, since it occurred before I entered the school system), identified such concepts. Concomitant to that, all public schools in Massachusetts in 1991 were mandated to formulate a strategy of core values.

Since that time, we've found some unexpected benefits to having articulated these ideas. Jodi Escalante, a kindergarten teacher at our school, was the first to coin the phrase "default position" relative to the benefits of core values in the classroom. "As a teacher, I'm frequently called upon to make decisions, resolve conflicts, work through dilemmas or problem solve in other ways," says Escalante. "Having core values gives me a consistent direction. It removes ‘my opinion' from the equation, substituting a default position, a previously agreed-to authority." She adds: "If a solution promotes a core value, it is acceptable." As a parent, I, too, soon found that having a default position accessible was just as handy a tool at home.

One frenzied morning not long after, my then-7 year-old cried, "Why do I have to brush my hair? Why does it matter anyway?" While I fruitlessly searched for a plausible answer, a worry tugged at the corners of my mind: "You know her hair will only get mussed in the course of the day..." Almost without thinking, I grabbed onto this explanation: "Because brushing your hair shows respect for yourself, and ‘Respect for Self & Others' is one of the Core Values of the Cabot School!" Thankfully, the phrase had popped to mind, if only because I had memorized it. And so, in the flailing of the moment, these stated ideals had provided me a safe landing ground.

Thus, our two-dimensional core values, painted on a poster in the main lobby, have come alive within the subconscious of teachers and parents walking throughout our school.

(2) Each Year, Spotlight a Different Core Value or Concentrate on an Arena of School Life

Transforming a school to exemplify an array of core values is, indeed, a daunting task! Better to divvy up the task into smaller, more manageable pieces. At the Cabot Elementary School, we first decided to focus on one value each year. Though we remain conscious of all of them, the core value on rotation receives special emphasis. At the nearby Angier Elementary School, parents and teachers identified five which they also spotlight, in turn.

H ave Courage 
E ffort 
A chieve 
R espect 
T ake Responsibility 
[Here's their slogan:] "At the Heart of Angier"

A different approach is to focus each year on a certain arena of school life. The challenge here is to brainstorm how the dynamic that occurs within that arena can be improved to reflect core values. The arenas may be physical places such as the bathrooms, cafeteria, hallways, homeroom, or playground. Or, you might prefer to concentrate on procedural arenas such as class routines, conflict resolution, curriculum, students reward systems, or traditions & ceremonies. At the Cabot Elementary School, however, we found that one year hasn't been enough time for a given core value; without fail we've extended an initial year devoted to a given core value to a second year. With two years devoted to each of our three core values, a given student is immersed in core values activities throughout the elementary school experience from kindergarten to grade five.

(3) Display Student Interpretations of Core Values for Other Students to See

Not to be underestimated for its impact on students is the public posting of work by other students. Take advantage of any chance you have to display writing assignments, art projects, holiday work (such as for Martin Luther King Day) that ties to your school's core values. Here's an example: At the Cabot Elementary School, each year the 5th grade gives a gift to the school as a departing gesture. Several years ago we provided the 5th graders a banner showing the three core values of our school and asked each student to write their interpretation of them on attached fabric triangles, later attached to the bottom of the banner. The banner is now on permanent display in our main lobby. Here's a sampling of comments from the students:

Listen to your heart. 
When someone is in trouble, never turn your back on them. 
If you want friends, be yourself. 
Don't smoke. 
Remember that everyone has different talents. 
Never stop learning. 
Do your best at everything at school. 
Be Unique. 
If you have to walk the race, walk it but never give up. 
Don't exclude people just because you're not great friends with them. 
Be kind. 
Life is short, use time well.

For awhile, a floor-to-ceiling paper machè tree was secured to the wall in our main lobby. Once, when we were spotlighting the core value, "Becoming Lifelong Learners", we asked each student at the beginning of the school year to write on a red cut-out of an apple a single goal of something she or he would like to learn that year. That springtime, we asked each student to identify on a white cut-out of an apple blossom one learning goal that had been achieved. The beauty of this approach is that as students search to find their own apple or blossom cut-out display on the tree, they inevitably read a number of other students' goals as well. Thus, they couldn't help but be struck with the collective nature of the effort.

Making values last is an aim that, challengingly, reaches a moving target. Each year, one grade graduates and a new class of kindergartners and their parents enter. You might plan for this by sharing the school's core values with new entrants. Distribute to incoming kindergarten parents, during the springtime orientation, flyers that explain the school's core values. Discuss in the first few parent-teacher meetings in the fall the history and goals of the school's core values. Be sure that new hires, including lunchroom monitors, librarians, janitorial, school nurses, as well as teaching staff, are conversant with your school's core values.

At the same time, with new entrants come a fresh source of energies and ideas. It may well evolve that a consensus of core values that had been formed by parents or teachers no longer with the school may be rewritten to reflect the priorities of an ever-reshaping school community. This, thankfully, ensures that the most important quality of the core values experience, that is the quality of dynamism, is built into the equation. Only when the individuals who are expressing the core values, in their own hearts, believe in the underlying concepts, will they become forces that move that lovely rainbow admired outside into a transforming experience that lasts within your school's walls.

Elaine L. Lindy is an expert on the strategy of storytelling in character education. As Founder of Whootie Owl International, Lindy created the award-winning web site, "Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By" ( https://www.storiestogrowby.org ). The web site, which presents a selection of ethical and entertaining fairytales and folk tales from around the world, has received recognition from USAToday, Highlights for Children Teacher.net, The New York Times on the Web, and is recommended to teachers by Disney. 

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Elaine_L_Lindy/1226617

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Winter Unit Lesson Plan Part 1: The Theme of Cooperation & Friendship in The Long Winter

The Long Winter:

A story of the missing heat and the plan to bring it back; a group of animals with varying strengths go in search of the warmth and learn the importance of working together and admiring the differences each friend brings to solve the problem.

Looking for a great story to excite your students about the warmth (Spring!) returning after the cold Winter months, while also reinforcing the theme of Cooperation and Friendship? Would you also like to have some fun in your literary classroom by having the students participate in Reader’s Theater? Then we have the perfect tale for you from Canada, The Long Winter. Offered in both a story and play script version, this is sure to reinforce the importance of working together towards a common goal and excite your students that after the long cold winter months, the heat will return!

A story from Canada, this Native American Folk Tale gives a wonderful explanation of how and why the warmth returns after the cold. We love it to be a Wintery tale, one of Cooperation and Friendship, to spark the discussion with your students on how important it is to creatively work together to achieve a common goal. This story also reinforces the theme of Friendship as many different animals work together and utilize their strengths to help each other succeed.

Teaching The Long Winter:

This story meets Common Core Standards for 1st -3rd grade and is a wonderful addition to a Unit on Friendship, Problem Solving or Cooperation. You could further the learning with higher level thinking skills by having your students devise their own problem solving plan on how to distract the bears and create their own stories with their classmates as the Main Characters. We also offer a Teacher’s Resource Guide which includes activities on Plot, Sequence of Events, Setting, Characterization, Describing Words, Main Ideas as well as an Assessment and Games/Coloring Pages.  A Unit Plan already made for you! This story can also be Cross-Curricular with a Science Lesson on the Changing of the Seasons or on Native American studies and how they use tales to describe events in Nature. Extend your standard learning of the literary skills with a story that your students will sure to ponder and love. Happy Storytelling!

Lesson Plan: Inviting the Bears ~ The Theme of (Unlikely) Friendships, Acceptance and Kindness

Inviting the Bears:

A story of unlikely friendships, acceptance and love, a lonely old man ponders if he should start a new life somewhere else. After deciding that a move wouldn’t change his predicament, he goes into the forest seeking answers. What he finds are grizzly bears who he decides might just be the answers to his prayers. Although they speak a different language and are usually considered fierce enemies, he decides to invite them to a feast. What he learns from them is truly the lesson of a lifetime.

A story from the United States (Alaska to be exact!), this Native American Folk Tale is a wonderful tale on finding friendships in the unlikeliest places, accepting those that are different (and who may be more alike than we believe) and kindness to others, even if it is out of our comfort zone. This story is perfect for readers on all levels, is short and engaging and speaks a message we want all our students to hear.

Teaching Inviting the Bears: Unlikely Friendships & The Common Thread that Binds Us All  

This story meets Common Core Standards for 1st -3rd grade and is a wonderful addition to a Unit on Friendship, Acceptance and Kindness. This story is best used in the classroom to promote its positive messages and would be a great addition to a unit for Character Education. You could also use it in a unit on Native American studies and how they used animal tales to promote these three themes within their tribes. Extend your standard learning of the literary skills with a story that your students will sure to ponder and love. Happy Storytelling!

How Have Our Stories Been Used?

Did you know? Over 20 of our Award-Winning Stories, such as Two Brothers, Haku's Power and The Three Princes, have been featured in educational textbooks all over the world, including such major publishers as Cambridge Press, Oxford University Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They have also been featured in such State tests as the Florida State Assessment, Utah Sage Assessment and North Carolina State Assessment, as well as Nationwide tests such as the Common Core Exam and ETS Winsight Assessment.

Stories to Grow by presents Whootie Owl’s award-winning collection for Kids which consist of Folktales (or folk tales), Fairy tales (or fairytales) and Legends from all over the world! Our short stories make wonderful bedtime stories, and are multi-cultural, kid-tested and all contain positive moral messages. They are meant to Motivate & Inspire Children while leaving a lasting impression! So share one of our short stories with a child today and create a lesson that will last a lifetime. Happy Storytelling! 

February is for LOVE…Stories!

Click here for our collection of Love Stories. Stay tuned for our first installment on the Theme of Love. The Story of Greyfoot: True Love is found From Within. 


This month our blog will be dedicated to sharing the many stories we have in our vast treasury surrounding the Theme of LOVE...but not just traditional love stories...we will explore through our stories the many facets of love and what the main characters from each story learn about love, but more importantly, what they learn about themselves and others during the process. Some familiar stories are in our collection, Beauty & the Beast!, and some unknown stories such as the Willow Leaf Eyebrow from China which both explore the theme of Love Beyond Appearances. All of the main characters in these stories will learn the art of what it means to truly love another through lessons of Compassion, Empathy, Forgiveness, & Appreciation. And, of course, what love story collection would be complete without a story of Love brought together by Fate.

Happy LOVE Storytelling! 

February Love Stories Part 2: The Theme of Finding Love Where You Least Expect It

February Love Stories Part 2: The Theme of Finding Love Where You Least Expect It

February: the month of LOVE and surely there are plenty of stories which cover the “traditional” love story. Our worldly stories, however, teach us so much more about love than just that.  This month we will explore five love stories, each from a different country and each with their own unique message about what it means to love and be loved in return. This week’s stories are about finding Love Where You Least Expect It.

Beauty & the Beast  

The classic tale from France of a beautiful, smart, young girl who finds herself entrapped with a hideous Beast to spare her father’s life; a Beast who turns out to be more than what he seems. A tale as old as time…..

A story from France, this European Folk Tale is a wonderful tale of love that builds from friendship. Much like Disney’s version, but with some differences, there is also a secondary plot about three very different sisters, Beauty being the youngest, most humble, and the one to put the love for her father above her own wants and needs. She willingly goes to take his place and live with the Beast, whilst her older sisters only care about their selfish ways, getting their riches back and finding husbands who will “suit” them. An exploration of love in many forms, this tale analyzes love between a father and daughter as well as love that comes from truly learning to value another for their heart and not their appearance, for "true love comes from within". Beauty finds “Love Where She Least Expects It”, a love grown from friendship and true admiration for ones’ best qualities.