Monday, February 15, 2016

Virtue Village

Your lesson plans are written for the week.  You have Math and Language Arts skills mapped out according to the district modules.  Your Science and Social Studies materials are prepped and ready to go.  You’ve made sure that writing has been incorporated throughout each lesson, every day! 

But, wait.  What’s missing?  Character Education.  Not only do our students need to learn all the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they also need to recognize and understand the essentials of how to be human beings.  Learning how to be well-mannered citizens, living in a cooperative society, should be a vital part of the school curriculum.

Character education shouldn’t just be taught the first week of school when we are building our classroom communities.  It needs to be an integral part of our everyday routine.  Not just that, but as educators, we need to realize how much influence we do have in our student’s lives.  Children look to us, along with their parents and grandparents (among other community members), as role models.  It is important for us to make a conscious effort to teach what a positive, goal-oriented individual looks like and sounds like.  As we know, according to the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Since returning to the classroom after winter break, I have been submerging my students in Coach B’s brand new Whole Brain Teaching Character Education program.  This program focuses on 4 main virtues.  Even though there is a different focus each day, we refer back to all the virtues throughout the week.  The virtue calendar is as follows: Kindness Monday, Leadership Tuesday, Courageous Wednesday, Gritty Thursday, and Creativity Friday.  (Side Note: Remember, that there is no WBT police!  You take what you love about WBT and infuse it into your classroom how it works for YOU!  With this being said, I teach at a Great Expectations Model School, so right now I have “Virtue Friday”, where I incorporate all of the 17 life principles that are the foundation of G.E.)

On the first day (M-F) that I introduced each of the virtues, I set aside a good 30 minutes for a complete 5 step WBT lesson plan.  During the lessons, my class also filled out a Great Expectations Lexicon chart on the focus word.  Once I had taught my main lesson, I then added in an oral reading power point slide to my Morning Meeting.  Now, each day, during our MM, we are intentional about focusing on a specific virtue of the day.  I also created exit slips for students to fill out each day.  (We use them for all other subjects!  Why not character education?!) 

So, for example, on Kindness Monday, not only are we revisiting the virtue of Kindness, being intentional and making a plan of how we will be kind that day during MM, but we are also writing down all the ways that we have been kind on our exit slip.  The students receive their slips right after morning meeting; they keep them on their desk, detailing all their kind acts of the day. (Or they are writing down when they demonstrate leadership, courage, and invincible grit on all the other days of the week!)  On Virtue Fridays, my students will write about all of the life principles that they have shown that day, using specific examples in complete sentences.

Since starting this daily character education program, I have noticed a huge change in the way my students treat each other and view themselves.  Their self-confidence has skyrocketed, and they are much more aware of all the amazing positive behaviors that are happening around them.  Having the opportunity to identify virtues on a daily basis has had a tremendous effect on them.  After spending some time out on the playground last week during recess, I discovered, to my delight, that my students are even using this virtuous language within their casual conversations among their peers.  It truly does take a village!!!

Virtue Exit Slips
Bonus!  We do "Character Virtue Hunts!"

Morning Meeting Oral Writing slide