Children do not learn important social skills, morals, or values unless they are taught them. These basic life skills and attitudes need to be transmitted to children in some way.
When I first became a teacher, I didn’t think that it was part of my job to teach these things. However, I quickly realized that children need these skills just as much, if not more, than the curriculum I deliver. To that end, I have incorporated different character education resources into my teaching. I have used and modified the Tribes program to great success.
Today I would like to recommend another book. The Essential 55, The: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child by Ron Clark.
Last week, I discussed the importance of classroom rules and how they should be positively worded and succinct so that the students can memorize them and live up to the expectations that are set for the classroom. So when I first found this book that lists 55 rules for kids to follow, I almost wrote it off before even looking at it. I’m glad that I didn’t.
Ron Clark does a good job of listing 55 social skills and the reasons why he believes that they are absolutely essential for our students to live up to. Most of these rules seem to be common sense and a lot of our students already do these things. However, I still think it is useful for students to hear these rules and reflect on them.
I give each student in my class a “Rules to Live By” notebook at the start of the school year. Every morning I write 2 or 3 of these rules on the board for the students to copy down. We draw a picture to go with each rule or I have students come to the front of the classroom to act out the rule. This activity doesn’t take up a lot of time in the day. The best thing about it is that it teaches character education along with note-taking and drama skills.
There were only a few rules in this book that I felt like I needed to change or adapt to fit my classroom atmosphere. Here are the first 6 rules (slightly adapted for my classroom)
Rule 1 – We will address people by their names.
This eliminates name-calling and the tendency that some kids have to address me as “Teacher,” which I find really annoying.
Rule 2 – Make eye contact. When someone is speaking, keep your eyes on him or her at all times. If someone makes a comment, turn and face that person.
Rule 3 – If someone wins or does something well, we congratulate that person. Claps should be at least 3 seconds long using the full part of both hands.
This fits perfectly well with our motto “Cheer Each Other.”
Rule 4 – We respect other students’ comments, opinions, and ideas. When possible, make statements like, “I agree with John, and I also feel that …” or “I disagree with Sara. She made a good point, but I feel that…” or “I think Victor made an excellent observation, and it made me realize…” We never laugh or make fun of someone’s comments.
Rule 5 – If you win or do well, do not brag. If you lose, do not show anger. Instead say something like, “Good game,” or don’t say anything at all.
Rule 6 – If you are asked a question in conversation, you should ask a question in return. If someone asks, “Did you have a nice weekend?” you should answer the question and then ask a question in return, “Yes, I had a great time. My family and I went hunting. What about you? Did you have a nice weekend?”
So in my classroom, we have four simple and succinct expectations, three mottos, and 55 Rules to Live By. I allow my students opportunities to practise these skills and I praise them when they do so. I find that this system really works. Try it out.