Weaving Character Education into Language ArtsBETSY STECKER
If you are passionate about bringing character into your classroom, you'll want to find ways to integrate it into everyday academic instruction. I pursue that integration through my subject area, language arts (grades 5-8).1. Establish Language Taboos
2. Use Character Questions for Journal Writing
Having students write
in journals, using character qualities as the prompt, is an easy way to integrate
character into your classroom. For instance, during our study of industry (hard
work), I have students write on this quote by Thomas Edison: "Opportunity is
missed by most people because it is dressed up in overalls and looks like hard
work." When studying justice, I ask students: "Does 'fair' mean 'equal'"?
The book Character Quotations, (available from www.KaganOnline.com)
is chock-full of quotations and follow-up questions that can stimulate journal
I've also used journaling to get kids to reflect on the music they listen to. Sample questions:
3. Assign Character-Centered Essays
The essay is my favorite tool for teaching writing and simultaneously getting my students to think about character. I assign a character-centered essay once a month. The writing skills I focus on include outlining, compare and contrast, self-reflection, using topic and concluding sentences, persuasive writing, simile, metaphor, and clearly defending an original idea. I teach these skills using character as the subject.
One of my favorite essay assignments focuses on sportsmanship. Because so many of today's youth are involved in sports, good sportsmanship has considerable importance. The writing skills I teach through the sportsmanship essay include: (1) doing research on sports figures and (2) critical thinking, as students evaluate the actions of athletes and consider what lessons can be learned and applied to their own lives.
Another of my favorite essays has students write about a character quotation related to one of our school's focus virtues. At Japhet we study 18 qualities that rotate on a two-year cycle: gratitude, judgment, peace, initiative, joy, personal habits, respect for self, courage, self-control, thrift, patriotism, justice, humility, obedience, punctuality, industry, reliability, and respect for others.
The accompanying box shows one of my essay assignments on the virtue of judgment. Students choose a quote and write two paragraphs: one explaining the meaning of this quote and offering evidence of its truth, and another applying the quote to their own lives.
4. Literature: Rich in Character
From King Lear to Anne Frank, literary figures with good or bad character abound. Whether you pose questions simply for discussion or require written responses, students' replies will be richer when the judging of values comes into play. Because I teach the same students for four years, I teach four years' worth of novels. Here is a smattering of questions I have posed:
Recently we read a short story about a Jewish boy stuck in a snowstorm with his goat. Students immediately recognized how his qualities of courage, initiative, self-control, and judgment enabled him to survive. Without my prompting, they began to discuss whether they would apply these same qualities if they were in a similar situation. I just sat back and listened .
Betsy Stecker. "Weaving Character Education into Language Arts." The Fourth and Fifth Rs: Respect and Responsibility Newsletter vol.11 #2 (Winter/Spring, 2005).
Betsy Stecker teaches at Japhet School, 31201 Dorchester, Madison Heights, MI 48071 a 2001 National School of Character. She welcomes your questons about how to incoporate character into any language arts unit. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2005 Center for the 4th and 5th Rs
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.