What does an integrated character education curriculum look like? Teaching character is at the heart of every class, integrated with homeroom and academic activities that occur each day.
Here are a few examples that provide a glimpse into daily life at Japhet School … a National School of Character!
In homeroom, students learn and practice peaceful conflict resolution.Instead of intervening when there is a conflict, teachers first enable students to talk to each other and sit close by as moderators. Students practice these five steps: (1) calm down, (2) exchange viewpoints one at a time using “I messages” not “blame messages,” (3) brainstorm a solution, (4) decide upon a solution, and (5) try it.
In Integrated Technology class, students learn about what it means to be a digital citizen: citing resources and not plagiarizing, posting respectfully in online Wikispace discussions, protecting privacy, and working cooperatively on group projects.
In Music Appreciation class, students listen to music from around the world and have an opportunity to share their observations. Naturally curious, children express joy when they hear music from other countries, building respect for others.
Every year in Preschool there is a character board. Monthly letters explain the character quality of the month, and Preschool teachers ask parents to be watchful of that character quality being expressed at home. Parents write their observations on special notes — shaped like fish, for example — that multiply to become “an ocean of character”! Students’ notes are read aloud before joining the other notes on the board. In Preschool, the Japhet language of good character begins, and little ones are reminded to “use good judgment” when playing outside,” “be reliable” when taking a book from the library, and “show initiative” to clean up their blocks after play.
In seventh and eighth grade Global Studies, students experience a different life in an activity called “Stepping into Their Shoes.” As they discuss and learn about many of the oppressed people in history and people with challenges, they explore their reality by stepping into their shoes. These students also learn about character in leadership as they role-play different leadership styles expressed by historic leaders and philosophers.
In Art class with first and second grade, students have worked in small groups to create a mural of their ideal neighborhood. With cooperative learning activities, students are coached to listen, share, and celebrate each others’ ideas. One student expressed peace in this activity recently when he changed his picture of a cannon to shoot beautiful fireworks instead of war-like cannon balls.
In Kindergarten, read-aloud stories occur daily, and the teacher talks about the character qualities expressed in the book. Then she writes and draws with the students about how they express that same quality. This classroom also has a character tree, which holds leaves written by parents when they see their children expressing good character at home.
In Math classes in all grades, students are coached to use industry in computing all the steps and showing their work, to express courage by trying a method that is new to them, and to demonstrate reliability by solving the problems as assigned, rather than going to the back of the book or to a calculator for the quick answer.
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