Exploring Character Traits
Introducing character traits in early learning environments often occurs through modeling of those traits. How adults respond to situations and approach their daily activities tells children so much about the actions and behaviors that are valued within the classroom community.
Some programs may opt for a formal character education program that provides pre-planned activity ideas, books, posters, and other materials. These programs are a great way to get started. Unfortunately, if adults act in a manner that is out of alignment with the traits being taught in the program, children may become confused. It is important that teachers are mindful of the powerful role that their everyday actions have on children’s blossoming character development.
That being said, there are many ways that educators and children can explore character traits that can be either planned or spontaneous. Here are just a few activity ideas:
Children’s literature – There are books specifically targeting character development and then there are regular books that contain characters that demonstrate a wide variety of character traits. You don’t need specialized books, just a careful review of the existing books in the library to determine if there are opportunities to start discussions about character traits before, during, or after reading the books. Teachers should strive to ask questions that spark these discussions, rather than sticking to questions that only relate to the facts of the book. Teachers can ask children to think about how different characters were feeling, their motivations, their decisions, and the consequences of those decisions.
The same approach can be taken with children’s favorite characters from television and movies.
Class discussions – Again, whether planned or spontaneous, discussions about character that occur during morning meetings, mealtimes, or brief asides with a small group of children can be very valuable. Teachers can ask children to think about how it feels to be a good friend or what it feels like when someone offers to be helpful. Connecting character traits to emotions can help children identify with the abstract nature of character traits. It provides children with something they can feel and identify.
For example, a child might share, “I was mad when my tower fell, but I felt happy when Jamel helped me rebuild it.” The teacher can help the child and Jamel connect to the emotions associated with the character-inspired interaction.
Character Brainstorms – Teachers can also facilitate brainstorming activities that relate to when certain traits can be used. For example, a teacher could ask children to think of different situations in which patience is needed. Once the list is created, some children may be interested in illustrating some of the scenarios for a class book about patience.
For the main article Strengthening Character Traits, CLICK HERE
For the article Recognizing Character Traits, CLICK HERE
For the article Practicing Character Traits, CLICK HERE
For the article Director’s Corner – Focusing on Character at all Levels, CLICK HERE