Developing Character in Our Kids



What makes a student successful? What makes adults successful? Is it how much they know? To me, it’s the character of a man or woman that makes the biggest difference. When I look back over my years of teaching, my biggest frustrations with students (and parents) revolve around issues like responsibility, dishonesty, short-sightedness, dependence, lack of perseverance, and lack of tenacity. As Angela Duckworth so eloquently details in her TED Talk, the biggest indicator of success is grit.

For years, educational “experts” have been telling us that students fail, students are mean, students are depressed because of their lack of self-esteem. I see students with the opposite problem: they are completely self-consumed and think of themselves as invincible. “I can drink and drive and will never get caught or get in an accident.” “I can be lazy and not do any hard work and turn out just fine. I’ll get by somehow.” Today’s young people suffer from a lack of character that revolves around an extreme self-centered attitude.

So if we want kids to focus more on others and develop strong character, what do we as educators do? Build up their SELF esteem? I believe that approach creates more self-centered, ego-inflated citizens. First, we can model other-centeredness, caring, giving, and kindness for our kids. We should be smothering them with positive messages, encouragement, and acts of kindness. In addition, teachers should be highlighting positive peer role models.

Friday, a 12-year old boy had a dream come true: he got a foul ball at a Red Sox game. But instead of standing up, celebrating his moment, and pocketing the ball, he turned to the little girl behind him and handed it to her. Ryan acted without even thinking! He did it because it’s nice to do! What an amazing role model. Let’s lift up Ryan and make him a hero for our kids to admire, rather than all the characterless actors, musicians, and athletes that our society loves to worship. And after you watch this, submit a comment with a link to other inspiring stories of selflessness that we teachers can use as positive role models for our kids.

The Bedley Bros Ep 45: Alex Kajitani

Alex Kajitani, the Rappin’ Mathematician and California Teacher of the Year, shares about his new book Owning It. His book helps educators to deal effectively to the roles we play as educators. It’s a must-read book for those who wish to impact not only their students, but the community as well. Don’t forget to share this blog post on Twitter with your PLN.

Show Notes

Owning It book

Alex’s Website

Alex on Twitter

The Bedley Bros Ep 44: Dan Pink

According to his website, “Daniel H. Pink is the author of five provocative books — including the long-running New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind and Drive. His latest book, To Sell is Human, is a #1 New York Times business bestseller, a #1 Wall Street Journal business bestseller, and a #1 Washington Post nonfiction bestseller. Dan’s books have been translated into 34 languages and have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. In 2013, Thinkers 50 named him one of the top 15 business thinkers in the world. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children.” Scott and I had the privilege of talking to him about his opinions on how to improve classroom practice in the 21st Century.

Show Notes

Dan Pink’s Website

Teaching as a Subversive Activity book

4 Amazing Ways to Infuse the Arts into Literature Instruction

letford

By Genein Letford

I had the privilege of meeting Rafe Esquith at Barnes & Noble last month where he said, “Students should not be reading a book in order to take a test at the end. That should not be their primary goal. Students’ should be asking themselves, ‘What does this book say to me? As the characters go through their problems and make decisions, how will that affect the way I  look at my choices in life?’”

This got me thinking: Most teachers are familiar with the reading comprehension strategy of making connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, etc.) After a personal experience with a fantastic book called Stutter Boy and its organic connection with arts, I decided we need to acknowledge another comprehension strategy, text-to-arts connections.

So I  began my exploration of making text-to-arts connections using the school’s next read-aloud text, The One and Only Ivan. We connected the arts with the plot and character development. Here are some of the ideas birthed out of this exploration:

IvanandBanana

1. VISUAL ART

Visual Art + Metaphorical Thinking Using the picture shown here, the students identified what they saw (Ivan the gorilla holding a half-eaten banana.) Then I asked, “How is Ivan like the banana?” The responses blew me away. After they got through the surface observations and begun to dig deeper and think about the story and Ivan’s character, these fourth and fifth graders came up with some insightful connections:

  • There’s a part of the banana missing and there’s also a part of Ivan’s life that is missing; his family.

  • The banana’s inside, like Ivan’s family and the peel is Ivan. He’s suppose to protect his family.

  • They are both stuck. Bananas are stuck in trees and Ivan is stuck in his domain.

  • Bananas are found in the jungle in bunches, just like gorillas. But this banana is by itself, just like Ivan.

  • The banana can’t do anything about Ivan eating it, just like Ivan can’t do anything about being in his cage.

  • The peel is the cage and Ivan is the banana.

  • The banana is not DONE yet though. Ivan had a hard life but he’s not done. There’s something else for him to do.

WOW! We had this GREAT discussion spring out of one picture!

My first graders worked on story setting. They drew pictures of their favorite characters and made sure they included details from their book’s setting.

My third graders worked on artistic metaphors. They chose a character and an object (similar to the Ivan with the half-eaten banana) and drew the character with the object. They then had to discover the connections (concrete and abstract) and prepare a written statement connecting the two. Students infused vocabulary (chosen from a word bank) into their statements i.e. represented, symbolize, means, conveys, communicates, etc.

IvanRock

  • I drew Ruby with a claw-stick because it represents….

  • I put Ivan on a rock because the rock represents Ivan because he is strong.

I even did a visual art activity with my kindergarten students. We looked at ‘Ivan’s Art.’ These are real paintings by the real gorilla Ivan. I first asked them to identify the colors in the art, and then we discussed why Ivan would choose these colors. I wanted the kids to connect the color to what it represent in Ivan’s life throughout the story.

IvanArt

  • He used a lot of red because his family died.

  • The blue means water because gorillas need water to live.

  • The yellow means bananas because he likes to eat and draw bananas.

  • The green is for the grass because he wants to live in a the zoo.

Of course it’s hard to get really young kids thinking abstractly, but I feel using the arts is a great way to get them started. They aren’t intimidated by a lot of thick text and can start by seeing visual art as a type of text. They are now reading this new visual text and connecting it to their literary work.

Any visual art standard can be interlaced with these projects. The students can do the metaphorical art while focusing on background or foreground, warm or cool colors, value or texture.

2. MUSIC

The students are also connecting text to musical arts. Here are some mini music projects the students are working on:

  • Find a song, and, with little or no adjustment to the lyrics, defend why this song would represent a certain character in the book. Line by line, connect what occurred in the story to what the singer is communicating.

  • Create ‘soundtrack music’ to a particular scene in the text using an iPad music creation app.

  • Take an established melody and write your own lyrics. My third grade students chose the melody of “Stand By Me.” They reached consensus on which character would be the singer in the song and to whom the song would be sung. They chose Ivan to sing to Stella and composed lyrics from his perspective. They concocted what he would say to her by referring to the text. Students must justify every lyric with evidence from the text.

Stand By Me

The Clouds are pink

And the moon is wide

And the zoo is the only thing we see

This cage, is rough

And it makes me cry

Oh Stella, won’t you stand by me

 Oh Stella, Stella

Stand By me

Oh Stand by me, Oh Stand now

Stand by me, Stand by me

The clawstick, it hurts

And the doctor’s late

Oh Stella, I need you, by me

3. DANCE

I am not a dancer, but I know how powerful dance can be in communicating an idea, emotion, or story.

I took the music from the The One and Only Ivan book trailer and choreographed a dance to it.  The students listened to the music and divided it into 4 sections based on mood. Then they listed adjectives describing each section. Finally, the kids chose scenes in the story (or big ideas) and choreograph them.

I showed them the video “The Invisibles” from a dance group trying to increase awareness of modern day slavery (human trafficking.) I use this to show how one can tell a story through dance, and that dance is a type of ‘text’ as well. The students performed their dance and had the author and many people (adults and kids) in tears! Watch the performance on video here.

4. THEATRE

Students recreated a scene from the book including the setting and characters. They tried to make sure the personalities of the characters matched the book.

I sent out this email to the staff:

Teachers and Staff! Thank you for allowing me to really dive into this ‘Finding Ivan Through the Arts’ project with your students. I wish we could have shown more of the performing arts projects but due to time, we were only able to exhibit the dance. Nevertheless, below is how other classes interpreted the book through their chosen art form.

About the dance, I’m so glad it moved so many of you. I really must clarify that it was 80% of the students’ creation. I did my best to make it all about their interaction with the text and only chimed in to help with transitions and the few kinks that were bluntly evident. The lights slowly coming up in the beginning…that was all Eliel. The cage falling in the end…that was Itzel’s idea THE MORNING OF THE SHOW!!!! So many more examples in between but you get the idea!

I ventured into these projects to exemplify how the arts can and should be used to enhance critical thinking and should not be ignored as we head into Common Core. More importantly, the students need to understand that there are multiple ways to interpret and investigate written text and that ‘text’ actually comes in many different formats (visual text, musical text, written text, etc) and are all equally valuable tools for expression, interpretation, and communication. Let’s equip our students with as many tools as possible as they continue to make sense of the world around them and this future ahead of them. Play on!

Guest Blogger, Genein Letford, is the music director of an elementary school in Canoga Park, California. She is noted for her innovative teaching style that incorporates math, science, language arts, and social studies into a music curriculum. She is an avid proponent of the arts and preserving the quality of education in the arts. She won the 2010 Great American Teacher Award, as well as the National Sontag Prize in Urban Education.

The Bedley Bros Ep 43: Rick Morris

Rick Morris is the guru of classroom management, and now he’s taking on a new project: Sound Project 2014. Rick is asking teachers to collaborate to collect great smooth jazz song ideas that can be downloaded for free on FreePlayMusic.com. Smooth jazz is the new baroque that can enhance productivity time in the classroom. Watch this latest Bedley Bros episode to learn how you can get involved. 

Show Notes

Sound Project 2014

Rick’s Website

Rick’s Email Remind101 or send a text to 858-346-3565 with the message @rickmorris

Remind101 Website

Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game, iPad App

The Bedley Bros Ep 42: Rebecca Mieliwocki

Rebecca is the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. In his episode of the Bedley Bros. Scott and I learn what it’s like to be the face of teaching for an entire nation. Rebecca shares about what’s right in education.

Show Notes

Rebecca on Twitter

Rebecca on Facebook

Email Rebecca

The Bedley Bros Ep 41: Oliver Schinkten and Big Ron Crowley

Oliver Schinkten is a creative and passionate educator who is making a difference in the lives of his high school students in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On this episode, Oliver shares how to reach the passions of your students and brings in his buddy, Big Ron Crowley, to talk about music in schools as well as introduce his new Bedley Bros rap. It’s never a dull moment with Oliver and Big Ron in da house!

Show Notes

Oliver’s Website

Follow Oliver on Twitter

Follow Big Ron on Twitter

They Might Be Giants

Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics book

The Bedley Bros #EdChat Ep 34: David Theriault & Sean Ziebarth


Sean Ziebarth and David Theriault are high school teachers on a mission. They are connected to other educators on social media and believe in engaging their students in outside the box activities. Tune in to this special Halloween episode as David, Sean, Scott and I discuss topics like blogging, music, and student centered education. This is probably our zaniest show yet. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Movember

Follow Sean on Twitter

Follow David on Twitter

David’s Blog

Engage NY Common Core Materials