Character Education That Excites

Character education in many primary schools bores children. It affects them the way Freshman History affected my college friends and me. We vowed that no one could make history more boring than our professor made it. On special occasions, however, the professor changed gears. He employed a teaching method that turned insipid to thrilling in an instant. That same method can convert character education into a subject that excites young children. In fact, character education teachers can make young children beg for more by using regularly the method our college professor saved for special occasions.

Teachers can readily transform today’s blah into tomorrow’s bling.

Today’s Blah

Character education lesson plans often begin with our college history professor’s regular, blah teaching method.

The teacher talks. In this case, the teacher talks about character education. Teachers grab free character education lesson plans wherever they can find them, and follow instructions such as these found on the Internet:

· Talk about how respect sounds.

· Talk to students about how respect looks.

· Talk about respectful facial expressions

· Talk to them about tone of voice that shows respect.

· Talk to students about respectful body language.

Character education teachers talk, and talk, and talk. While they talk, young children react as we did regularly in college history class. They assume bored positions, wishing the subject didn’t exist.

Most young children, like many college Freshmen, have not yet developed the skills needed to learn by the talking-teacher method. They did not learn to walk by having Mother talk to them about how walking looks. They did not learn to talk by having Father explain about how talking sounds. Talking did not potty train them either. Yet, character education lesson plans urge the teacher to talk – and talk – and talk.

“After you have explained,” continue character education lesson plans like the above, “discuss respect with your students.”

The teacher discusses. Our college professor tried that, too. After talking about history, he tried to engage us in discussion. Many of us, awakened from talking-induced cat naps, were neither ready nor able to participate in discussion.

Three-to-eight-year-old children will be no more ready to discuss character education after your teacher-talk. Did they learn to walk, to talk, and to feed themselves by discussing it with their parents? No. In spite of that, character education lesson plans urge the teacher to discuss – and discuss – and discuss.

Such an approach is boring to any age. It is blah, and nobody enjoys blah character education.

Tomorrow’s Bling

Character education lesson plans can be changed overnight if teachers are willing. If you are a character education teacher, and you truly care about your students, you can make that change happen. How?

Introduce our history professor’s “special occasion” method, and blah is transformed into bling. History catches the light, sparkles, and becomes desirable.

What method can work such a transformation? What secret weapon made history exciting on special occasions?

· Did he show a video? No. He could have, but history videos can be as tedious as history lectures.

· Did he ask us to role play historical moments? No. We were bored with historical figures as he had presented them, and would have had no heart for role playing.

Our college professor used a story book.

Picture it. Our history professor read from a story book on special occasions. He didn’t reach for just any book and try to extract history from it. He used a book that was purpose-written to express accurate history in easy-to-swallow format. The book was ambrosia to students who viewed history as a dull, lifeless subject. We loved stories such as the one about Columbus that began this way.

“On September 9, 1492, as the last land dropped below the horizon, Christopher Columbus began keeping two logs. One log, which he kept secret, was a true reckoning of his course and distance. The other was a falsified account of the ship’s location written so the crew would not be frightened at sailing so far from land.” Source: Samuel E. Morison, Christopher Columbus (Boston: Mentor, 1955), p. 36.

We got excited about history when it was packaged in story format – and character education excites young children when it is packaged in purpose-written stories.

Tried-and-True Technique

Stories have long been considered a tried-and-true technique for presenting information. The technique has been proven especially good and desirable for use with young children. Stories help them learn – and remember – valuable information.

Visit a famous Internet bookseller, type in the word “potty” and what do you find? You find dozens of books that use stories to teach young children how to use the toilet and graduate from diapers. Search for books on “brushing teeth” and you get similar results. Type in “swimming” and a little duck named Stewie will teach them water safety.