What is Character Education?
When we think about our students and wonder how we can better prepare them to be good, valuable citizens in the future, the idea of character education comes to my mind. Of course, we want our students to be proficient in math and reading, but we also want them to be proficient in being a productive and beneficial member of society. What better way to do that than introducing character education in the classroom! Character education is the act of instilling the values of kindness, generosity, and integrity in students. It consists of teaching the key components of moral excellence through one’s actions.
What is moral excellence? Moral excellence is centered on one thing, and that is doing the right thing. It includes having integrity or doing what is right when no one is looking. It is showing care for others or having empathy when our friends are going through a hard time. Moral excellence is demonstrating kindness to those around you. It is being responsible and taking ownership of one’s actions.
As we enter the holiday season, we can find several ways to easily integrate character education into the classroom. The holidays are an excellent time to teach students the value of kindness, charity, empathy, and putting the needs of others above their own. Below are some ways to help develop those invaluable characteristics in your students during the most wonderful time of the year!
Character Education Activities for the Holidays
Organize a Food, Toy, or Clothing Drive
The holidays present a lot of fun, but they also present a lot of needs. There are always needs within every community, but it is especially important to reach out to those less fortunate during the holidays. Many are without family or lack the means necessary to attain items on their own due to financial circumstances or other personal situations. Students can organize food, toy, and/or clothing drives to help families continue to celebrate the holidays despite those unfortunate circumstances.
Any drive of this nature requires community involvement and a large amount of responsibility from students in order to be successful. Students must learn to communicate with those in their communities to get the word out and better help those in need. Students learn to be responsible for collected materials and understand their importance.
Fundraisers for an Important Cause
During the holidays, students can raise money for important causes either locally or nationally. For instance, students may be encouraged to raise funds for cancer research, a local homeless shelter, or animal shelter. As a class, students can learn about the intended recipient of the funds before beginning the fundraising process. In doing so, students gain a better understanding of why it is important to raise money for their chosen organization.
This understanding also helps to create a bigger desire in students to make a difference, too! Since students will be collecting money, students will learn to do the right thing even when no one is looking. They must collect money and show integrity to ensure that the money goes to its intended recipient only.
One way to extend this idea within your classroom is to research two or three different organizations. Then, students can vote on which organization they would like to raise money for and why.
Embracing Charity and Giving
In continuing with the idea of drives and fundraisers, another excellent activity for character education is to embrace charity and giving. The central ideas of the holidays that echo all throughout the season are thankfulness and giving. Charity is the act of giving to others in need. Charity helps to develop empathy in students. In school, students could place themselves in another person’s shoes. For example, students could volunteer in the cafeteria or help clean the school building in order to better grasp all that cafeteria workers and custodians do on a daily basis.
Outside of school, students could imagine what it must be like to be homeless or without basic needs and decide to do something about it. This may inspire them to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Regardless of the location, acts of charity teach students to be sensitive to those around them, and they also remind students to be thankful for all they have.
Random Acts of Kindness
This is probably my favorite way to instill the values of character in students! It is fun and rewarding. It’s simple. Ask students to participate in random acts of kindness. These “acts” can be performed anonymously or not, but they are sure to put a smile on someone’s face.
There are several ways to give acts of kindness while in school. Students could write thank you notes to public service workers, be directed to help a friend when they are having a bad day, clean up a mess that’s not their own, share words of encouragement with one another, or even make gifts for school staff members. Students can even spread kindness outside of school by delivering treats to local businesses, buying someone else’s meal, picking up trash, or surprising a neighbor with a meal.
Clearly, providing others with an act of kindness can be as simple or complex as you desire. The main idea is to teach students to be kind to others and realize how it makes them feel in the process!
Creatively Encourage Others
One of the best aspects of the holiday season is how joyful it is! Students can spread cheer to others in a large number of ways, and in the process, they reinforce the need to care about others and their feelings. Students could go caroling, make holiday cards to share within the school or local nursing home, decorate holiday scenes to share with those in the hospital, etc. All of these activities are both fun and exciting for students, but when they realize the activity serves an additional purpose of providing joy to someone else, it makes it even more rewarding and enjoyable.