What's Happening in Character?

How Surroundings Affect Students’ Learning

Posted by Kelly Warfield on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 @ 08:08 AM

By Kelly Warfield,  Editorial director of Teacher Products, Carson-Dellosa™ Publishing Group

We can all think back on the school environments of our youth and reflect on the classes we preferred, the topics we found most engaging, and the teachers who blew us away. But what about the classroom surroundings that supported that education? Were there specific activities, environments, or rules that seemed more conducive to learning than others? And what about the classrooms of today?

How can we set up our classrooms to the best of our ability with the physical, structural, and psychological support necessary to provide our students with an idyllic learning environment? Through studies, statistics, and trial and error, we’ve learned some things about classroom environments and how they can affect student performance. 

Cooperation and Relevance

Creating a cooperative learning environment has both a positive social and educational impact on each participating student. Cooperation is a critical skill that has far-reaching effects and can help your students in the classroom, as well as in their day-to-day lives. Cooperation helps students explore and celebrate the diversity among them, overcome their differences, learn by actively listening, work as a team, develop stronger interpersonal skills, relate to their peers, create new friendships, improve their social interactions, gain additional feedback from their peers, and exchange new ideas. All of these benefits contribute to a better, more comprehensive learning environment.

Successful learning environments also require that learning objectives be relevant to your students and their lives outside of the classroom. Without the ability to explore how information applies to daily life, your students are less likely to engage in their lessons and commit that information to memory.

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Back to School

Character, Literacy, and Language Development at Bayless Junior High

Posted by Bob Efken on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 07:01 AM

By Bob Efken, Assistant Principal and Doug Harness, Principal

Doug and I have been at Bayless Junior High, a small school of 350 students in the Bayless School District, for fourteen years. We love that Bayless is the most culturally diverse district in Missouri, with over 50% of students speaking a primary language other than English. However, this is also our greatest challenge.

The school’s refugee and immigrant families from Bosnia, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and twenty other countries find their way to our community in search of the American Dream, and we consider it an honor to help them accomplish that dream. At Bayless Junior High, we realized ten years ago that our students struggled academically and linguistically. Bayless needed an instructional model that would benefit all students, but especially our growing English Learner population. We began to implement the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol or SIOP, which promotes learning the English language while engaging students in rigorous academic content. SIOP was a perfect fit for our unique school, and the accomplishments of our students have been nothing short of amazing.

Read More

Topics: Character Ed Infused in Curriculum, Academics,, Curriculum Integration

The Journal of Character Education to Address Character & Curriculum

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

As you have likely noticed from our recent posts, “A Collaborative Curriculum: The Strengths of PBL,” “How Real World Lessons Lead to Academic Achievement,” and our latest, “4 Tips for Providing Effective Feedback,” this month Character.org is focusing on Principle 6, how to link your character education initiatives to a rigorous curriculum.

With the recent passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have the opportunity to reexamine their curricula and reassess what will work best for their students. It is an exciting time to be learning more about best practices in education and advocating for the whole-child approach to education.

Well, you know what they say, great minds think alike and our friends at the Journal of Character Education have also decided to focus on Character & Academics for their upcoming issue. Below you’ll find a special message from its editor, Dr. Jacques Benninga:

The Journal of Character Education is the only educational journal specifically devoted to research and practice in character education and should be a boon to both practitioners and researchers.  Topics are varied, but include both reports of research and practical applications as well as book reviews and Character.org news and announcements.  This is THE journal in our field.

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Character Educaiton

Infusing Character Into Everyday Teaching & Learning

Posted by Dave Keller on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 08:01 AM

by Dave Keller

Read More

Topics: promising practices, 11 Principles, Academics,

4 Tips for Providing Effective Feedback

Posted by Lisa Stutts on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

 By Lisa Stutts, Special Education Teacher, Northern Parkway School, 2015 National School of Character

As educators, it is essential that we make the process of providing feedback a positive learning experience for each student. Feedback paves the way for continued learning.

Consider the following 4 tips to effective feedback all while building character.

  1.    Be Specific and Factual

When providing feedback, it is very important to be specific. Being specific helps students increase understanding and become partners in the learning process. Although saying “good job” may evoke a smile, it will leave the student with a sense of vagueness. Those words never tell the learner what he did right, and where might he go next. Statements such as “Not quite there yet” or “almost” don’t give any insight into what was wrong and what can be done differently. Teachers will also be left with the same sense of uncertainty. This vagueness hinders the assessment process and is not productive. Specific feedback allows students to take

Read More

Topics: Relationship Building, Academics,, Curriculum Integration

A Collaborative Curriculum: The Strengths of PBL

Posted by Pam Mitchell on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 @ 08:01 AM

by Pam Mitchell

Beginning the Journey

Mockingbird Elementary embarked on a Project Based Learning (PBL) journey seven years ago after observing PBL in action at  New Tech High @ Coppell, another school in our district. We had already been focusing on Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship (Dr. Bill Daggett) as a district, and we had also been conducting effective service learning projects for several years. Mockingbird educators were planning challenging, authentic learning experiences as well as outstanding service learning projects, so PBL was a natural progression for our innovative educators.

Read More

Topics: character education in curriculum, intrinsic motivation, Academics,, Curriculum Integration

How Real World Lessons Lead to Academic Achievement

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 @ 05:01 AM

by Becky Sipos

When I was a beginning teacher, I was often dismayed how students didn’t improve their writing very much despite my best instruction. When I was “forced into” sponsoring the school newspaper as a job requirement and I began teaching journalism, I was amazed by the writing growth I saw in my students. What made such a difference?

As I began to assess the situation and to figure out what made the difference, a figurative light bulb went off. Students were doing real work for a real audience, and they wanted to do well. Students had a choice in the type of assignments they had. And they were truly responsible for their work. In my typical English class, if they didn’t do their work, they would get a poor grade and I would be upset. But on the newspaper staff, if they didn’t do the work, someone else would have to do it. After all, no newspaper leaves a big blank space that says “so and so didn’t finish his story.” Students who didn’t complete assignments had to deal with the wrath of their classmates. They immediately saw the impact of their failure to meet deadlines.

When the paper was published, they also learned immediately how well they did. If readers liked their stories or photos, they would get praise from teachers and students alike. If they got something wrong, boy, did people let them know. They soon learned emphatically the journalism rule of double checking and having multiple sources. The old journalism adage “If your mother says she loves you, check it out” was not a joke.

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Curriculum Integration

Tips from the Faculty Lounge - Linking Smart & Good

Posted by Character.org Staff on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 @ 09:10 AM

In the 2015 Schools of Character magazine, we featured advice from six principals at National Schools of Character, but we received great insight from a number of other educators from these schools, as well. Here's what they had to say:

How does creating a caring school climate help students improve academically?

"When a school has a caring climate, the ability to reach more students in a positive, impactful way increasing exponentially.  Students become more engaged in an environment where they feel connected and cared for.  This goes for all of us.  When parents are part of a caring school climate they are more inclined to open up and build trusting relationships with those in the school community.  Teachers are integral piece to this puzzle as they are on the front lines with students and parents.  They are the ones who are building positive, lasting relationships with the families they serve.  Education is all about relationships and making connections to learning.  Having a warm, caring school climate allows students, parents and staff to feel more comfortable to take risks and engage in courageous conversations built on trust.” - Michael Anselmo, Principal, Selvidge Middle School

“When our freshmen receive those first quarter grades, many encounter earning their first non A/B grades. That fear of failure disappears when they quickly realize that our school provides a safe environment to face the frustrations of new expectations and challenging classes. They grow confident in their own skills because they know the school provides peer tutors, one-on-one time with teachers, and open doors with administrators. These lines of communication encourage students to find ways to succeed, which only makes that accomplishment more rewarding by creating relationships which will help them as they continue through their high school careers. While we celebrate our students achievements, it is the opportunity for intrinsic reward in a caring school climate sets it apart from others. “ -  Rachel Montgomery, Assistant Principal, Windsor High School

“The benefits of a caring school climate go beyond a social and emotional level. The academic successes take hold, BECAUSE of the social and emotional skills that are nurtured in a caring school climate. This year our kindergarten students were able to work cooperatively and creatively to complete a PBL (Project Based Learning) project about their community and display it at our annual School Fair.  All students felt the pride and success of their month long endeavor.  This was all possible as a result of cultivating our caring school community.” - Kim Ramer, Kindergarten Teacher, Bridgeport Elementary School

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Schools of Character

#learningisjoyful

Posted by Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 @ 14:10 PM

by Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac (Twitter: @docsheilah), Assistant Principal, 2015 National School of Character, Northern Parkway School

#Learningisjoyful is a hashtag that I often use when tweeting however I have used the phrase “Learning is Joyful” to describe my educational philosophy for a number of years.  To be clear joy for me does not necessarily equal fun and games.  It is more of an intrinsic feeling that you achieve when you are passionate about learning something and you are involved in the learning process.  Joyful learning experiences can involve games and play but working diligently to solve a problem...and solving it can also evoke feelings of celebration and satisfaction.  Joyful learning experiences are inherently tied to character education.  When you are learning in an environment that supports you, values you, connects with you, respects you, and cares about you…#learningisjoyful.  So how does the hashtag #learningisjoyful connect with my experiences at the 2015 National Forum on Character Education held in Atlanta, Georgia (October 15-18,2015).  Take a look:

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Growth Mindset

Linking Smart & Good: A Reflection on the 2015 Forum Theme

Posted by Maricarmen Esper on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 @ 12:10 PM

By Maricarmen Esper, Character Education Author and Speaker

Read More

Topics: Forum Speakers, National Forum, Academics,

Growing Good Character

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

He came to us with many seeds planted in his life.  The seed of violence from an abusive father.  The seed of anger from a defensive single mother.  The seed of poverty; he was one of eight children.  The seed of hunger--he needed a small snack upon entering school to make it to breakfast without defiant episodes.

Enter the school garden.  It was time to plant our fall beans.  His eyes began to sparkle as he helped prepare the warm dry soil, breaking up clods, removing obstacles, and smoothing the dirt with his hands.  Hope was planted in one small bean seed.  Motivation was nurtured by teachers who encouraged him, saying, "Let's check to see how our beans are doing."

The reason for hard work sprouted from the kindness of caring for the needs of baby plants.  Self discipline grew as he turned his thoughts to the garden, initiating visits to water, weed, and admire growth.  Just as the beans matured, so did his respect for himself and others.

He took joy in gathering the crop to share with his school community, knowing he had been responsible for the outcome.  He washed and stemmed the beans for cooking, being accountable for food safety.  He delighted in the fruits of his labor, smiling as he ate.  He saved one bean to take home, sharing the miracle of growth and transformation with his family.

The school garden, impacting the community one child at a time.

This excerpt, written by Brenda Proebsting, a teacher at 2015 National School of Character, Southwest Early Childhood Center, beautifully depicts the power of getting students out of the classroom and into school gardens.

In a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education EdCast, “Roots of the School Gardening Movement,” host Matt Weber interviewed Jane Hirschi, author of Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools. Jane shared, that while school gardens are not new and date back to John Dewey, our current school garden movement is “driven by an interest in food” and serves as a “link between kids knowing about foods and making healthy food choices.” It is especially important, as our students’ lives become more and more dictated by technology, that we continue to value time outdoors and cultivate their love of nature.

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Community Involvement, Outdoor Education

7 Surprising Parenting Solutions That Boost Kids’ School Success

Posted by Michele Borba on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

by Michele Borba

Academic success impacts our children for the rest of their lives: it influences their self-esteem, college selections, job attainment, financial success, and even their choice of spouse. It’s no wonder we go great lengths to give our kids an academic edge.

But despite our good intentions, we often overlook a few simple strategies that research has proven to impact children’s academic success. Even better, these seven science-backed solutions are things that every parent can do, don’t cost a dime, and they are proven to boost children’s school success.

Here are seven surprising simple solutions that every parent should have in their toolbox for back-to-school.

Read More

Topics: parent involvement, Academics,, Parenting, Back to School

Why We Don't Have the Smartest Kids (or Best Schools) in the World

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

by Rebecca Bauer

When I began reading The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley, I had no idea that a book could be so inspiring and depressing at the same time.

After discovering America’s average scores on the international PISA tests, Ripley started to wonder what factors contributed to a country’s success. Why did certain countries outperform others?

She knew examining the data alone would only take her so far, so in search of answers, she followed the stories of 3 American students as they spent a year in countries known for their high quality education systems, South Korea, Finland and Poland. Ripley supplements their stories with research and weaves in connections to previous education reforms in America. What is so empowering and alarming about this book, is Ripley really offers answers to the tough questions and promising solutions.

Read More

Topics: character education, international education, Academics,

Four Mouse Clicks

Posted by Dave Keller on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

Read More

Topics: Academics,

How Almost Losing My Job Led to More Inspired Teaching

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 @ 12:04 PM

By Becky Sipos

The principal came to my classroom door with the bad news, “Because enrollment has declined for next year, we have to make some cuts, and since you were the last hired, that means we have to let you go.”

Devastating news, but I had heard this story before. In the early days of my teaching career, I had to change schools every two years because of moves thanks to my husband’s military career. I was always the last hired and the first to go when reductions hit. This time, though, there was a catch. The principal added, “But if you agree to sponsor the school newspaper, we can keep you because that is a protected position.”

Read More

Topics: Academics,, student engagement

Teaching Character within a Rigorous Curriculum

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Apr 6, 2015 @ 19:04 PM

Creating opportunities for character education within a rigorous curriculum sounds great, but teachers are overwhelmed by constantly changing requirements, high stakes testing and large class sizes. Finding time for character education in an already busy schedule can feel impossible.

“I don’t have time for character education. My focus must be on teaching academics.” Do these worries sound familiar?

Read More

Topics: critical thinking, Academics,, student engagement