What's Happening in Character Education?

Cooperative Games to Prevent Bullying

Posted by Suzanne Lyons on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 09:04 AM

By Suzanne Lyons, Founder, Cooperative Games

Background on Bullying

The basic fact of bullying is that it is a cruel torment, so disturbing that most educators would prefer to look away. But of course we know we cannot. The Department of Health and Human Services defines bullying this way:

Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time…Bullying includes such actions as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physical or verbally, and excluding someone from a group.1

Bullying typically begins in elementary school, peaks in middle school, and declines in the final years of high school. Its effects can be severe and long-lasting. Kids who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed compared to their peers. Bullied boys are four times more likely to be suicidal. Girls who are bullied are eight times more likely to be suicidal.2 Nevertheless, bullying is shockingly common. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 27 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school during the school year in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available.3

Moreover, the link between bullying and later delinquent and criminal behavior is clear. Nearly 60 percent of boys classified by researchers as bullies in grades six through nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24.4 It’s not just the bullies who are at risk for later criminal behavior. Victims of bullying sometimes explode in ways that threaten the school community, including school shootings. A Secret Service study of school shootings found that “almost three-quarters of the attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident.” 5

Besides all of the suffering, bullying is also tragic for the loss of opportunity it represents. Both bullying and being bullied destroy the basic peace and sense of security students need for happiness, learning, and growth—all the normal positive experiences that should be available to every child in school.

Preventing Bullying with Cooperative Games

Teachers and administrators are responding to the bullying crisis in two main ways, 1) through anti-bullying measures and 2) through bullying prevention. Though both approaches have their place, just as in medicine, prevention is generally easier and more effective than reacting to damage that has already occurred. As the experts at the Department of Health and Human Services website StopBullying.gov say, “The easiest way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts.”

Prevention is where cooperative games come in.

Cooperative games are games based on playing together toward a common goal rather than competing against one another to win. Cooperative games can be board games, active physical games, circle games, online games, etc. The point is that players are always on the same team and working together toward one goal. There is no competition, exclusion, or being left behind in a cooperative game. Goals, resources, and winning or losing are all shared.

Research on cooperative games shows that when people work, or more accurately play, toward a common goal, divisions are healed. Friendships are forged and aggression is replaced with camaraderie. The pro-social effects of uniting people through cooperative games has been observed at all age levels and among at-risk groups such as juvenile offenders. Research going back decades substantiates this.6 What is new however is applying the peace-making power of cooperative games in the effort to prevent bullying.

Read More

Topics: bullying prevention, bullying, Relationship Building, bullying advice

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 teachers, 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

The Rhythm of Relationships

Posted by Jennifer Patterson on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 @ 09:12 AM

By Jennifer Paterson, Founder & President of California Music Studios

The impact that music can have on our lives is incredible. Exposure to music can shape our emotions, advance our intelligence, and impact our future, starting in the womb and continuing throughout our lives. The right melodies, in the right moments, can be essential to nourishing better emotional, physical, and mental growth - trigger states of calm during stress, or offer motivation in times of need. On top of this, music can also build and strengthen relationships, improve social skills, and act as a bridge for human connection.

It's no surprise that you'll often hear music playing wherever you see a group of children. Even when playing as background noise, music can help to develop the social skills of children by bringing them together. This avenue for communication doesn't stop in childhood either. Consider the benefits of musical therapy - an established treatment route in mental health used to address emotional, cognitive, social, and physical needs. Through musical therapy, patients strengthen their ability to communicate with others, allowing for improved engagement, and offering a form of expression for feelings too difficult to describe.

But how exactly does the connection between music and forming relationships work? How can music form a basis for higher levels of confidence, improved interaction, and strengthened social skills?

Read More

Topics: Relationship Building, Music, Extracurricular

Using Advisory Effectively: A Case Study

Posted by Sarah Novick on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 @ 08:08 AM

By Sarah Novick

Advisory can be a great vehicle to implement character education. 

I recently had the privilege of getting to know students, teachers, teacher-advisors, and administrators involved with revamping an advisory program at San Francisco University High School (SFUHS).

For about 20 years SFUHS had an advisory period in its schedule. When I got to know the school a few years ago, students described advisory “a chill out time,” “a time to eat really good snack,” and a place where they could “hang out with friends.” While this non-academic break during a busy Friday after a stressful week is useful, especially for high achieving, stressed-out students at a rigorous high school, administrators wanted to create the infrastructure to better support students’ character, social, and emotional development. In this post I want to take this opportunity to share some of my insights into their successes as they revised their program. 

Read More

Topics: character education, Relationship Building, Caring Community, Advisory