Young children need multiple opportunities for growth; growth in all areas, not just academic and physical domains, but also in emotional and social domains. Developing moral character is a component that needs to be taught in a visible, concrete manner with the under 5 crowd. Children need to be reminded to be kind, and shown how to accomplish that abstract task. When we offer opportunities for growth, model what we expect, and include all three aspects of a child’s character we are setting the foundation for successful, contributing, performing adults. Using literature and art as a backdrop for our character development curriculum, the following activities can be recreated in a traditional classroom setting or in a one-on-one relationship, such as homeschool, or Sunday school programs.
Moral Character: integrity, courage, honesty, and compassion, kindness
Performance Character: perseverance, diligence, self-discipline, cooperation
Civic Character Traits: tolerance, respect, community (family/classroom)
Using the following visual parents and educators can be reminded of important character traits for children to develop. When we think if the visual as a timeline for development, children can be expected to develop performance character, moral character and civic character as they grow in their relationships within the classroom community.
LITERACY DOMAIN: We have begun to use a new story and set of dolls that encourages a child’s understanding of random acts of kindness. Using the Kindness Elves as a backdrop for our moral character education, we have increased the children’s willingness to help each other out (because Pop and Sparkle are watching), ultimately creating a classroom of helpers.
Teaching compassion and respect can be done in a few ways. In the Early years’ classroom books and literature are a sure fire way to help children understand key ideas. We have spent a week discussing how to be kind, how to be helpful, how to keep trying even when it is hard, and how to help others when it looks like they are struggling. We have introduced an additional book called Bucket Filling as a follow up activity that covers the moral development aspect of our curriculum.
ART DOMAIN: Concluding the unit by making actual buckets with the children, and encouraging them to fill up each others buckets with cards and words of affirmation uses the art domain to lend a concrete understanding to an otherwise abstract concept.
LITERACY DOMAIN: We read a story called Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, all about being different. The story helped the children understand the idea that when we are kind to ourselves that others will in turn learn to be kind as well. The story is a good one to teach integrity, self-discipline and kindness. Following up with a unit about self, where children begin to see the differences and similarities in classmates and CELEBRATE those differences, will eventually lead to a deeper understanding of all of the cultures and demographics in our schools.
ART DOMAIN: The curriculum plan culminated with a post office of sorts; where every child used the written word and art supplies to create ‘love’ notes for their friends. Each day the children found creative ways to show their kindness; whether through notes, art projects, or including someone in their play. They created mailboxes for one another and have taken to filling them up daily; including the mailbox on the side of the Kindness Elves’ house.
Next week as a follow up we will use an idea from The Imagination Tree, where we make our own Kindness Potion Bottles in order to add a scientific component to our character curriculum. Covering each of the developmental domains helps the children assimilate additional information. Scaffolding what they already know about character development, with new information on how to be kind to one another in every aspect of their lives.
I love tying curriculum to literature and art for the under five crowd, covering the necessity to READ with your children, understanding concepts of print, and developing important character traits along the way.