Hi! My name is Sue Lynch and I have been teaching First Grade for 17 years and LOVE it! I've really been enjoying this blog as I am gaining lots of knowledge and ideas! I am so excited to be a part of Who's Who and Who's New not only as a reader, but an author! I hope you follow us as we blog each day and learn from each other!
As a teacher, I know my job is important. This year my school district implemented a new Teacher Evaluation system. Though I know I am an effective teacher and take my job seriously, the evaluation has been a grueling process (LOTS of hours writing and reflecting on my teaching, etc.). Through the process, I have met with my principal a few times. During one of my meetings, she asked me, "What do you want your students to 'gain' before they leave your classroom?" I froze for a moment as many thoughts were running through my head! I wanted to give the 'PERFECT' answer, but what was it?
I didn't rattle off skills that I wanted my students to achieve or the amount of growth and progress I expect my students to gain. Rather, I just started talking about my students. First there is Ali~He always comes in with the BIGGEST smile and tells me that I deserve a massage because I work so hard! Then there is Abby who runs in and gives me a HUGE hug EVERY morning! Oh..and...Meadow who tells me how she likes my necklace (the same one that I wear everyday!). I can't forget to mention Nick who told his parents that he couldn't miss school because "Mrs. Lynch would miss me!" I am sure you could name each of your students and share something positive and special about each one, too. As I continued to name my students, I let my principal know that as much as my students make me feel SPECIAL each day, I want them to feel SPECIAL too!
Well, today just happens to be my birthday and I don't know about you, but I feel birthdays are special and should be celebrated! When a student has a birthday in my class, we celebrate that person! I love to make him/her feel super special! But that's not the only day I want my students to feel special. I want my students to feel special EVERYDAY!
Our school supports positive character development and we focus on a specific Character Trait each month. So, starting with the first week of school, I teach Character Traits. There are so many words (BIG WORDS) that I expose to my little First Graders. They are just sponges and they LOVE to hear my FAVORITE NEW WORD! Character Traits are easy to implement in the classroom and school environment. When I see a student exemplifying a special trait, I make a BIG DEAL about it! "Boys and Girls, I need your attention!" Then, I state what I just heard or observed. We then compliment the person. It's amazing the reaction and how students then start verbalizing what they see and hear. Just the other day, Alex comes up to me and says, "Mrs. Lynch, I just want you to know that Lauren deserves some praise because she showed compassion when Joey fell during gym class." I LOVE IT!
I really try to incorporate the traits into our daily routines. I like to get all the students not only learning the traits, but also to be recognized for exemplifying positive traits. To make this meaningful, we create a 'mini poster' for each student. My students come up with ONE trait for each person in our classroom (of course, not all in one day!). For this activity, I take a picture of each student. They love making FUN POSES, especially the girls! I print it out (8x10) and then cut the child out and glue him/her on a blank piece of white paper. I usually make a fun ‘edge’ to the paper, too! I then write at the top, “Lauren (Student Name) is…”
At the writing center, I have a list of Character Traits available. I put out ONE student page for the week. Each student writes ONE trait that they feel that person portrays on the page. Once someone has written a trait, it is crossed out and cannot be repeated for the same person. I have also modeled how you write around the pictures (scattered) and with different colors.
I then mount the paper on a piece of construction paper and share the poster with the class. I have the featured student stand in front as we read through the traits listed on his/her poster. The featured student then calls on his/her peers to share which trait they put on the poster and why. Watching and listening to my students during this discussion is just awesome. The featured student is usually beaming with confidence and his/her peers are anxious to share! I am so proud as I feel it’s a lesson that empowers my students.
I usually have all the posters completed in time to be posted for Open House in April. I only do one (maybe two) students a week. I usually start in the winter after the Holidays. Once I model two or three 'posters,' the students are pretty independent and the posters are completed with more ease. I keep the posters and add them to their memory folders for them to receive at the end of the year!
So what was the answer I provided my principal about what I wanted my students to gain...I guess I want my students to gain self confidence and self worth. I want all my students to know they are important and they matter. I want them to realize that if they try and work to their potential, they will succeed! When I can achieve that, then I know I did my job!
There are many ways you can implement Character Traits within your classroom throughout the year. I model and provide many activities during the first semester before we do our individual posters. You can have your students describe traits for characters in a book or use the character traits to describe people in their lives (Mother's Day Wordles!) or even Famous Americans!
Here's a fun activity that you can try during February for Black History Month. If you study about (or have studied) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then you may want to try this labeling activity for FREE!
Thanks again for reading! You can find me at SueLynch@TpT and find my latest product: Labeling Famous Americans with Character Traits!