Saturday, January 25, 2014

Character Traits and Making Your Students Feel Special

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!       


 
 


14 comments:

  1. I love the fact that what you want most for your students is about the children themselves, and not about academics. Getting all your spelling words correct or acing those timed tests is not nearly as important as being a person of good character!
    Linda
    KinderDoodles

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  2. Love this idea! The visual effect and that it's available throughout the week for your students to "visit" and that it becomes a keepsake for students at the end of the year. I will totally have to do this next year (not sure if there's enough time this year!)

    What I Have Learned

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  3. Thanks KinderDoodles and Jessica! I appreciate your comments!

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  4. I really enjoyed reading about how you do character traits in your classroom. Thanks for sharing. I have a question about how you take those pictures of your students. I have wanted to do exactly what you did but I ended up being either too close or too far away. Is there a trick? This is probably a silly question but I truly have no idea what I have been missing. I appreciate your help.

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  5. I use my iPhone, but any camera would do! I had to fool around with the size to get it right. I do take lots of pictures of my students not only for projects but I have a classroom blog for my students and parents only.

    So~when you take the picture for this project I do a fairly close up. Then, you print it out as an 8x10 and cut around it! I do the same for projects that I use my student's face (like If I were President where they use their face and put a hat and beard on for Abe, etc.) Print it out as an 8x10. I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions! :)

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  6. Our Kindergarten social studies curriculum does something similar. I have the children do puzzle pieces each month that describe how each one is unique (family, friends, likes, talents, community, etc.) Our last puzzle piece is about how our friends "see" us. I would love to incorporate this into that puzzle piece. Could you post a link to your list of character traits please? I find my students always say the same thing over and over. I would love to show them your list and talk about it every day in preparation for this last piece of our puzzle.

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    1. I have a list (8x10 size) of Character Traits in ABC order in my Character Traits of Labeling Famous Americans with Character Traits!. If you don't want the individual Character Trait cards and just want the 8x10 list, please email me at slynch125@comcast.net.

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  7. Sue...what a great idea with your charcater trait posters for my second graders!! Would you please be willing to share the List of Character words that you talked about (and seem to be laying next to the student on the table that the kiddos cross out) with me? My email is: vzweibohmer@masoncityschools.org THANKS!

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  8. Vicki~I sent you the mini poster! I hope it helps!

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  9. Hi Sue, thank you for sharing this idea. It is very creative and affirming, I would like the list of character words to use with my students. I think this would be a great end of year project for them.
    Thanks! Kate. My email is Katherine.Schleyer@cusd200.org

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    1. I have a list (8x10 size) of Character Traits in ABC order in my Character Traits of Labeling Famous Americans with Character Traits!. If you don't want the individual Character Trait cards and just want the 8x10 list, please email me at slynch125@comcast.net.

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  10. It´s a wonderful idea. This school year I teach English to 3rd, 5th and 6th graders and the problem for us is to find the best vocabulary when we talk about feelings or personality because students always think in Spanish and it´s not always the same meaning so it would be fantastic if you please could send me the list of character words. Thanks a lot for sharing. My email is maglemos@ edu.xunta.es

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  11. Sue, would you please share the character trait list that you have on the table in the photo here for us? Thank you!

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    1. I have a list (8x10 size) of Character Traits in ABC order in my Character Traits of Labeling Famous Americans with Character Traits!. If you don't want the individual Character Trait cards and just want the 8x10 list, please email me at slynch125@comcast.net.

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