Building Character for the 21st Century

In Interactive Notebooks by Jen

I have been working extremely long hours on a few things near and dear to my heart that I thought I would share with you. The first is a character unit called Building Character for the 21st Century (I will share the second project in another post). It took me several weeks to get the creative juices flowing on this one. Have you ever had an idea whirling around in your head but just couldn’t get it going? Well that is how I felt. Initially, I wanted to teach about Digital Citizenship. I researched the topic, created a board on Pinterest, and had conversations with teachers but just wasn’t getting anywhere. Then I read the following quote:

This quote really made me think about how we as people build character. It really wasn’t about digital citizenship. I wanted students to live and breath character in every aspect of their life. I felt like these lessons would extend to digital.
However, how do I teach trial and suffering in the classroom? Traveling down the road to building character in the classroom is so much more than any lesson plan that I could write, but I knew if students had opportunities to talk, make mistakes, and learn from others; inspiration may follow and students could find success in and out of the classroom. So I created a unit that could be taught in a variety of ways and allow students the opportunities to learn about character through literature, history, and current events. This is how the unit works.
There are 10 character words to teach using an original book created for the unit. The book has ten chapters, a chapter for each character word. Begin teaching the word by first explaining and discussing the meaning of the word. Then examine the character word through literature, history, and current events by allowing students to listen to or read books as well as online articles and videos. Students will then exhibit the character through a project that can be done in a variety of ways with or without technology. There are links, examples, and handouts for each project. Students can use apps, websites, and the provided handout or a combination of all three. At the end of the study, students will have created a book as a portfolio of all of their work. The words in the unit are:
1. Citizenship
2. Responsibility
3. Integrity
4. Self-discipline
5. Good-Judgement
6. Respect
7. Courage
8. Kindness
9. Teamwork
10. Perseverance
I chose these words because I found the cutest posters to hang up in your room. I thought these would go perfect with the unit so I decided to use the same Wizard of Oz characters and character words in case you would like to purchase the posters. You should really check them out!
I always like to have some type of framework when teaching my units. I found a great book called Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgement & Integrity by Thomas Lickona.  The author has great ideas for implementing what he calls the seven E’s. Here is how I decided to implement them in my character study.

Explain it

Have students define, describe, and discuss the importance of the character word of the month – Use Padlet for students to write what they are thinking and refer back to it throughout the lessons.

Examine it

Use a mentor text to help students better understand the character word. Be sure to always set a purpose for reading that is specific to the word being taught so students can stay focused as they listen or read the text.

The next day, I use history and current events to help them understand the character word. I find online articles, passages, or other stories to help me.

Exhibit It

Students will exhibit the character words through a project using a suggested app, website, or handout.

Expect It

Through mutually understood rules and consequences, create “I Can” anchor with students.

Encourage It

Through goal-setting and daily practice.

As far as standards, the main focus is building students speaking and listening skills. However, students are reading literature, informational texts, writing, and building language throughout the unit. This zip file is chopped full of over 100 pages of resources that will assist in building a community with your students! I have added this unit to my store and think you will love it based on feedback I have received from the teachers I assist. If you would like to check it out, click on the following link or the picture below.