Simple Ways to Blend Moral Values in Your Teaching
Author: Beth Lueders
Learning is a process and can truly be a joy of discovery for children of all ages. As a teacher, you have the privilege of directing your students to understand new concepts and facts that they can use for good the rest of their lives.
One of the greatest opportunities you have with your students is to help them grasp moral values such as love, compassion, kindness, honesty, and forgiveness. This character education helps children and youth learn habits of thoughts and actions that reflect the right thing to do. Moral values help instill the practice of treating others as you would like to be treated—with respect and kindness.
But how do you weave wise ground rules for living into your lessons plans and activities? Here are several ideas that can help.
- Choose to model the moral value you want to teach. You cannot expect your students to learn compassion if you do not extend compassion and caring to others. Do a self-check throughout the school day on how you are offering compassion and understanding to your students and fellow teachers. Remember: consistency is key, not perfection. You may not always show generous compassion in every situation, but apologizing to others when you fall short can go a long way in demonstrating true moral character.
- Use conversation to invite your students into understanding the moral value. You can start conversations with: “What can you tell me about . . .?” “Tell me about your drawing.” Choose questions that ask “how,” “what,” “why” and “when” versus questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Engaging directly with students by practicing good eye contact and a pleasant voice will go a long way in connecting at a deeper level with children and teens alike.
- Share stories that demonstrate moral character. So many fables, fairy tales and Disney character books teach children the importance of loving yourself and treating others well. Or how to live peacefully with family members, friends, classmates and neighbors. Read these stories to students or have them take turns reading portions aloud in class. Also consider current events that help demonstrate good behavior and positive virtues.
- Role play the moral character trait. Acting out stories or examples of the moral value are a meaningful way to show students the character trait in action. For example, have students take turns as characters from the parable of the Good Samaritan from the Bible’s Luke 10:25-37. This story shows how robbers beat and leave a traveler for dead. Two other travelers passed by the injured man, but a lower-class gentleman came to his rescue. This compassionate and caring Samaritan lived out how to be a kind neighbor even to a stranger. Young people certainly need to see and hear about people of all ages in our world who look out for others.
- Break into smaller groups for a discussion time. This is easier with older students, but even little ones (with some coaxing by you) enjoy talking with their peers about things they notice in their everyday lives. Write a couple of fun questions about the moral value you are teaching.
For elementary students, try: Which of your favorite animals is the nicest to others? Why do you think this animal is nice? For high school students try: Which top world leaders do you think show the most compassion in their job? Why do you think they model compassion?
Observing how the students interact with each other can also be a great way to demonstrate strong character traits of respect, patience and kindness. No one appreciates the classmate who continually interrupts and monopolizes the dialogue.
Integrating moral values and strong character traits into your lesson plans and activities takes a few extra minutes each week. But this small investment of time is so worth the privilege of shaping and inspiring hearts and minds for the greater good for generations to come.
Beth is an award-winning journalist who has crisscrossed nearly 20 countries to document stories about the remarkable lessons learned through resiliency. Her work includes in-depth features on the plight of Chernobyl’s radiation-poisoned children and African villagers. Beth has authored and co-authored several books including, Bend: When Life Dares You to Break. Beth lives in Colorado where she also volunteers with her AKC champion collie for pet therapy visits to schools, hospitals, care facilities and military bases.