Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Does Character Have a Place in Your Back to School Plans?
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Does Character Have a Place in Your Back to School Plans?

Kara Coleman, owner of Making Playtime Count, is sure to help you figure out ways to fit character development and social skills into your back to school and year-long plans AND make this time with your children FUN! Kara's guest blogging on Tarheelstate Teacher today so be sure to continue reading to learn some creative ways that you can fit character in more often!

One of the biggest challenges of an elementary school teacher is figuring out how to fit it all into the day, week, and school year. The curriculum is vast, the kids are all on completely different pages with what they already know and what they need support with, and it seems like there are hundreds of unpredictable interruptions a week.

However, teachers are experts at understanding that social and emotional health has to have a big place in their classrooms, regardless of what the curriculum says or what they have time for. Teachers know that in order to create the most effective, engaging academic environment in which children can thrive, they must first develop a trusting relationship with students and ensure they feel safe, supported, and able to take risks in their learning. Supporting students in learning how to effectively communicate and solve conflicts with others and teaching them the importance of a wide array of character traits such as integrity, resilience, and courage are all crucial when building a classroom community.

While time is incredibly tight, there are some pockets of time throughout the school day where a focus on character building can be carved out. As you are planning out your back-to-school schedules, consider these ideas:

Implement a daily community meeting into your schedule. Community meetings help teachers be more purposeful about creating a trusting, open environment that shows your students you are a community that works together and supports one another. It sets the tone for the day, promotes authentic opportunities for open communication, allows students to feel connected to one another, and provides the perfect venue for working on social and emotional issues that your students need. The benefits of community meetings far outweigh the few minutes of time it takes from your day.

Start a weekly lunch bunch with a small group of students focused on a particular need. For instance, for a group of students who are struggling to get along with others, consider reading them books that teach relationship building skills or playing a game centered on making friends with them while they eat lunch.

Be purposeful about the activities students are doing when they are finished with their morning routines, but the day has not yet officially started. Consider teaching some character building games that would support your students’ needs at the beginning of the year so that students can play them independently with each other when they are finished with their morning work or possibly in lieu of morning work one day a week.

Stock up on engaging read alouds that hit on topics your students may need brushing up on such as interrupting, using manners, respecting personal space, working as a team, etc. There are so many great ones out there. Julia Cook’s books are some of our favorites because of their creative, humorous nature. Carry one with you whenever you leave the classroom with your students. How many times do you unexpectedly get stuck in the hallway waiting for the whole class to use the bathroom? Or for the specials class to let out so that your students can be dropped off? Those are precious minutes that could be used for a purpose, rather than just for waiting.

Involve parents. Consider loaning specific character building books or games to students that may need additional support with a particular skill so that they can work on it at home as well as at school. Parents are often eager to help, but need support in knowing what they can do at home.

Be strategic about rewards. Incentives are a popular way to motivate students. If you already use free time or game time as a reward, consider the games you are providing for your students. Also, consider playing some character building music in the background during these times. Why not reward them while simultaneously developing social skills that students may be lacking?

Teachers are the most creative people out there when it comes to making the most of their time with students. What are some other ideas you have used or seen in the past?

Want to stock up on some new books, games, or music for your new year? Use the code tarheel20 at Making Playtime Count and enjoy 20% off your order. Expires September 4th.

Kara Coleman is the owner of Making Playtime Count and has always been passionate about early childhood development.  A former elementary school teacher, she has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  In 2009, Kara became Nationally Board Certified and was recognized as the Orange County, NC Teacher of the Year.  Now a stay-at-home mother of two young children, Kara strives to find resources and activities that are rich in educational quality without sacrificing the fun factor for children.

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