Character Education: Fostering a Culture of Gratitude and Teamwork at FISW
Sarah Delandre, Curriculum Coordinator
For the past two years our team of teachers have built a character education program from scratch. They have selected nine-character strengths that are essential to the students' academic and social development: teamwork, forgiveness, friendliness, kindness, perseverance, love of learning, gratitude, curiosity, and critical thinking. To make sure that each FISW student acquires these important character strengths, their teachers develop a gradual understanding of each of them through explicit teaching, observation, group work, projects, and daily classwork.
Recently, Cycle 1 (Pre-K and K) and Cycle 3 (Third Grade - Fifth Grade) students worked on gratitude. After defining and understanding the term gratitude, the youngest students worked with their English and French teachers to identify reasons to be grateful. They came up with a varied understanding of gratefulness. Some were grateful for an object such as toys or learning materiel. Others expressed their gratitude towards a person (teacher, parent, friend…) or a concept (their school, their friendship, their family). In 4th and 5th grades, they defined the concept of gratitude in-depth and were asked to explore important subjects of gratitude within their family. They asked their parents what they were most grateful for and the reason why. Students shared their discoveries with the class and had philosophical debates about them in English and in French. In English and French literature classes, they were asked to select a favorite character in a book who displayed gratitude and to analyze the origin of this feeling and character strength. The end goal of this project was to find strategies for developing gratitude. According to fifth-grade student Zia “It made me realize that we should take the time to pause and recognize all the little pleasures in life for which we should be grateful. Feeling grateful allows me to feel warm inside and to think in a more positive way.”
Cycle 2 (First Grade - Third Grade) worked on teamwork. First graders read the story Stone Soup in English class and La petite poule rousse in French class, and in teams created different posters depicting the two stories. To do so, they had to collaborate and agree on choices of materiel, colors, presentation…
In second grade, students worked collaboratively on many math, science, and literature projects. The teacher took pictures of them working in groups. Recently she gave them these pictures and asked them to identify advantages and challenges that they experienced while working in groups. They came up with a long list for each and also identified strategies to overcome the challenges of teamwork. This was an impactful exercise, because the students and their teacher can now refer to these strategies as they continue to work in teams.
Our teachers know that gratitude and teamwork are essential character traits that students need today at school and that will further develop as they become older. Like any skills that you learn at school or through life experience, character strengths need to be understood and practiced multiple times to be further built upon. At FISW, teachers are convinced of the fundamental importance of a character education program that allows their students to grow and become better students and individuals.