Published on 2/14/17
Huntington K-8 School
Roberts preK-8 School
“What does perseverance mean?” Roberts fifth grade teacher Cheryl Coir asked her students. One by one, students called on each other to respond.
“Pushing yourself toward your goal!”
“That you keep doing what you’re doing, even if it’s hard.”
“You never give up!”
For about fifteen minutes a day, Pre-K through eighth grade students at Roberts form circles within their classrooms to discuss a weekly (or in some cases biweekly) character strength. The discussion is reinforced with a hands-on activity to bring the character strength to life. Following the perseverance discussion, students created human knots, which forced them to work together and brainstorm new ways to untangle themselves.
Compiled as part of The Positivity Project, a national nonprofit, the 24 character traits are intended to help students build stronger relationships by helping them recognize the character strengths in themselves and each other.
To learn about bravery, for example, students interviewed veterans. To learn about kindness, students created a good deeds calendar where they recorded their daily good deeds. To learn about teamwork, students worked in teams to build the tallest freestanding newspaper tower. To learn about appreciating the world’s beauty, students went on a nature walk and had a minute of silence.
Of course, there are ongoing positivity projects as well. In one fourth grade class, students have started a kindness chain. Each time they see a classmate doing something nice for someone else, they write it on a piece of paper and create a ‘chain link’ to add to their paper chain that adorns the classroom wall.
“We wrote motivations on sticky notes and hung them around our classroom, so when someone is down, they can look at it and it can help them persevere,” fifth grader Eddie Irish explained.
The Positivity Project, just in its first year at Roberts, is already making a difference.
“They really notice each other’s strengths more now,” Roberts Social Worker Leigh Sexton said. “It has helped pull them together as a community and has created a common language in the school.”
“I can see the impact of the program when I see the students refer back to a trait to compliment a peer or mention the trait by name in certain situations,” Ms. Coir said. “This program takes just a few moments out of the day to remind my students and myself to be a good person. I love the program's motto: ‘other people matter.’ It can be so easy to forget to help each other out, so it’s a beautiful thing to see students talk openly about serious topics such as their own personal struggles and to see them be supportive of their peers.”
“It brings people who aren’t really friends together,” one of Ms. Coir’s students added. “It makes you laugh! And when you do get mad and you’re about to yell, you can think about what you learned and act differently instead.”
Parents are encouraged to speak with their kids at home about each week’s topic to help reinforce the concepts.
At Huntington, second grade teacher Millie Lazzaro is the first teacher to implement the Positivity Project in her classroom. She said the holistic approach to thinking about character has already brought about positive changes in her students.
“Hope and optimism are my favorite character traits,” second grader Samuel Alvarez said. “Because if you have hope, you can achieve anything! I like the Positivity Project because we find out our different strengths and get to know each other better.”
Ms. Lazzaro said that personal connection is what has brought about the biggest improvement in classroom culture.
“All students, even those who typically don't get as much acknowledgement, are being recognized,” Ms. Lazzaro explained. “Character traits that were once thought of as less desirable or insignificant in school now have a place, and students who are strong in these areas have an opportunity to shine. One of our highest achieving students recently recognized one of our autistic students for being curious. Now I see them play together all the time. Instead of focusing on tattling, many of our students are eager to celebrate each other by writing a character compliment.”
At Frazer, staff have begun initial research into the program with the hope of beginning implementation in the 2017-18 school year. We look forward to seeing how the Positivity Project continues to positively impact classroom culture!
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