Elementary Students Build Character Through Literature

Through the elementary literacy curriculum, students are getting to know each other and themselves, while also developing character. With a curriculum that builds each school year, teachers read thought-provoking stories and ask age-appropriate questions that prompt students to think about who they are and how to treat others. For Saint Columbkille elementary students, the intersection of literacy and character development builds important life skills at each grade level. Themes range from identity awareness and conflict resolution to social awareness and freedom and democracy.

Students are encouraged to share personal stories, which build trust with their peers and develop empathy by offering various perspectives. Differences are celebrated and individual points-of-view are explored through a variety of books that offer a foundation to teach core values and social skills that students can use for years to come.

Grade 3 students Cian Foley and Natalie Donnino

For the first theme of identity awareness, Grade 3 teachers Ms. Martin and Mrs. Cafarelli are speaking with their students about places they love. By thinking about their favorite places, students are able to share what is important to them and where they can be themselves. Students will read the book “Goin’ Someplace Special” by Patricia C. McKissack, that chronicles a young African American girl in a 1950s southern town who loves going to the library, where everyone is welcome, no matter the color of their skin.

“Our students can tell the class who they are by describing their favorite place and what it means to them,” says Ms. Martin. “It can be a fun trip they took with their family or even visiting their grandmother’s house.”

“I’m excited to be back at school and learning again,” says grade 3 student Cian Foley. Fellow classmate Natalie Donnino adds, “I love reading and I enjoy having Ms. Martin read to us; she does different voices so it’s really fun.”

In grade 5, Ms. Buesser’s students have been doing a variety of activities to encourage self-reflection. Students made name tags in which each letter of their name represents an aspect of their personality. They also participated in a class scavenger hunt where they learned fun facts about their classmates. In a guided discussion, students shared what they would do if they were in charge of the school.

“Their answers revealed quite a lot about their personalities!” says Ms. Buesser. “Answers ranged from swimming pools and elevators with muzak, to nap time and free candy. We have a creative bunch in 5B.”

Grade 2 students participate in the “Find a Friend” activity

In grade 2, Ms. Betts and Ms. Moran’s students are learning that identity is what makes students who they are. The classes participated in a scavenger hunt in the “Find a Friend” activity! Students had to fill out their activity sheets by meeting and interviewing their classmates. For example, they needed to find a friend who made their own lunch and a friend who has green eyes. From there, the students were able to find similarities and differences, which helps answer the grade 2 central question: How are we alike and how are we different?

“It was a great activity to learn names and faces as well as fun facts about our classmates,” says Ms. Betts. “In second grade, we learn that sometimes our differences are our greatest strengths!”

Grade 4 students completed an identity petals activity in the shape of a flower to explore different aspects of their identity including traditions, language, religion and more.