Most 10-year-old children learn best through experience and interaction, so games are one of the most effective teaching methods for this age group. Games that teach character education enable children to role-play different situations and to explore ethical issues in a safe and interesting way. Many character education curricula focus on the Josephson Institute's six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Team-building games can be used to teach many character traits. By requiring a group to work together and listen to each other, team-building games teach trustworthiness, respect, responsibility and caring. A simple team-building game for 10-year-olds is "Helium Hoop." This exercise is best conducted with a group of eight to 12 kids. To play, have the group stand in a circle around a hula hoop. Ask all the players to hold out their index fingers, and place the hula hoop so it is resting on top of all the player's fingers. The goal of the activity is for the group to lower the hoop to the ground without allowing the hoop to lose contact with anyone's finger. If anyone loses contact with the hoop, they must raise the hoop back up and start again. Because everyone is trying so hard to maintain contact with the hoop, at first the hoop will go up instead of down. This is a good game for teaching responsibility, because players tend to blame others for raising the hoop instead of lowering it instead of recognizing their own responsibility in the game.
Role-playing games allow kids to imagine themselves in different situations and making various ethical (or non-ethical) decisions. To play, choose any ethical situation in which kids might find themselves, such as being offered the answers to a test. Assign different roles to each child, so they can explore different responses to the situation. For example, one student could agree to cheat, another could refuse the answers but not say anything, and a third student could tell the teacher. After the game, plan a discussion in which kids can reflect on the best choices in the situation.
Real-life games incorporate character education into life situations. Many groups incorporate games like this into the daily life of the group. For example, a classroom could have an ongoing game in which students reward each other any time they observe one of their classmates practicing a good character trait. If one student notices another being caring, perhaps by helping a younger student, he can point out this action to the teacher and reward the caring student with a marble. The class collects the character marbles in a jar, and when the jar is full, the entire class gets a prize.
Object lessons are visual aids that demonstrate truths about character traits. Object lessons are often taught as a lesson in which a teacher demonstrates the activity for a group of kids, but they can be even more effective when they are done as a game in which all the kids can participate in using the objects. An example of an object lesson that can be used to teach responsibility and goal setting is the lesson of rocks, pebbles and sand in a jar. Give each kid a large jar half full of sand, a container of pebbles and a container of large rocks. The pebbles and rocks should be too large to fit in half the jar. The goal of the game is to fit all the objects inside the large jar. The solution is to empty the sand out of the jar and place the large rocks in first, then the pebbles and then the sand. The point of the lesson is that you must make room for the most important things in life -- the large rocks and important responsibilities -- first, and then there will be room for the smaller things.
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