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Character Education

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Digital Learning


"Honesty is such a lonely word...Honesty is hardly ever heard."(Billy Joel circa 1978) It's hard to be honest. You know the situation. Two kids are having a disagreement. One hurts the other, either emotionally or physically. You ask one or both to say that they're sorry. What do you get? A totally devoid of emotion, eyes cast down, "Sorry." uttered in the smallest, most insincere voice possible. You will also get two versions of the same story, so different that it would take King Solomon to solve the mystery.

I enjoyed a down to earth discussion recently of  how this elusive character trait affects our teaching, along with some great literature suggestions where the theme of honesty is addressed. You can hear the podcast here: We Teach So Hard, Episode 62

My contribution to our discussion was a favorite of my fourth graders, both as a read-aloud and as a book club discussion choice, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. The book tackles the most difficult component of honesty, the ability to be honest with yourself.

In The Tiger Rising, Rob and his father have moved to Lister, Florida from their home in Jacksonville. In the wake of his wife's death, Rob's dad lost his job and had to move with Rob to the Kentucky Star Motel in Lister in hopes of finding new employment and a chance to get back on their feet. This fresh start was a fresh open wound for Rob. He had to start at a new school (of course replete with bullies) for the sixth grade. The angry red rash on his legs was a symptom of his massive stress, but he used the possibility of being contagious to get out of school. Willie May, the housekeeper at the motel, Rob's new home, told him that the rash was his sadness that he was holding way down low, and that he should let it rise to his heart. Along with the sadness rash, Rob pushed every other feeling he had into an imaginary suitcase in the pit of his stomach.

Rob's situation begins to change when he finds a caged tiger living mysteriously in a cage in the woods behind the motel. The tiger becomes another secret for him to hold close. Rob also meets Sistine, another new sixth grader from Philadelphia. Sistine is brutally honest. Introducing herself to her new southern classmates, she says, "I hate the South because the people in it are ignorant." Not quite the way to make new friends!

Rob and Sistine bond while riding the school bus and battling bullies, and Rob shares the secret of the tiger. You truly need to experience this wonderful book! Of course you will want to find out if the tiger is freed, and whether Rob is ever able to unpack his emotional suitcase and to cure his sadness rash.

A great followup activity for The Tiger Rising is my splatter paint flowers. Find the activity here for poetry (just click on the photos below) and add words about honesty or character traits of Rob and Sistine in the center of the flowers.

For another way to create the flowers indoors, visit this blog post: Make a Splash in April 

One more idea inspired by this amazing book: Try creating an honesty rock garden. Paint rocks with messages about honesty and decorate your school walkways or classroom window box with them. To create rock gardens with paper, try these!

For many more ideas about using books to teach kids about honesty, be sure to read the blogs below, and to visit our podcast. Wishing you truth and happiness in the days ahead with your class because YOU teach so hard!

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