The kindergarten students at Blakeburn Elementary School in Coquitlam, British Columbia, have definite opinions about the irresponsible behavior exhibited by certain storybook characters.
The children's crayon-covered posters show well-known scenes — the Three Little Pigs' houses under huff-and-puff attack, Goldilocks gobbling porridge at the three bears' table.
Six-year-old Stephanie notes on her poster that Goldilocks "is not yet within expectations" for social responsibility because "she ate the porridge." Dorothy takes issue with the Big, Bad Wolf and his lack of community-mindedness: "He chased the pigs."
It is May, and these kindergartners are demonstrating a set of social expectations that teacher Evelyn Silver began introducing in September.
"Much of the groundwork is the language," Silver explains. "We start by talking about our school motto: Take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care of this place. We discuss what caring looks like, what it sounds like to be respectful and so on."
Silver uses two laminated cards — one reads "meets expectations," the other "not yet within expectations" — to reinforce inclusive, respectful behavior.
"One day, I might ask, 'Did you notice anything at recess that met expectations?' The next day I might say, 'What happened during playtime that showed caring?'"
Silver reads to the class Mister Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham, The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood and other theme-related stories. The class then brainstorms how different characters' behaviors meet or don't meet expectations.
Student partners prepare storybook posters.
"I encourage them to draw a picture of one of the characters, then write down if that character meets or does not meet expectations and why. The results are astounding."
The posters are proudly displayed under the banner, "Social Responsibility: We can rate characters."
Educators like Silver have found the voluntary 2000 BC Performance Standards: Social Responsibility for grades K-10, a useful framework. The standards spell out four expectations:
- Contribute to the classroom and school community
- Solve problems in peaceful ways
- Value diversity and defend human rights
- Exercise democratic rights and responsibilities
Instead of isolated programs on anti-bullying and anti-racism, teachers can put together a spectrum of social and ethics education.
Silver stresses that teaching social responsibility is more than a series of storybook lessons. Blakeburn's principal, Maureen Dockendorf, concurs. "You have to live it, to reinforce it in a hundred ways each day."
Clearly, learning lessons from Goldilocks is a good place to begin.
Vancouver, B.C., Canada