MAGAZINE FEATURE

Toolkit for Learning to Be "Good"

The early grades are time when students gain significant personal experience grappling with their own ideas about right and wrong. This toolkit lets students work from experience to talk about knotty ethical issues.

“Learning to Be ‘Good’” shows how important it is for schools and teachers to engage in nuanced conversations about ethics. This toolkit allows your students to consider their own experiences with ethical issues. Instead of dictating morals to your students, you will provide them with a safe space to think about how ethics come into play in their daily lives and also to think about where they stand on complicated issues. 

 

Essential Questions

  1. How do you tell right from wrong?
  2. When do you think about right and wrong in your daily life?
  3. How can talking with your peers help you figure out your own stance or perspective on complex issues?

 

Procedure 

1. Explain to students that ethics are often understood as a way to differentiate right from wrong. Explain that ethics can be understood differently to different people, and that is okay. In this lesson, they will have a chance to figure out how to articulate some of their own ethics as well as those of others.
 
2. Ask students who feel comfortable to share a story of a time they felt they had to make a judgment call that involved telling right from wrong. Be prepared to share a story of your own if no students are forthcoming. Then, ask other students to share not what they would do in that situation, but how they would make their decisions. What questions would they ask themselves? What external resources or teachings would they draw on? Whose example would they follow?
 
3. In notebooks or journals, ask each student to write about a situation that involved making an ethical decision. For younger children, have them draw the scenario. It can be a real story or a fictional one that they believe is possible. Their story or drawn scenario should not have a resolution. It should simply describe or illustrate the situation and pose a problem or dilemma. If students are stuck, you can allow them to work with partners for inspiration.
 
4. Bring your students together and allow those who feel comfortable to share their scenarios. Choose three to work on as a class. Be careful not to tell students what is right or wrong. Instead, give them a chance to talk through different possibilities for how they might respond to the problem or situation. How do they make decisions about what is right or wrong? What do they learn from listening to their classmates?
 
5. After you have dissected several scenarios as a group, ask each student to write a reflection in their journals discussing what they learned from talking through these issues with their classmates. For younger children, document and synthesize the class discussion as a group. How do people make decisions about morality? What consideration points did their peers utilize to make decisions? What makes these decisions hard, and how can we support one another in getting through these tricky conversations?
  1. Explain to students that ethics are often understood as a way to differentiate right from wrong. Explain that ethics can be understood differently to different people, and that is okay. In this lesson, they will have a chance to figure out how to articulate some of their own ethics as well as those of others.
  2. Ask students who feel comfortable to share a story of a time they felt they had to make a judgment call that involved telling right from wrong. Be prepared to share a story of your own if no students are forthcoming. Then, ask other students to share not what they would do in that situation, but how they would make their decisions. What questions would they ask themselves? What external resources or teachings would they draw on? Whose example would they follow?
  3. In notebooks or journals, ask each student to write about a situation that involved making an ethical decision. For younger children, have them draw the scenario. It can be a real story or a fictional one that they believe is possible. Their story or drawn scenario should not have a resolution. It should simply describe or illustrate the situation and pose a problem or dilemma. If students are stuck, you can allow them to work with partners for inspiration.
  4. Bring your students together and allow those who feel comfortable to share their scenarios. Choose three to work on as a class. Be careful not to tell students what is right or wrong. Instead, give them a chance to talk through different possibilities for how they might respond to the problem or situation. How do they make decisions about what is right or wrong? What do they learn from listening to their classmates?
  5. After you have dissected several scenarios as a group, ask each student to write a reflection in their journals discussing what they learned from talking through these issues with their classmates. For younger children, document and synthesize the class discussion as a group. How do people make decisions about morality? What consideration points did their peers utilize to make decisions? What makes these decisions hard, and how can we support one another in getting through these tricky conversations?
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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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