Programs - 2003
Linking Literacy and Moral Education in the Primary Classroom
Reading Teacher, 2001, 55(2), p. 125-129
by Vickie E. Lake, Ph. D., Florida State University
How can teachers create discussions with children through
their literacy curriculum that will develop childrens understandings
of moral elements--responsibility, friendship, fairness, empathy, or hope?
In what ways can teachers combine language and literacy standards such
as listening for meaning in discussions and conversations; speaking easily,
conveying ideas in discussions and conversations; using language for a
variety of purposes; understanding and interpreting a story or other texts;
and composing stories with a beginning sense of sequence, with the content
of moral education? This article explores the classroom and school environments
as springboards for morality decisions that can be used to strengthen
classroom literacy instruction.
Schools provide moral environments whether or not they offer specific
moral education programs. Moral environments are evident in classroom
rules, treatment of students, teacher attitudes, curricular programs,
and sports activities (Benninga, 1988). Although children experience moral
environments, actual prosocial skills or moral skills need to be explicitly
taught and modeled by caring adults. Teachers can be more conscious of
modeling moral behaviors for their children by deciding what prosocial
skills or moral behaviors they want to stress for their classroom. Some
examples of moral behaviors primary teachers might choose are compassion,
friendship, perseverance, acceptance, cooperation, dependability, and
The road to being literate and moral can be viewed as parallel journeys.
Just as reading and writing takes place slowly and develops over a period
of time, moral development also takes place slowly and develops over time
through interactions and experiences gained by socializing with others.
- Teachers Storytelling
Educators have a wealth of personal
experiences to draw from that can be used as stories for their children.
Using personal experiences and/or stories about the children in their
class, in lieu of reading a book to children, is an excellent avenue
for educators to pursue both to enhance their literacy instruction and
to incorporate specific prosocial skills or moral education into their
- Childrens Storytelling
Storytelling, the art of narrating
a tale from memory rather than reading it, is an important teaching
tool for literacy and can be extremely powerful in moral education as
well. The storyteller in this strategy is the child.
- Children Responding to Stories
Read Aloud It is difficult
to find a childrens book that does not have a character performing
or behaving in a moral or immoral way. Teachers often use literature
as a starting point for discussing rules and acceptable classroom behaviors,
but this is just the beginning. Educators need to move discussions towards
childrens personal experiences, then return the discussion back
to classroom experiences.
- Teachers Restructuring Classroom
Dialogue Restructuring teacher-student
and student-student interactions may also be a place to start. This
restructuring is not meant to add something else to the teachers' already
full school days, but could be accomplished by changing the way teachers
structure the dialogue that already takes place in their classrooms.
Including moral elements and behaviors into the classroom
curriculum expands the domain of language and literacy. Being honest or
having integrity does not happen by chance, nor do reading, writing, listening,
and speaking; all need to be explicitly taught and reinforced.