Kindergarten // Fostering Habits of Character Throughout the Day

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At Detroit Prep, character development is a key part of our vision. We have six habits of character(HOC) that guide our work: compassion, cooperation, integrity, responsibility, perseverance and curiosity & creativity. Each year before school starts, our staff reviews and revises our HOC continuum; this continuum defines what each habit should look, sound and feel like at each grade level. In Kindergarten, for example, we break down compassion into the following key behaviors:

  • I am kind to others.

  • I help others when asked.

  • I use my words and actions help others feel better.

  • I say thank you.

Once we have a shared vision of the key indicators of each HOC, we, as teachers, begin to plan structures and routines that will help our students learn and live these HOC. In this post, I want to give you a glimpse of how my Kindergarten crew interacts with the HOC each week.

On Monday morning, in crew time, we introduce our crew HOC goal for the week and specific learning target. This is something we need to work on together for the week and will practice each day. We might, for example, focus on compassion and specifically “I can use kind words.” We also use our HOC chart in our room and clothespins with our names to each select an additional HOC goal for the week. Before we clip our name to the chart, we talk to a friend and explain why we chose our goal. At this point you might overhear a Kindergartener saying something like “I chose responsibility, because I need to work on taking care of our materials.”

The remainder of the week we will focus our time in morning crew on our shared HOC focus. As the crew leader, I choose this HOC focus for us based on daily observations and the BELE survey (a social-emotional survey we give our students 3 times a year). To practice our HOC focus, we might play games, read books or have discussions. In a week where we are focusing on compassion and the use of kind words, we might read Kevin Henkes Chrysanthemum and discuss how unkind words affect others. We might also play a game where we can practice cheering on others with kind words.

On Friday, we take time in morning crew to reflect on our HOC focus with writing and drawing. Depending on the week this might be a student’s individual HOC goal they clipped to at the beginning of the week or the crew’s collective goal we worked on. On their reflection sheet students indicate what HOC they were working on and give themselves a star (something they did well) and a step (something they can work on more) for this HOC.

Embedding social-emotional learning into each week and each day is a key part of our philosophy at Detroit Prep. Having specific habits of character across our school and rituals and routines in our classroom help us continually strive to improve our social skills and prepare us to be engaged and ethical future citizens.