Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Raising Middle Schoolers' IQ Through Character Education: Part 3

Raising middle schoolers’ EQ and IQ

According to an article from, if you think tweens and teens don't listen and don't care? Think again. If this seventh grade math teacher can get kids to be kind and work hard, you can, too.

By Jessica Kelmon

Character education… in math?

At first blush, pre-algebra and character lessons are odd bedfellows. Traditionally, the gateways for integrating character lessons are courses like humanities and social studies, where IQ and EQ lessons are more closely linked. But Schumacker's academic alchemy is working for many reasons.

For one, he’s discovered effective ways to reach the kids. His classroom walls are lined with handmade posters. Words like “honesty,” “perseverance,” and “opportunity” are written next to words like “gossip,” “put downs,” and “swearing” — with slashes through them. These posters surround the clock where, says Schumacker, “kids’ eyes tend to go first.” Instead of the daily roll call, he starts class with a question of the day: ‘What’s one song on your iPod?’ or ‘Did anyone give you a compliment today?

The daily question helps his students feel heard, he says, and it’s an unqualified hit: “In every single class it's one of their favorite things.” Also popular are weekly writing prompts, which are typically responses to a moral character challenge — focusing on trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, or citizenship — such as not complaining for a day or naming someone they’re grateful for. Recently, he asked the kids to write about what's helped them be successful (or not) in his class. The answers show tremendous insight on the part of the seventh graders — a group seldom credited with deep thinking. Kids who aren’t faring well academically own up to causes like laziness and not trying. Others opened up about problems at home, such as financial stress and divorce. But nearly every student who wrote about academic success credits Schumacker's revisions policy, which allows them to redo missed homework and test questions. His revisions policy is part of a performance character lesson — focusing on effort, goal setting, and perseverance — that helps kids take ownership of their learning.


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