Health and physical education are excellent vehicles for teaching and reinforcing character education. I did not realize how closely linked the two were until we got a new principal about a decade ago. Prior to the arrival of the new principal, character education was a staple at our school. We used a program called Character Counts and each month the teachers would focus lessons on a character trait and reinforce it throughout the month. Our physical education program was no exception. We helped by providing relatable situations during class and reinforced the important concepts. When the new principal arrived, Character Counts disappeared. By the end of the first year without the program, it was noticeable that our students were struggling without the monthly reinforcement. As the physical education teacher (who sees all the classes throughout the year), I noticed a big shift in student communication and it was having a negative impact on sportsmanship and teamwork.
Creating Olympic Character
During the summer, my teaching partner and I decided we needed to do something about the character issue at our school. Fortunately, it happened to be an Olympic year and we decided to create our own character education program (based on Character Counts) and we called it Olympic Character. We used an Olympic flag and gave each ring a character trait (trustworthiness, kindness, responsibility, respect, and fairness) and all those traits were on a flag of citizenship (see graphic below).
It was a simple concept and it was tied to something we were already discussing with our students. Because we did this through physical education classes, we ended up re-establishing a school-wide character education program that was built on the Olympic movement, which fit our content area nicely.
The Perfect Delivery System for Character Education
Character education meets many of the goals and objectives of the affective domain (a critical domain that SHOULD be addressed in every physical education lesson). Many of these skills are linked to sportsmanship and teamwork concepts that are easily folded into any physical education activity. The important thing to remember is that some of these learning opportunities do not avail themselves so easily for classroom teachers. We have the perfect delivery system to reinforce character education traits on a daily basis. In addition, these traits lend themselves naturally to those important 21st century learning skills (communication, collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, etc.) that all of our students need to be productive and competent citizens.
If you have not thought about character education in a while or know that it is an area of weakness, I challenge you to work to the concepts to your instruction. Guidance counselors are typically an excellent source for ideas and materials that you may find useful. The key to successful integration of character education is making sure that you teach each trait to the students to start but then make a consistent effort to discuss examples of great character during the closure of each physical education lesson. It’s not hard to add and can make a world of difference when it comes to student interaction in your classes.
Check out these great CharacterEd® products that provide postive Character reinforcement in Physical Education!