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Nelson (Nelson et all, 2006) has pointed out the importance of education for young children in the preschool and the kindergarten age groups. While deploring the fact that 2-year-old children were forced to sit at desks and made to draw lines and recite numbers up to 100, he has insisted on the importance of moral and character education in young children. As per the Piagetian theory, young children are active learners who engage in self-initiated activities to explore their environment and make sense out of their daily experiences. This paper examines the methods and means available for teaching young children about character education and suggests a framework for implementing them.
Issues to be addressed in the Framework
Nelson (Nelson et all, 2006) has argued that education is not a trivial pursuit, a minor activity that can be avoided with impunity, and that it is necessary for the survival of each person and society. NAEYC (1999) published a report on the education system and the requirements of young children and has suggested that young children should be allowed to make meaningful choices such as participation in small groups and solitary activities. They have suggested that there should be a provision for young children that promotes the social competence of the children. The report has suggested that such a choice is very effective in improving the behavior of young children with a behavioral and emotional disorders. The report further suggests that the curriculum and content should be targeted towards moral and character development through the creation of a warm and stimulating environment that supports the children and provides a self-directed program that the children can set at their own pace. The report has placed great importance on the training and certification of teachers and has suggested that it would be inappropriate if teachers of 3- through 5-year-old children have little early childhood professional training, or if they are state-certified at some other age level but do not have specialized training or supervised experience in working with very young children. The report suggests that issues be considered in the framework to include short attention span of the children, use of different media for character education, use of group play and role play, developing the right kind of simple stories for children, and creating a pool of trained teachers.
Use of Appropriate Tools and Media in the Framework
Zeng (Zeng 2005) has conducted extensive research among kindergarten teachers and presented a survey instrument for assessing the needs, behavior, and responsiveness of young children in different schools. The authors have researched a number of media to establish guidelines that can be used as a framework for the character and moral development of young children.
Zeng has suggested that along with the use of traditional media such as books, computers, and online resources should be used. The framework should include the concept of storytelling by using animated creatures such as crabs, rabbits, eagles, and other animals and birds. The story should relate to a specific issue that can be based at either the home or school. Issues such as Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship should be addressed. Each character should be a part of the story that narrates how the character faced an issue where it displayed trustworthiness, caring, and so on. The storyline should not be very complicated since the attention span of the child is very shorter. Children should be allowed to recite the lines and tell the story in their own words. Along with the storytelling, they should also be guided into developing an understanding of the moral behind the story. The authors have also reported that many teachers ask the children to dress up as per different roles in the stories and this activity also involves parents who need to help.
Annotated Bibliography of Online Resources
A number of software applications, videos, books, and other media are available that can be used for the character development of children. These are listed as below:
- LSU AgCenter Character Critters program. Web. This is a site developed by the LSU Agricultural Center and provides free online resources for educators and parents for the character development of young children. There are a number of critter-based stories that help in the character and the moral development of young children.
- Teaching Values. Web. This is a pay-to-use site that offers storytelling as an effective method for children to learn about character building. The site offers plenty of material for activities, videos, storytelling, and other issues that can be taken up by parents and children.
- Utah’s Character Education Program. This is a site sponsored by the Utah Character Education Program and designed to educate children in character building. A number of links are provided for additional resources.
- Nelson Jack L., Palonsky Stuart B., McCarthy Mary Rose (August 4, 2006), ‘Critical Issues in Education: Dialogues and Dialectics‘, McGraw-Hill Publications: New York, ISBN-13: 978-0073131368
- NAEYC (1999), ‘National Association for the Education of Young Children.: NAEYC position statement on developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8, ‘Journal of Young Children‘ Volume 41, No. 6, pp: 4-29
- Zeng Guang, Zeng Liang (2005), ‘Developmentally and Culturally Inappropriate Practice in U.S. Early Childhood Programs, early Childhood Programs, kindergarten Programs: Prevalence, Severity, and Its Relationship with Teacher and Administrator’, Journal of Education, Volume 125 Issue 4, pp: 706-718