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Five Activities for Teaching Moral Values in the Classroom

Paul grew up on a farm where moral virtues such as hard work and honesty were cherished. Each of his classes has a moral lesson.

The author as an English teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand in 2014.

The author as an English teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand in 2014.

It's just as important for students to learn moral values in school as it is for them to learn the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. I strongly believe in teaching unconditional love and kindness, honesty, hard work, respect for others, cooperation, compassion, and forgiveness. In this article, I suggest five useful classroom activities as ways of imparting these moral values to students.

Useful Moral Values Activities for the Classroom

For almost seven years, I taught EFL students in Thailand. While helping students develop their four basic skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, I created lessons that not only addressed needed language skills but also imparted moral values. I employed five different classroom activities to reach my goal. They are as follows:

1. Telling and Reading Stories

All children, especially younger kids, enjoy reading folktales, fairy tales, and stories where animals are the main characters. This is shown by the great success of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters. One of the best sources of stories about moral values can be found in Aesop's Fables. These short stories, which mostly involve animal characters, are simple in expression and they convey the truth of human life. Four fables that immediately come to mind are Androcles and the Lion, Mercury and the Woodman, The Wind and the Sun, and Never Cry Wolf.

  • In the fable Androcles and the Lion, students will learn that gratitude and compassion are the signs of a noble soul.
  • The moral lesson from The Wind and the Sun is that kindness has more of an effect on people than severity.
  • The fable Mercury and the Woodman will teach students that honesty is the best quality.
  • Never Cry Wolf teaches children that it is bad to tell a lie.

2. Learning and Singing Songs

Most children love learning and singing songs. Adolescents and adults also like songs and singing, especially if they can identify with the music. One of the most successful songs I used to impart the moral value of love is an old folk song originally sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary in the '60s titled "If I Had a Hammer." Some of the lyrics of the song go as follows:

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning

I'd hammer in the evening all over this land

I'd hammer out danger, I'd hammer out a warning

I'd hammer out love between my brother and sister all over this land.

By examining the lyrics, we see that in addition to practicing the second conditional, "If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning," the students are observing and singing the importance of love in the world. In addition to singing the song, I have the students make believe they have a hammer and bell, and I have them demonstrate the actions of hammering and ringing. Other songs about love that could be used for older students are: "What the World Needs Now Is Love." by Jackie DeShannon and "Get Together" by the Youngbloods, a popular song from the turbulent 'z60s.

3. Role-playing a Story

The acting out of folktales and fairy tales was always part of the popular listening and speaking activities that I used in the classroom. Most children like dressing up and acting out the roles of different characters. Although I didn't use it in the classroom, an old English folktale, Little Red Hen, appears to be an excellent story for teaching the value of hard work. This short story involves five characters including a red hen, pig, cat, dog, and turkey. Different students can play the characters, and the dialog is limited. The story essentially demonstrates the industriousness of the red hen in planting wheat, harvesting it, and then taking it to the mill to make flour while the other animals sit by idly, but expect to eat bread at the end of the story. Some of my older students have acted out the fairy tales Snow White and Rapunzel which show the moral values of love and compassion.

4. Playing Games

Playing educational games in the classroom is a great way to instill the moral value of cooperation. I did this by dividing the class into teams of 4–5 students. Teams competed against each other to see, for example. which one could write the most adjectives or adverbs on the board in five minutes.

Another game that I learned and used is called "Stop the Bus." In this game, after the students divide themselves into teams of 4–5 members, the teacher announces that all teams must try to think of names of cities, countries, sports, food, music, etc. which begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. The first team which can think of the names, for example, of things in nine categories beginning with a certain letter assigned by the teacher, write their candidate answers on the board. The team is awarded points for correct answers and deducted points for incorrect answers.

5. Teaching Vocabulary with Associations

The moral values of good and bad can be introduced when teaching new vocabulary to students. One successful way of doing this is by teaching vocabulary with associations. For example, if I were teaching the meaning of "good" to early EFL students, I would draw pictures or show the students pictures of a mother holding a baby, Santa Claus, and a doctor. By seeing all of these pictures associated with "good," the student gets a mental image and a real feeling for the meaning of the word and the moral value which it implies. In this case, "good" refers to a loving mother, a generous Santa Claus, and a helping doctor. Conversely, the meaning of the word "bad" can be introduced by showing pictures of war, a bully, and a thief. In all of these pictures, we see that either someone is getting hurt physically or losing some property.

I am sure that there are many other activities you can think of for teaching moral values in the classroom. The five activities listed above worked well for me, and I am sure they can be used successfully by you.

Useful Classroom Activities for Teaching Moral Values

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 03, 2020:

I am very pleased and inspired that you loved my article. Creative play with instilled moral values can definitely shape a child's life. Thanks for your great comments.

Marcy Bialeschki from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 03, 2020:

I totally agree with your ideas. Actually, your methods address two areas of education that need attention: instilling moral values and play used as an educational tool. I see so many elementary classrooms with rigid academics and little or no playtime. Creative play is an important part of learning. By combining the play with the lessons, both objectives are reached. Loved this article!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 04, 2017:

I appreciate your comments, Edwards.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 05, 2016:

Liz E, thank you so much for your comments. I am very happy that you can put these ideas to work for the young client in your therapy practice!

Liz E on December 05, 2016:

These are awesome ideas - I am planning to use these ideas for a young client in my therapy practice who struggles with the concepts of sharing, cooperation, kindness, etc. Thanks

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 30, 2016:

shahla_alizadegani, Thank you very much for reading and I am happy you found my article useful. I agree that modeling in family and society is definitely most important.Good luck with your PHD work!

shahla_alizadegani@yahoo.com on September 29, 2016:

HELLO, I'm an PHD students in Iran . your article is very useful but i think modeling in family and society is very important.


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 30, 2016:

@prairieprincess , Yes, reading a classic novel is a great way to bring out moral issues. I am noticing this while reading the novels of Charles Dickens and Louisa Mae Alcott.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on January 30, 2016:

Paul, some good ideas here. I find that reading a novel can also be a great way to bring out moral issues in discussions. Keep up the good work ... love this series!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 30, 2012:

Hello TripleAMom. Thank you for the very nice comments. I also look forward to reading your other hubs.

TripleAMom from Florida on April 30, 2012:

Hey Paul, I love when someone comments on one of my hubs because it helps ME find someone new. This is a great hub about teaching values. I love Aesop's Fables and my kids have grown up on them. Also fun to know you live in Thailand. Have close friends here that were missionaries there for a while and adopted a girl who is now one of my 12 year old's closest friends. She was born weighing less than a pound and not expected to live and is now 13 (14 in July) and though a little slow in math, you would never know she was almost beyond hope. Glad to follow you!! Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 28, 2012:

Thanks again for the favorable comments, Denise. I will write more on this topic.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on March 28, 2012:

Paul-I commend you in your position as a teacher who makes it his responsibility to teach beyond the three R's. Your ideas are great here and the comment about Steven C's 7 habits will probably be effective as well.

I come from a long line of teachers and it is disheartening to see how morals have deteriorated within the classroom, which is merely a reflection of how they have deteriorated within the home.

I wish you continued success with your students.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 17, 2012:

Thank you for reading the hub and the favorable comment.

jaybos from Utah on March 17, 2012:

I think teaching morals is one of the most important thing a teacher can do. I thank you for your efforts to make this world a better place!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 14, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by and the favorable comments. Thanks for the website information. I will definitely check it out.

freemarketingnow from California on March 14, 2012:

I have also used Stephen Covey's 7 Habits. There's also a lot of movie clips that demonstrate character. If you go to http://www.lulu.com/alastingwill, there's a small booklet with over 20 movies that teach character lessons through snippets of film. And obviously, I think a lot of character building needs to be modeled and practiced. Good job with the article, and continue teaching kids how to be good citizens and people!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 22, 2012:

Thanks for the comments. Yes, I agree that moral indecision is a problem in many schools.

ultrasoundtherapy from Utah on January 21, 2012:

The difficulty I've seen with teaching morals in school is that most of the world's societies have no moral compass for what is good and what is bad. In the past, it was understood that sex outside of marriage was bad. Now it's just an alternative way of going about relationships. Who in the world really knows the difference between right and wrong now?

This moral indecision is more problematic in public schools. Because of this, I've chosen to make the sacrifice to put my kids in a private school that isn't influenced by the political correctness that seems to have dulled our understanding of good versus evil.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 04, 2011:

Really good hub content! Teaching morals incidentally, is one, if not the best way. All five activities are commendable! Voted UP and USEFUL!

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