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Five Classroom Activities for Teaching Moral Values

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 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:

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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 that 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 is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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