Components of Living Values Activities Units

There are twelve values units in Living Values Activities for Children Ages 8 – 14. Each unit is designed for all students with the well-being of marginalized and resistant students in mind. The sequence of activities is aimed to maximize the fullest engagement/path of least resistance — by making the value relevant and beneficial to the student and his or her life. For example, lecturing to students about not fighting in school is an ineffective method to create peace and respect and can serve to further the apathy or resentment of already disenfranchised students. In contrast, beginning a lesson on peace with an imagination exercise elicits the natural creativity of all students. Once students develop a voice for peace they are more empowered to discuss the effects of peace — and violence. Each value unit is designed to begin with a values stimulus to create relevance/ meaning.

Far too often, values are only taught at the awareness level, without building the cognitive understanding and social and emotional skills important in being able to “live” those values. For this reason, it is recommended that educators use all or almost all the lessons found in each value unit that they wish the students to explore. They are more likely to develop a love for values and be committed to implementing them if they explore values at many levels and develop the personal and social skills that allow them to experience the benefits of living those values. As students’ backgrounds and needs vary, please feel free to adapt the activities to their needs and your style.

A lesson on values can be launched in many learning settings. Educators are encouraged to relate values to the subject matter they are teaching or relevant events. For example, a lesson on values can be launched in relation to literature, history, etc., or in response to current local or world news about which students are concerned.

Values Stimulus

Each LVE Activity begins with a values stimulus. The three types of values stimuli noted in the schematic are receiving information, reflecting internally, and exploring values in the real world.

Receiving Information — This is the most traditional way of teaching values. Literature, stories and cultural information provide rich sources for exploration about values. Care is taken in the LVE Activities to provide stories about the use of holding or developing a positive value. Stories about failures because of holding an anti-value can be instructive at this age level, if they are perceived as socially relevant by the students. However, it is important to also create motivation through positive examples of people succeeding with values. Educators are asked to find relevant literature or media that they feel the students will relate to, and will help them see the effect and importance of values and their own actions.

Within each value unit there are reflection points which provide information about the meaning of the value being explored. The reflection points are at the beginning of every unit, and are incorporated in the lessons. “Understanding core values is essential to teaching values if students are to develop lifelong adherence to high principles” (Thomas Lickona, 1993). The reflection points are intended to be universal in nature, while holding an interdependent perspective of the importance of dignity and respect for each and every one. For example, a point in the unit on Respect is: Everyone in the world has the right to live with respect and dignity, including myself. A Tolerance Reflection Point is: Tolerance is being open and receptive to the beauty of differences. This universal perspective is important if we wish to create a better world for all.

The teacher may wish to add a few of his or her own reflection points, or use favorite sayings from the culture of the community and historical figures. Students can make up reflection points or research favorite sayings of their own.

Reflecting Internally — Imagining and reflective activities ask students to create their own ideas. For example, students are asked to imagine a peaceful world. Visualizing values in action makes them more relevant to students, as they find a place within where they can create that experience and think of ideas they know are their own. The process of creation, ownership, and a sense of hope are essential if students are to be motivated about living their values.

Reflective exercises ask students to think about their experiences in relation to the value. Students are also asked to reflect about different aspects at a later step within the lessons. It is important for students to be able to work as reflective learners if they are going to be able to discern and apply values most appropriately to a particular situation.

Exploring Values in the Real World — Some LVE Activities use games, real situations, news or subject matter content to launch the lesson. Too often in today’s world, local and national events can be of concern to students. Please look for areas in which they have concern or interest, be it bullying, poverty, violence, drugs or the illness or death of a classmate or neighbor. Providing a space to air their concerns is helpful and allows meaningful discussion about the effect of values and anti-values and how our actions do make a difference.

Discussion — Meaningful and validating sharing

Creating an open, respectful space for discussion is an important part of this process. Sharing can then be more meaningful and validating. Talking about feelings in relation to values questions can clarify viewpoints and develop empathy. Discussions in a supportive environment can be healing; students who are often quiet can experience that others hold the same viewpoint. Shame can be released and/or diminished when students discover that others feel the same way. Children who think that everyone holds the same viewpoint can learn otherwise; those who bully can find out what others think about their behavior. The discussion process is also a space within which negativity can be accepted and queried. When this is done with genuine respect, students can begin to drop the defenses that necessitate their negativity. When the positive values under the negativity are understood and validated, a student can feel valued; gradually he or she can then experience the freedom to act differently.

In many of the LVE Activities, questions to discuss are provided. Some of these are to query about feelings; others are to open the cognitive exploration process and the generation of alternatives. Educators can use questions to delve into important emotional issues or alternative understandings. Feel free to adapt the questions to your personal style and the local usage of language.

One reason why LVE can be used in many different cultures is that the questions are open-ended. For example, “How do you give respect to your parents?” would be answered a little differently in different cultures, yet the desired outcome is the same. Within the activities there are only one or two questions to which an absolute or “right” answer is given. The most important one is: “Is it okay to hurt others?” LVE’s answer is “no”. If a “yes” answer is given, the educator is to explain why it is not okay to hurt others. The other questions are truly open, allowing the students to discuss the values and their application in ways that are appropriate to their culture and way of life. The reflection points, however, create a standard of dignity and respect around which the activities are built.

Exploration of Ideas

Some discussions are followed by self-reflection or small group planning in preparation for art projects, journaling, or dramas. Other discussions lead into mind-mapping values and anti-values. These methods are useful to view the effects of values and anti-values on the self, relationships and different segments of society. Contrasting the effects of values is an important step in seeing long-term consequences. Mind-mapping is also an introduction to systems thinking.

Discussions are often a lead-in to activities regarding the effects of values in different subjects. Values activities can often awaken real interests in students. To acknowledge their passion and to facilitate the exploration of the subject is the type of teaching that allows real learning and furthers intrinsic motivation. This is where a few questions from an educator can create enthusiasm: “Why do you think that happens?” “What is the relationship between . . . ?” “What value do you feel would help resolve this situation?” “What do you think should be done?” “How could you show this by Walking your Talk?”

Creative Expression

The arts are a wonderful medium for students to express their ideas and feelings creatively — and make a value their own. Drawing, painting, making mobiles, games and murals combine with performance arts. Dance, movement and music allow expression and build a feeling of community. For example, students are asked to make slogans about peace and put them up on walls, sculpt freedom, draw simplicity, and dance cooperation. As they engage in the medium they often must refer back to the value and discern what they really want to say. The creative process can also bring new understandings and insights; the value becomes more meaningful as it becomes their own. A similar process occurs as students are asked to write creative stories or poetry. The completion and beauty of the finished products can be a source of pride and act to enhance the self-esteem of students. A variety of creative arts can serve to let different students shine at different times. A school climate that can allow each person to shine at different times and through different modalities is a place where all can move toward their potential.

Music is also an important medium. Not only can it act to build a sense of community, but it can be healing. Provide the opportunity for students to create songs about values. Educators may wish to bring in traditional songs of their culture, or the cultures present in the area, and sing those with the students. Students could bring in popular songs which contain values themes or ideas.

Skill Development

It is not enough to think about and discuss values, create artistically or even to understand the effects of values. Emotional and social skills are needed to be able to apply values throughout the day. The youth of today increasingly need to be able to experience the positive feelings of values, understand the effects of their behaviors and choices in relation to their own well-being, and be able to develop socially conscious decision-making skills.

Personal Social and Emotional Skills — There are a variety of intrapersonal skills taught within the LVE Activities. The Peace, Respect and Love units introduce Relaxation/Focusing exercises. These Relaxation/ Focusing exercises help students “feel” the value. Educators have found that doing these exercises helps students quiet down, be less stressed, and concentrate more successfully on their studies. While there is initial resistance sometimes, usually that resistance disappears after several trials, and our experience has been that students begin to request quiet time. Once they are familiar with this strategy they can make up their own Relaxation/Focusing Exercises. The ability to self-regulate one’s emotion and “de-stress” is an important skill in adapting and communicating successfully. Self-regulation or self-modulation helps a person regain calmness more quickly when a threat is perceived and be able to stay more peaceful in daily life.

Other LVE Activities build an understanding of the individual’s positive qualities, develop the belief that “I make a difference”, enable exploring their own feelings and learning about the feelings of others and increase positive self-talk, and responsibility. Students are asked to apply those skills in a variety of ways.

Interpersonal Communication Skills — Skills for building emotional intelligence are included in the above set of activities and furthered in activities that build understanding of the roles of hurt, fear and anger and their consequences in our relationships with others. Conflict resolution skills, positive communication, cooperation games and doing projects together are other activities that build interpersonal communication skills. Conflict resolution skills are introduced during the Peace Unit, and reinforced during the Respect and Love Units. During the Love Unit, students are asked to think back to when the problem began and imagine what would have happened if they had used the value of love. The development of cognitive skills paired with probable consequences is aimed to help students “think on their feet” in difficult circumstances. Educators are encouraged to create the opportunity for students to be conflict resolution managers.

Student roles provide the opportunity to play different situations about which they are concerned. They may also make up their own situation cards. In the cooperation unit, students are asked to adapt their suggestions for good communication skills after games. One skill in the tolerance unit is to create assertively benevolent responses when others are making discriminatory remarks. Combining creativity with discussion and practice helps students feel comfortable in using the new skills, increasing the likelihood that they will use them.

Society, Environment and the World

To help youth desire and be able to contribute to the larger society with respect, confidence and purpose, it is important for them to understand the practical implications of values in relationship to the community and the world. One value can have a tremendous effect on the wellbeing of a community and social justice. A few activities are designed to do build emotional awareness and cognitive understanding of this relationship. For example, students mind map the effects of a loving world and a non-loving world, mind map the effects of honesty versus corruption, explore the effects of corruption on the wellbeing of different countries and collect examples and stories of tolerance and intolerance.

The aim of developing social cohesion is constant throughout the material. However, the units on tolerance, simplicity and unity bring elements of social responsibility that are interesting and fun. Students explore the variety of cultures using the colors of a rainbow as an analogy. The unit on simplicity includes suggestions for conservation and respect for the earth. Further activities are in Living Green Values.

Transfer of Learning — Integrating Values in Life

“Integrating values in life” refers to students applying values-based behaviors in their life — with their family, society and the environment. For example, LVE homework activities increase the likelihood of students carrying new positive behaviors into their homes. Students are asked to create special projects that exemplify different values in their class, school and/or community. Parents and businesses can be involved as resources, for example, helping students learn organic gardening, how to clean up a stream and assist in the promotion of entrepreneurship and ethical leadership skills. Students are encouraged to share their creative dramas and music with their peers and younger students. Please do involve your students in service-learning projects. The ability to make a difference builds confidence and commitment to values.

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