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Voices Literature & Writing systematically involves students in far-reaching themes and activities for character and social development that address the main goals and indicators of the Character Education Partnership’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education.
Voices Literature & Writing for Grades K–6 is a flexible, supplemental program that integrates character and social development, language, and literacy instruction to maximize instructional time. Voices Literature & Writing instruction is launched with culturally responsive Teacher Read-Alouds, which include character education in the plot and are organized into six themes. The Central Question for each theme facilitates a personal connection to the literature, sparking interest, debate, and active participation and learning. Instructional strategies weave together the promotion of literacy and character development. Over the course of each theme, students work on a Theme Project that reinforces the concepts of the key oral language activity, writing project, and character development goals from that theme. Theme Projects provide students with an opportunity to apply the skills they learn to a broader social context and reach out to their community.
Note: The following is a broad alignment with each of Character Education Partnership's 11 Principles. A complete alignment to the additional indicators for each Principle is available. Contact your Zaner-Bloser Sales Representative for more information.
Character Education Partnership Principle
Voices Literature & Writing Alignment
|Principle 1: The school community promotes core ethical and performance values as the foundation of good character.||Voices Literature & Writing is organized around six powerful character education themes designed to foster character development and accelerate achievement.
These themes grow from an individual to group to social focus and build across the grade levels with age-appropriate grade-level themes and Central Questions.
The Central Question engages students and facilitates a personal connection to the literature and themes, sparking interest, debate, and active participation and learning.
|Principle 2: The school defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.||
Voices Literature & Writing is a research-based, comprehensive approach to affective, cognitive, and constructivist character development and includes a range of developmentally appropriate activities from partner learning to community service throughout the year to build students’ character skills and social and academic development.
For example, the program emphasizes that taking another person’s point of view is a foundation for empathy, caring, and respect. Students learn these critical social skills by standing in the shoes of the characters of the stories they are reading and express their thoughts and feelings as if they were those people. Students can then extend this practice to their fellow classmates as their personal stories are shared. Empathy, caring, and respect are among the most important social skills, particularly for students who tease or bully others.
|Principle 3: The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.||
Voices Literature & Writing resources and themes enable schools to integrate teaching character education into content-area curriculum and school activities through far-reaching lessons for an entire year’s worth of instruction.
Voices Literature & Writing promotes character traits and skills such as perspective taking, conflict resolution, and social awareness, which proactively foster healthy development and prevent negative behavior.
As a literacy-based character development program, Voices Literature & Writing supports the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts. Voices Literature & Writing includes CCSS teacher support at point of use within the Teacher Guide.
|Principle 4: The school creates a caring community.||
The six Voices Literature & Writing themes include approximately six weeks each of lessons, which enables all students and teachers to discuss and act on positive character and skill-building themes and values at the same time throughout the year, fostering a caring and positive classroom, school, and community.
For example, in the Voices Literature & Writing Grade 3 Conflict Resolution theme (Grade-Level Theme: My Problems, My Solutions; Central Question: How can we solve conflicts in our lives?), one of the Teacher Read-Aloud books is the award-winning Yanni Rubbish about a young Greek boy who is teased because of the job his family has in their village. Through role playing, standing in the shoes of the characters, and partner sharing, students come to understand that exclusion and teasing are forms of bullying–all in the engaging and academically enriching context of reading and writing about literature.
Later, during the Family, Friends, and Community theme, students learn about the importance of helping one another achieve important goals in their lives. They learn about what kind of support and help they need, and how they can best help their family members, friends, and community members.
The Voices Literature & Writing approach to creating caring classrooms and schools integrates research on the development of children’s relationship skills and engages all students and faculty in relationship building activities (teacher sharing, partner learning, etc.) that deepen caring bonds and develop positive school climate.
|Principle 5: The school provides students with opportunities for moral action.||
At the end of each Voices Literature & Writing theme, there is a Theme Project which can include classroom and school wide service learning projects or community-based community service.
In addition, at the end of the Perspective Taking and Social Awareness themes, students engage in group efforts to provide a community service that addresses a critical need in their community or neighborhood.
The Voices Literature & Writing Democracy theme and activities in each grade provide a step-by-step platform for students to take moral action in the classroom, school, and community. At the end of this theme, schools can hold a Democracy Day Celebration in which families and community members are invited to hear students’ Democracy Speeches, which feature students’ calls for civic and moral action on issues that are important to them (poverty, racism, bullying, etc.).
|Principle 6: The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed.||
The Voices Literature & Writing approach to character education is taught through literacy and character/social skills lessons embedded in culturally responsive literature, ensuring that character education is integrated with core academic skills (oral language, comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and writing).
Voices Literature & Writing provides equal access to content for all students, regardless of their independent reading levels, because content is delivered through Teacher Read-Alouds. The CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy explains how reading aloud helps teachers respect all students: “By reading a story or nonfiction selection aloud, teachers allow children to experience written language without the burden of decoding, granting them access to content that they may not be able to read and understand by themselves….Children are then free to focus their mental energy on the words and ideas presented in the text, and they will eventually be better prepared to tackle rich written content on their own” (Appendix A, page 27).
Voices Literature & Writing is also aligned with CCSS for English Language Arts, including providing CCSS-required complex texts, discussion and collaboration, and trait-based process writing instruction in CCSS text types (Opinion or Argument, Informative/Explanatory, and Narrative).
|Principle 7: The school fosters students’ self-motivation.||Voices Literature & Writing teaches students social competencies that provide them with key skills and values they will need in order to undertake explorations and to become more self-determining. The program seeks to foster the development of intrinsic motivation such that students feel that they are the source and cause of their choices and decisions. Voices Literature & Writing promotes this competency through:
|Principle 8: The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students.||
The Voices Literature & Writing character education themes, materials, and activities enable an entire school’s staff to model and exemplify best practices in character development.
The entire school community can be working on the same themes and issues (Perspective Taking, for example), while grade-level appropriate themes tailor the themes and activities for that age group (Grade 3 Grade-Level Perspective Taking Theme: We Care; Central Question: How can we be sensitive to each other’s feelings?).
The themes and values are seen and practiced throughout the school and can impact ethical decision-making and collaborative learning and decision-making at all levels of teaching and learning. For example, the ABC Problem-Solving Method from the program can be used in the classroom and teacher room. Perspective taking skills benefit not only students, but also adults.
|Principle 9: The school fosters shared leadership and long-range support of the character education initiative.||
The Voices Literature & Writing approach to character development, including the importance of voice, caring attachments, partner learning, and democratic voice in the classroom and community, can serve as a foundation for the school’s character education initiative and long-term planning.
Because this program is curriculum-based, it can become permanently integrated into the school’s teaching and learning, ensuring that character education is taught throughout the year and lasts beyond the initial phase-in period.
|Principle 10: The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort.||
Voices Literature & Writing resources and professional development provide support for classrooms and schools to connect character education work with the schoolwide culture, family, and community. Voices Literature & Writing provides a set of social skills that can directly help students and their families to strengthen their relationships, improve communication, and lay the foundation for social and literacy growth.
For example, at the end of each theme, there is a culminating theme project that involves families in supporting their students as they participate in these projects.
Voices Literature & Writing seeks to develop positive relationships between students and the surrounding community by engaging students in community service projects.
|Principle 11: The school regularly assesses its culture and climate, the functioning of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students manifest good character.||
Voices Literature & Writing includes an Assessment Handbook and CD-ROM, featuring ExamView®, which provides comprehensive assessment resources to assess theme concepts; character and social development; and reading, writing, listening, and discussion skills.
The Student Response Form portion of the Assessment Handbook, an informal assessment of students’ social awareness and development, was created by program senior author and leading character development/SEL researcher, Robert Selman of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The form elicits students’ reactions to social situations (discrimination/prejudice, teasing/bullying, etc.) and their responses every six weeks at the end of each theme help measure the program’s impact on student attitudes and skills and how they develop over time.
Voices Literature & Writing assessments also include data-management capabilities for collection, analysis, and distribution of assessment data.