2007-2008

Is Your Reputation Trustworthy?
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the word reputation means:

1 a: overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general
b: recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability <has the reputation of being clever>
2: a place in public esteem or regard : good name <trying to protect his reputation>

When teaching the concept of building a solid reputation, I use the Aesop’s fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf! Most students have heard of this story, so you can ask someone to retell it if you don’t have a copy handy to read aloud.

Here’s a synopsis: For his own entertainment, a young boy screams that a big wolf has come into the village. The people in the village are very alarmed at first. They all come running to his aid, but find that there is no wolf. After he pulls this stunt several times, the villagers begin to realize that he is just pretending. One day, a mean wolf actually comes into the village, but this time when the boy cries out to forewarn the others, everyone knows that he is not trustworthy and they ignore him.

In some versions of this tale, the boy gets eaten by the wolf. When I talk with students in their formative years, we decide that the boy just gets hurt but survives. (Usually one of the students will disagree and say that he dies; if that happens, we process that ending as well.)

Following the telling of the story, discuss the importance of telling the truth as you build your reputation. Use questions like these: What happens if someone
lies once? What if they keep on telling lies? Why didn’t the people believe the boy when there really was a wolf? Has this sort of thing ever happened to you or someone you know? If so, what happened? What is the best way to make sure people believe us all the time? Will it be possible for the boy to change his reputation? How?

Friendship Matters

Trustworthiness is the hallmark of a healthy friendship which might explain why the market is flooded with many great children’s books about friendship.  Frog and Toad, for example, are great friends.  Check out these illustrated picture books to see what happens when friendships work as well as to learn how good friends work things out when conflict arises.

Angelo by David McCauley
Best Friends by Steven Kellogg
Being Friends by Karen Beaumont
Blabber Mouse by True Kelly
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
Don’t Need Friends by Carolyn Crimi
Duck & Goose by Tad Hill
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Fox Makes Friends by Adam Rolf
Friends by Helme Heine
Nacho and Lolita by Pam Munoz Ryan
Nuggest and Darling by Barbara Joose
Something Else by Kathryn Cave
That’s What Friends Are For by Florence Parry Heide and Sylvia Van Clief

Discussion Dilemmas

Using Discussion Dilemmas can be a very effective strategy for helping a
child wrestle with good character choices. When talking about Trustworthiness, try these questions:

1. Is cheating the same thing as lying? If not, which one is worse?
2. How common do you think cheating is? Why do you think people cheat?
3. If a cashier gives you too much change and you knowingly keep it, is that stealing?
4. Is using a radar detector in your car cheating? Why or why not?
5. How does cheating, lying, or stealing affect trust? How do they affect friendships?
6. What should the consequences of cheating be? Of stealing? Of lying?
7. What might happen if a news reporter exaggerates or makes up details of a story? Is that lying?
8. Is there ever a time that it’s okay to cheat or steal? If so, give an example.
9. What might you do if you catch a friend cheating or stealing?
10. Is it ever okay to tell a “little white” lie (like to spare someone’s feelings)? Why or why not?
11. Are lying, cheating, and stealing wrong all the time or only if you get caught?
12. Why is it important to keep your promises?
13. What happens when a friend doesn’t keep his/her promise to you?
14. How important is it that someone keep your secrets?
15. What type of a secret wouldn’t or couldn’t you keep?

These also make interesting journaling prompts or morning meeting
conversation starters. When you’ve finished, make up some of your own and
encourage your child(ren) to do the same.

Our Wall of Trust
Students are hard at work, building their Wall of Trust (also known as their reputation) every day. Here’s an activity using cardboard bricks that can visually show students how important that construction work is. Don’t have these cute little bricks?  No worries; you can use the Kleenex boxes that you get from each student at the beginning of the year!
trustBefore giving each student a brick, ask something like this: “Why do people like you?” or “What makes you a good friend?” or “In what ways are you trustworthy?” Their answers will vary from “I’m nice” to “I keep my promises,” from “You can count on me,” to “I tell the truth.” Insist on an inward quality as opposed to “I’m pretty” or “I have a lot of cool stuff.” As they give you their answer, hand them a brick to represent that quality and ask them to lay the bricks on a table, alternating them so they’re not stacked directly on top of on another, to make a pyramid-style wall.
When the wall is built, talk with students about this wall representing their solid friendships. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone whose Wall of Trust is this sturdy and strong? Then, give students a dilemma like the following: What happens to your wall if you promise to pick me up for our best friend’s birthday party and you forget and don’t come? Let them answer before you strategically knock a block out of the middle of the wall. Doing so slowly will ensure that the wall stays up but just one block is missing. Talk with students about how “when you mess up, you gotta fess up,” and ask them what you’d have to do to fix that hole in their Wall of Trust.
Suppose with them that this time you need a ride to skate night. Do you trust that same friend who forgot you last time to give you a ride? If so, what happens if/when he forgets again? This time, knock down the top 1/2 of the wall to show what happens to our Wall of Trust when we’ve dropped the ball one too many times. Talk with students about how difficult it is to trust someone whose Wall is broken down in this way and what we’d have to do if that were our Wall to repair it and make it strong again.
Adapt this demonstration to show responsibility rather than reputation by letting each brick represent a job, task, or chore that a child has to do.  What happens when someone doesn’t feed the dog or put it in at night?  It’s the perfect visual for how stakeholders are affected by our choices.
Discussion Dilemmas

Using Discussion Dilemmas can be a very effective strategy for helping a
child wrestle with good character choices. When talking about Trustworthiness, try these questions:

1. Is cheating the same thing as lying? If not, which one is worse?
2. How common do you think cheating is? Why do you think people cheat?
3. If a cashier gives you too much change and you knowingly keep it, is that stealing?
4. Is using a radar detector in your car cheating? Why or why not?
5. How does cheating, lying, or stealing affect trust? How do they affect friendships?
6. What should the consequences of cheating be? Of stealing? Of lying?
7. What might happen if a news reporter exaggerates or makes up details of a story? Is that lying?
8. Is there ever a time that it’s okay to cheat or steal? If so, give an example.
9. What might you do if you catch a friend cheating or stealing?
10. Is it ever okay to tell a “little white” lie (like to spare someone’s feelings)? Why or why not?
11. Are lying, cheating, and stealing wrong all the time or only if you get caught?
12. Why is it important to keep your promises?
13. What happens when a friend doesn’t keep his/her promise to you?
14. How important is it that someone keep your secrets?
15. What type of a secret wouldn’t or couldn’t you keep?

These also make interesting journaling prompts or morning meeting
conversation starters. When you’ve finished, make up some of your own and
encourage your child(ren) to do the same.

Friendship Kits
At Westwood, we talk about the Trustworthiness Pillar being the Friendship Pillar since trustworthiness is a crucial ingredient in a healthy friendship. An activity I’ve used to make ‘friendship’ a bit more tangible is making a Friendship Kit. You can Google “Friendship Kit” and come up with many different things to put into your Friendship Kit. Here’s the list I’ve used and how I approach The Friendship Kit activity.

Prepare a Friendship Kit in a Ziploc bag prior to the lesson. Put the items and a list of what each represents in the see-through baggie. Before showing students the Kit, ask them what they might put into a Friendship Kit and why. After they share a few ideas, you can show them The Kit but don’t tell them what each item represents. Rather, pull out the items one by one and ask why they think that item is included in the Kit. For example, “Why do you think there’s a button in the kit?” Make it clear that there are no right and wrong answers so that they feel free to brainstorm what comes to mind. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the interesting answers that you get. One student told me that “just like a button completes a shirt to hold it together, so a friend completes you.” In the end, share the answers and see how closely they came to what the item represents.

A Button: Friends “button up” and keep one another’s secrets (unless it’s a “hurtful” secret)

A Toothpick: Friends “pick out” the good qualities in everyone.

A Lifesaver: Friends can be lifesavers!

A Cotton Ball: Friends cushion the rough roads.

A Rubber Band: Friends need to be flexible!

Sweet & Sour Tarts: Friends appreciate the differences in others.

A Sticker: Friends stick together.

A BandAid: Friends can help heal hurt feelings.

A Paper Clip: Friends help keep everything together.

A Truth Card: Friends tell the truth to one another, no matter what.

If you have a budget, you can actually purchase the items in bulk and let the students make a Friendship Kit for themselves. When I did this, it cost about 10 cents per kit.

 

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The Empty Pot by Demi
Is honesty always the best policy? Before reading the book aloud, find out from the students if they have ever heard this phrase before? Ask what it means to them?

potcoverUse this Chinese folktale to illustrate and illuminate the importance of integrity.

In this book, the wise emperor is growing old and must choose a replacement for his crown. The flower-loving ruler announces that each child will be given a seed to see who can grow the most beautiful flower. The most successful participant in this challenge will be made his successor.

Ping, who is an accomplished gardener, knows he can grow a great flower for the emperor, but despite his attentive care, Ping’s seed will not grow. He tries a bigger pot and different soil, but to no avail. When the day finally arrives and the emperor orders all of the children to bring their flowers to be inspected, Ping is saddened and ashamed to see so many children with their beautiful flowers. He has nothing to show but his empty pot. His father tells him that he tried his best, and his best is good enough.

The emperor looks sadly at the beautiful flowers before him. At last he
approaches Ping. He asks Ping why his pot is empty. Ping explains that he did his best to grow the flower but it just would not grow. The emperor smiles and exclaims that he has found his replacement. He reveals that all of the seeds he had given to the children were cooked and therefore could not grow. The test was to find a child with the integrity needed to rule wisely in China.

This book is not one that you want to read straight through. Stop at different intervals in the narrative to ask questions like:

1. What did Ping think about the contest to grow the most beautiful flower at
the beginning of the story?
2. Has Ping tried his best to help the seed to grow? How do you know?
3. Does Ping ever give up and stop trying? Why or why not?
4. Why doesn’t Ping just go out and buy a fully-grown, beautiful bouquet of flowers?
5. Do you think Ping’s father gave him good advice?
6. Why do you think the emperor seems unhappy with all the beautiful plants?
7. What had the emperor done? Why? Was his “tricky” challenge dishonest?
8. Do you think Ping was the best choice for emperor? Why?
9. What is integrity?
10. What do we mean when we say Ping showed integrity?

For enrichment and follow-up, try these ideas:

1. Ask students to make posters illustrating moments when Ping showed
integrity. For extension, have them also draw the ways in which he showed great responsibility in problem-solving.
2. Challenge students to create a class “integrity” pledge.
3. Help students to create a bibliography of books that remind them to act with integrity.
4. Have students author their own storybook about a time they were (or weren’t) honest.
5. Ask students to evaluate the importance of sharing a story like The Empty
Pot with other children their age. Would they recommend that other
teachers or parents read this story to elementary-aged students? What about to older students? Why?
6. Ask students to journal the answer to the following prompts: Would you want a friend to have
integrity? How would you know if a friend had integrity? Could you be friends with someone who doesn’t show integrity?
7. If you’ve got a community partner who might donate some seeds, you might want to send students home with a packet to plant at home and reinforce the lesson.