Character Education Curriculum for High Schools

High Schools Character and Leadership Education

This curriculum was originally designed and taught at a high school in North Carolina from 2001-2003. It was taught as an elective course to a mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the lesson plans and Role Models textbook are geared toward high school, even though it is commonly used in middle schools. While this was originally taught as a course, approximately 60% of schools use this curriculum as a stand-alone course and the other 40% either integrate it into other courses or use a homeroom model of implementation. The following is a list of some of the approaches used by schools to implement this curriculum.

Freshmen Academy

This is a favorite way to use this curriculum, and it makes sense to use it in this manner. Most principals want to prepare their students for success, set a precedent of expectations for the students and provide students with skills. Many schools have created a class to meet these goals and use this curriculum as the basis for this course. Names like Freshmen Focus, High School Success, Foundations of Leadership and the like have been used. Schools that are really on the ball also set up a mentoring program between upperclassmen and incoming freshmen to ease the freshmen transition.

English Classes (ELA & ELD)

While the Character Development & Leadership program has traditionally been used in elective leadership classes, many implement this curriculum in English, remedial writing or "English as Second Language" courses. The main reason is the alignment with the national common core standards. Even if you choose not to use this in an English course, we recommend this curriculum as another avenue to improve reading and writing test scores and to meet new common core standards for ELA and ELD.

Elective Leadership Course

The second most common approach is a leadership course that is listed as an elective. I like this approach because it allows for a healthy mix of "leaders" and "needers" in the same classroom. Some schools began with one course and now have three teachers teaching this full-time due to enrollment.

Class For At-risk Students

Many principals tell me that they spend 95% of their time dealing with 5% of the students. They believe that by targeting this small population and being proactive (providing a class to address their needs) is a much better approach than constantly reprimanding or suspending these students.

Senior Level Capstone Course

Schools that use this method of delivery, often hand-pick their students based on leadership potential. The overall message of the course is, "We have taught you all the content we can, now we want to teach you what it takes to become successful in life." This is not a popular choice amongst principals because they would rather see four years of results from freshmen, but every school that uses this curriculum in this manner loves it. Classroom discussions are more meaningful, assignments are more thoughtful and the maturity level is much higher than a class full of freshmen. This premise is also true for schools that use this curriculum for their student government classes.

In-School Suspension

There are several in-school suspension teachers who have told me that their only job is to keep students quiet, which is difficult since most students don't bring classroom work to do with them. In addition to being bored out of their minds, they remind me that most of the students who are being suspended could use a little character development. So, whoever walks in the door in that particular hour gets that particular lesson plan. A week's worth of lesson plans can be taught in a given day in the life of an in-school suspension teacher. I would have never conceived of this when I originally developed this curriculum, but I am a big fan of this method of delivery.

Home Room Concept/Advisory/SEL Time

Homeroom is still a very popular component in high schools and many want to teach something constructive during this time. It allows each teacher in the school to teach important life lessons and develop relationships with students without interfering with regular classroom instruction time. Literally hundreds of schools use this curriculum during their homerooms. Many teachers feel like this will just be another prep until they see that everything is already developed and laid out for them in the curriculum. The following are a few plans that I have developed for an advisory approach.

Homeroom Concept Sample Plans

Integration Model

Many schools do not have the space in their schedule nor the manpower to teach this as a course. Instead, they have decided to integrate various aspects of this curriculum into courses that complement each other. You name it and it has been done, including, English (lots of reading and writing), Career Exploration, Physical Education, Business, JROTC, Social Studies, Family & Consumer Science and Health.

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