Character Education through Lessons in Etiquette Charlene Davis
In my beginning years of teaching, my students’ basal anthology featured a cute poem by Gelett Burgess about
creatures called “goops” (click here to read two Goops poems). These odd-looking creatures were lampooned
in the poem for their poor table manners. Of course, the creatures had no remorse about their behavior—after all, they were goops! My students and I loved the poem for different
reasons: while I saw an opportunity to address etiquette in the student cafeteria, the students found the goops’ dining habits to be utterly outrageous! This little poem sparked
much laughter, as well as insightful conversation in our classroom about proper table etiquette. It got the students to give more consideration to their own table habits.
To capitalize on this focus, our grade took an annual trip to a sit-down restaurant. This permitted the youngsters to put their manners into action. We practiced using a napkin, using tableware,
passing requested food or table items, ordering from the menu, and so on. I suggest doing this type of activity with your students and believe it has great value across the K-12 spectrum.
I know of middle school personnel who even conduct “rites of passage” luncheons to prepare students for the adolescent experience. It is a great avenue for instilling positive
truths and values into youngsters.
Possible vocabulary related to this activity:
After Googling the phrase “children’s dining etiquette,” I found www.tadpoledreams.org which offers
some free lessons (the rest are for purchase). The site also offers a comprehensive list of lessons which cover much territory regarding manner-able behavior; following are some topics (emphasis
added are my own):
Introductions and conversations (Dovetails nicely with accountable talk, huh?)
Table manners (One sample lesson focuses on making a classroom table cloth, followed by making individual ones, time permitting.)
Telephone (Some teachers train students to answer the classroom telephone.)
Thank you/acknowledgment (Is this vanishing—even among adults?)
How to talk to adults and other authority figures (Especially necessary in big cities where children encounter police officers regularly.)
Job and school interviews (Important preparation at any age.)
Host and guest skills (Can segue into discussion of travel and hospitality careers.)
Do you see the overlap? Character education crosses over into the territory of citizenship. Have fun!!
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me.
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