At the start of this school year, McNamara Elementary School revised its character education program by adding an academic component to support learning while reinforcing positive traits for students to emulate.
Principal Jane Nadolski said students and staff have embraced the school's new approach to character education, which now provides students in kindergarten through fifth grade with more opportunities to hone their writing skills and creates a connection between learning and community service.
Each month, Nadolski visits as many classrooms as she can and reads students a book that highlights the character education trait of the month. She calls it the Principal's Book of the Month. Due to the generosity of McNamara's PTA, every classroom has each book of the month in its library so that all students have easy access to the book should they wish to read it themselves or should the teacher wish to review it with the class.
"We're one big book club at McNamara," Nadolski said.
Every month students in all grades at McNamara are asked to create a response to that month's featured book. Nadolski said responses have included essays, posters, charts and graphs. The purpose of the response is to have students use their critical thinking skills to evaluate the literature. Then students use their writing skills to interpret the story and make a connection between the literature and real life. This activity supports the district's kindergarten through fifth-grade writing program while simultaneously reinforcing positive character traits.
The school displays student work on a dedicated bulletin board in the main lobby, as well as in the hallways outside classrooms and in the classrooms. Nadolski said that before the Principal's Book of the Month, not all of the school's classrooms had a connection to the character trait of the month the way they do this school year. Previously, a different grade level would be responsible each month for creating statements reflecting on the monthly character trait and sharing these during morning announcements to inform the school of the trait. With the Principal's Book of the Month, all grades actively participate in the program.