In my school, we are working on the 7 Habits of Happy Kids. We have many conversations about leadership and how to be a leader. We set goals, we practice the habits as we try to foster leadership in all of our students. This lesson will be the first in a unit where kids get to examine the qualities that make a leader and think about which qualities they possess as they become a leader in their own right.
When the students enter the classroom, they find a quick write on their desks. By now they know that a quick write isn't graded, is timed and is used to glean background knowledge or to get thoughts out on paper. They want to begin right away, but I tell them to wait until everyone is ready.
Once all of our friends are settled, I give them three minutes of uninterrupted time. During this time, the students also know they have to write the entire time. Even if they begin writing things that aren't correct, they need to write. Putting this rule in place helps those who "can't think of anything". If they just keep writing something is bound to pop in their heads that goes with the topic and if they have to keep writing, they won't bother others who are trying to think. I also think it develops perseverance and stamina for the writing process. We ALL have to work through brain blocks!!
After the five minutes, we begin sharing and I compile a list of leaders that they know. We hear the familiar names- Barack O'Bama, Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington. But we also heard some less obvious ideas like our principal and a few students in the class along with our city's mayor.
After we compile the list of leaders we can think of (we'll add more to it later), it's time to talk characteristics- character traits. Without explicitly teaching this, I guide the students to come up with some words that would describe the personalities of all these people. I know that I'm not going to get the deep answers I want, but this is the beginning and if I tell them the words, what will they have learned.
So, I accept answers like "they're human", "they're brave" and "they're smart". After our short list, I tell the students that I'm going to read to them about a leader they all know and I show them the book Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. I hear the rumblings from the ones who've already read this book and the ones who want to shout out what they know about MLK. I don't take time to let hem respond.
I have the students turn their quick write over to take notes of characteristics that they hear about in Martin Luther King, Jr. as I read the book. We write down a few more- "smart", "nice", "helpful" and then it's time for them to really work!!
I have the students work at their tables to agree on three characteristics that they think describe Martin Luther King, Jr. Their job is to then read the book again- together- and find specific text evidence to prove that he did indeed embody those traits.
I did give them a challenge though. I told my students to try to think of at least one word that was NOT on the list if they could so some of my groups decided to read the book again first, then decide on traits and read the book a second time to find the specific text evidence.
I let them work away while I walked around and facilitated group discussions. They did an excellent job and some groups even came up with words that weren't on the list. I collected the activity papers so I could more closely judge their ability to come up with specific text evidence.