Integrating characteristic development (education) into the daily curriculum throughout the entire school year helps create a safe, caring community of learners, both within the classroom and when done effectively within the entire school. Establishing this type of learning community will significantly influence the learning that will then happen within any/all academic subjects and the development of personal, social, and emotional relations among the students.
This document includes three (3) versions of a heart puzzle used for student reflection on essential characteristics that make the core of who our students are individually, as members of the community, and as lifelong learners long after they leave the formal classroom setting.
Not only are there three versions of the puzzle, but each version can be differentiated. For example, early childhood, pre-literate and not yet writing words, and emergent ELL/ESL/EFL students can use this tool to reflect completely or mostly with pictures, with words transcribed by the teacher. Beginning writers can complete a sentence and then draw a picture to further explain their thinking. More advanced writers could be asked to write paragraphs or a poem. This tool could be further differentiated by encouraging students to create/capture a unique, artistic form of expression (e.g. statue, sculpture, famous painting, picture of the student him/herself, photographs taken by the student of others, or an interpretive dance) that represents their idea of a characteristic and then write or make a presentation to explain their thinking.
The three versions include:
1. A blank version for a teacher/school to add the exact wording used for the character education program in place (The puzzle has 11 pieces, I use 10 of those for specific characteristic reflection and the last for the student to reflect on him/herself as a lifelong learner thinking about the characteristics in totality rather than individually. However, if there are fewer than 10 characteristics in your program then there is the opportunity to do more holistic reflection throughout the school year to see how the students' perception of themselves change.)
2. International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) Learner Profile Characteristics (Inquirer, Knowledgeable, Thinker, Communicator, Principled, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Taker, Balanced, Reflective) pre-labeled on the puzzle pieces with one piece left blank for a holistic reflection
3. A fill-in the blank version for emergent/beginning writers (I am ___________ when...)
This tool can be used at any time, but I find it most effective when integrated periodically throughout the entire school year, with a holistic reflection done at the end of the school year. Only then do the students put together the puzzle pieces to see that all it makes the shape of a heart.
(Note: Some of the puzzle pieces have a grey line that forms the outer edge of the heart. I prefer to have the students cut along the grey line before they do their reflection on the paper. This way the student (and teacher) are ensured that all the reflection is within the parameters of the puzzle for a better looking end product.)