Corbett Prep Upper Primary
Examines How ‘Difference Makers’ Succeed
A character traits lesson on people who made a difference helped students relate to their heroes.
April 9, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Could you write a bestseller? Start a company? Lead the nation?
Your life may seem far removed from historical figures and celebrities, but an Upper Primary unit at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS has students looking at accomplishments of these people and their own possibilities through a different lens.
Corbett Prep teachers used the central idea of how individuals impact society to help their first and second graders learn about and research important contributions in science, business, politics, sports, the arts and more. A traditional biography report would have ended there. But Corbett Prep teachers challenged their students to look more in depth and identify the character traits these individuals had that helped them make a difference in the world. They asked students to see if they had any personal connections to these “difference makers.”
The “Making a Difference” unit took a new spin on the “Heroes” unit Upper Primary had studied before. Teachers applied techniques from a course they took this fall through the Harvard Graduate School of Education to zero in on the understanding they wanted students to gain in class.
As part of the unit, students selected people to research and used the facts they uncovered to create mobiles illustrating character traits their subjects possessed. They practiced communication and listening skills by taking turns sharing what they had learned with classmates. In pairs and small groups, they explained the links between personal qualities and accomplishments.
Clara Barton showed compassion and caring, one student wrote, as she risked her life for others: “She stayed on the battlefield even if there were whizzing bullets all around.”
Walt Disney, another student said, had “too many ideas to quit working.” Olympian Usain Bolt was “giving, ambitious and joyful.” Amelia Earhart “had perseverance because even when people teased her, she didn’t give up.”
The character traits lesson also sparked conversations about the similarities between themselves and the person they profiled. Students may have a long way to go before they play soccer like Mia Hamm, for example, but they can emulate her determination to work hard. Teachers hope that putting the focus on those kinds of qualities in addition to talents or physical skills will ensure students’ success, whether they are working in classrooms or companies — or on soccer fields.