Arizona Teacher Talks About How CHARACTER COUNTS! Works

Best Practices in Character Education: Q & A With Teacher James Sye

Best Practices in Character Education: Q & A With Teacher James Sye

The following is courtesy of Character Educator Blog:

In his latest blog post, CHARACTER COUNTS! Director Jeff McMurdy spotlights a few exemplary educators who are doing great things with CHARACTER COUNTS!. James Sye, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at La Paloma Academy in Tucson, Arizona, was one of them. We asked him to share his perspective and a few pointers on how he makes CHARACTER COUNTS! work in his classroom.

What is your most important goal with your students? How does character education or pro-social learning factor into it?

As a 7th-grade language arts teacher, I have several goals. Over the course of the year, my primary goal is to get my students to read like detectives and to write like investigative reporters. In terms of including character education, I feel it’s my responsibility to teach my students life skills that revolve around being productive citizens as well as people of high character. CC! is a great tool to model good behavior.

In your blog, you’ve written about CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Six Pillars of Character. How have people responded to these posts? 

I’ve received nothing but positive feedback. Continue reading

Closed for the Summer ;)

Summer Time!

Summer Time!

In my Boys To Men voice, we have come to the end of the road. School is now officially out for the Summer. We’ve all said our goodbyes, and 8th Grade Graduation was yesterday. I will miss that group of students, but it is time for the next step in their academic journey. I wished them well, and told them to make good choices because this is the next step in their life and the choices they make will determine who they will become in the near future…

As for my 7th Graders, the majority of students will be returning for their 8th Grade year, but a few won’t. Those were the hardest goodbyes. I told them my door is always open for them to stop by and say hello. For those leaving the state, I let them know the blog is open to say hello as well.

This year has flown by, and I have enjoyed it tremendously. I know I have given my best effort to prepare this group of kids for 8th Grade academically as well as socially.  Soon it will be time to get ready for the next group of kids. Until the end of July rolls around, I will have a busy summer. My first child will turn 1, so I will have my hands full. I will also start my Master’s Degree in Education this summer, so I will stay pretty active. I will keep this blog updated periodically… Enjoy the Summer!

View & Respond – #LookUp

Language Arts/Writing classes will work on (7.SL.1) & (7.SL.5) common core speaking/listening standards today. I put together a view & respond about a viral video called, Look Up. As the year comes to an end and summer is almost upon us, I thought this video had the right kind of message. If you haven’t seen the video, below, the overall message is to get off social media and enjoy life. The students had a very deep discussion. The overall response was that this was a nice message for multiple reasons, but it won’t make a big difference. However, a good portion of students did say it would make them think before diving into social media and possibly miss out on the real world around them. I can accept that – small possible change is better than no changing at all…

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The Old Man & The Sea – Trivia Game

The Old Man & The Sea - Trivia

The Old Man & The Sea – Trivia

On Friday, I wanted to liven up the class with some sort of competitive game, so I put this trivia game together in the morning. In case you’re adverse to reading, here is The Old Man & The Sea Trivia Game [here]. I grabbed a few things on several sites as well as came up with a few questions on my own. Feel free to take it, share it, add a few questions, point out any errors, or play the trivia game… The students loved it, and it really brought out their competitive side. I split them in teams of four, and they went at it. The main objective was simple – collaboratively be able to display understanding of the book they had just completed. Today, they will get their essay assignment [here], and we will also watch the T.V. movie starring Anthony Quinn [here].

Overall, the majority of the students enjoyed the novel. It was above their grade level (7), but we had plenty of dialogue to break down the conflicts, inner struggles, themes, and overall meaning. We will continue to gain understanding through our essay assignment, and then we will finish the 6th book of the year (Of Mice & Men). I am very proud of my students for completing 6 books during the school year. I try to have trivia for all the books we read because it’s a fun way to display/recall knowledge…

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Letter Writing Activity #Dreams

set goal, make plan, work, and stick to it...

set goal, make plan, work, and stick to it…

I decided to do an impromptu writing activity in Language Arts/Writing today. The students will participate in a letter writing activity about their future aspirations. Students will begin class with a bell work question, “Describe 3 realistic life goals that you want to reach by the age of 18.” Once they have completed that, they will be given the following instructions:


1) You will be writing a letter about your future dreams and aspirations.

2) Address the letter to yourself (future you)

3) List specific goals that you hope to attain by the age of 18 and beyond.

4) For every goal, give yourself advice on how to reach that goal.

5) Open the letter upon high school graduation or when you feel yourself getting off track later in life. Continue reading

One Shining Moment #LifeGoals

On Wednesday, I will pose the following question during bell work, “what will be your defining moment(s) in your lifetime?” I will use the “One Shining Moment” media clip via the NCAA montage of highlights that they have at the end of March Madness to jump start the discussion (below). Students will see this question before we watch the 3 minute clip. Once the clip is finished, we will then open up the floor for discussion about life goals. At this age, students are beginning to define who they are. That being said, they are in the beginning stages of that process, but it’s never too early to start thinking about their future. My main objective is for students to think about their future, and I will reach that objective through multimedia as well as classroom discussions. This should serve as a nice break from AIMS (Arizona’s Measurement for Measuring Standards) that we have on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday… Continue reading

AIMS #ProperPlanningPreventsPoorPerformances

AIMS - April 7th to April 11th...

AIMS – April 7th to April 11th…

Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve always followed the notion that proper planning prevents poor performances. I began class by letting students know that we won’t be scrambling around or making any last ditch efforts to prepare because we’ve prepared all year to be proficient readers and writers. As the AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards) test approaches, I decided to give the students a chance to gain some confidence. Before we participated in the practice test activity, we spoke about test anxiety as well as a few other concerns about the upcoming test. I let the kids know to relax, and that they should try their best. I also let them know that I have prepared them for the many things throughout the entire year, and the AIMS Reading/Writing Test is one of them. Prior to this activity, we have done several things during the year to specifically prepare for taking the state standardized test –  AIMS Buckle Down, Galileo Benchmark Assessments, Galileo Interventions/Quizzes, Reading Comprehension Worksheets, etc-etc. I continued to give them a few encouraging words about preparation, and I opened the floor back up for questions, comments, and/or concerns…

I digress, we took the practice AIMS/Reading Test that ADE (Arizona Department of Education) provided. You can view it [here]. The material was rather dated, but the object of the activity was to give them a good idea as to what type of questions would be on the test. Once the students completed the practice test, we came back together for a comprehension check as well as test taking tips to answering the previously mentioned questions.

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Learning Signatures – Part II

ABC Worksheets

ABC Worksheets

We broached this problem once again during the 4th Quarter when I gave students a Roots Letter Writing Activity in letter format. As one of the assignment requirements, I stipulated that they must sign their name at the end of the letter. I found it puzzling that a good portion of the 7th Graders weren’t taught to write in cursive, or they had forgotten how. To their credit, they picked up on it in a matter of less than 30 minutes. Did I mention these kids are resoundingly awesome? I’ve read multiple articles on various news outlets saying there isn’t a need to emphasize cursive writing anymore. I’ve also had discussions with other educators about the matter. Personally, I see both points of view. I think we are in an information age where emphasis doesn’t necessarily need to be placed solely on penmanship. That being said, we are also in an age where everybody doesn’t have access to a computer inside the classroom or at home, so penmanship is still pretty important – print and cursive. The overall point of communicating your intelligence in as many formats as possible should always be valued whether it be on a computer, in print, in cursive, in pen, in pencil, or crayon;]

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