Middle Grade Approach
The period of early adolescence—6th, 7th, and 8th grades—has been called the "last best chance" to positively influence young people and prepare them to make healthy, fulfilling choices about their lives.1 To help students at this age, character educators must take into account a variety of needs, abilities, and cultural differences.
While middle grade students may challenge and defy authority, take dangerous risks, and retreat into themselves, they also
- are curious about themselves and the world,
- have wide-ranging interests that may be developed
- are beginning to think more critically
- are increasingly able to look beyond their own interests, and
- welcome opportunities to grapple with hard problems
How can adults best help students at this complicated, exciting, critical stage of their lives?
1 Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989
At Heartwood, T.R.U.E. stands for Teaching Resources for Understanding Ethics, and all of our T.R.U.E. products offer instructors the chance to teach Heartwood Attributes with an emphasis on social-emotional learning and conflict resolution. Through inspiring stories of heroism and examples of moral leadership, our T.R.U.E. Choices curriculum gives middle school students real-life strategies to handle the new challenges and choices they face.
Heartwood's T.R.U.E. Choices offers a two-part strategy:
- A simple framework of universally valued ethical attributes on which to base conversations.
- A set of books with rich ethical content in which people from a variety of backgrounds face challenges and choices. After engaging with the characters, students increase their moral understanding by empathizing with the characters' dilemmas, discussing options, and recognizing similar situations in their own lives.
In addition to the quality literature, T.R.U.E. Choices
- contains lessons for language arts, social studies, and conflict resolution skills.
- offers age-appropriate readings grouped by geographical regions.
- is aligned with national standards and is easily adapted.
- includes graphic organizers to help students listen with purpose, a wide range of activities, and numerous options for differentiated instruction.
- offers scripted activities so any teacher can coach students in conflict management.
- includes self-evaluation tool kits to help schools document program impact.
Heartwood recognizes the crucial difference between knowing and understanding: while memorizing definitions or studying facts may lead to knowledge, understanding requires internalizing material in a completely different way.
Heartwood Institute has constructed our T.R.U.E. Choices lessons on the principles and techniques developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their groundbreaking work, Understanding by Design (ASCD 2005). Wiggins and McTighe define understanding as the integration of six distinct "lenses," saying one truly understands when one can
- explain: give details about phenomena, facts, and data.
- interpret: tell meaningful stories and provide additional insights into ideas or events
- apply: effectively use and adapt knowledge in new and diverse contexts
- have perspective: see the big picture and others' viewpoints
- empathize: respect and show compassion for others
- show self-knowledge: recognize that their approach, projections, habits, and prejudices can both shape and impede one's own understanding.
So if character education is about helping students become the best they can be in the world, it makes sense that Heartwood's program was designed to help them better understand that world.
T.R.U.E. Choices is centered on three thematic "strands" that feature literature from different geographical regions: United States, Asia/Africa, or Europe/Latin America/Canada. Then, within each of those three geographical strands, various stories illustrate Heartwood's Seven Essential Attributes. The products are designed to help maturing students grapple with tough decisions and apply ethical principals to real-life situations, and the flexible program may be easily integrated into language arts, social studies, guidance programs, homeroom, or other settings.
The T.R.U.E. Choices curriculum may be purchased in several different ways:
Whole School Package
T.R.U.E. Choices has the potential to change the culture of a school when it is implemented by many teachers in many settings and students are frequently reminded of the importance of Courage, Loyalty, Justice, Respect, Hope, Honesty, and Love. Posters, banners, and student work on the school walls will enhance the program's impact. School-wide or grade level events related to the program and the attributes will inspire students and strengthen your school's vision and commitment. Includes 21 T.R.U.E. Choice kits across all three geographical strands, for a total of 42 books, and a Hero's Assembly.
Grade Level Units
Includes a unit for each attribute theme, with all 14 readings and instructional materials focused on a social studies region (Europe/Latin America/Canada; Asia/Africa; United States). Units may be presented in language arts, social studies, and/or other settings for maximum exposure and flexibility. A powerful tool for theme-based learning!
Includes 2 literature selections (picture books, short stories, anthologies); reading-language arts, social studies, and conflict resolution lesson plans and instructions for each selection; reproducibles for each selection (graphic organizers, conflict resolution skill builders); attribute poster; and mini-manual with background information and lesson design. Packaged in sturdy attractive, vinyl portfolios.
1 Unit: $75.00