Teaching citizenship in the classroom is an important part of social-emotional learning and character education. It is also vital to encourage the future generation to positively contribute to their community.
When teaching about being a good citizen, you should also touch on the importance of diversity and inclusion, empathy, and respect. Respect for our community, earth, and each other. After all, we all share this earth and are citizens of it. So what does it mean to be a “good citizen”?
What is a good citizen?
A good citizen treats their neighbor the same way they want to be treated. It is being a good steward of your “home”— including your actual home, school, community, state, country, planet, and digital world.
Characteristics found in a good citizen include honesty, responsibility, respect, compassion, and courage.
Explaining the characteristics of being a good citizen to students is great (and a vital part in teaching this concept!), but it isn’t enough. As educators, we have to help students make real connections to these qualities. Then, they will develop a true understanding of citizenship. ..& THIS is where we will see the magic happen!
Why should we teach good citizenship?
Character counts! As important as academics are, we don’t just want our students to become great at math and reading. We want them to grow to become kind, productive members of society. Social-emotional learning is a huge part of that process.
Teaching good citizenship is also important to foster a sense of ownership. Students need to know that they play an active role in their school, community, state, and country. When they feel this sense of ownership, they start to realize that they can make a change and have a purpose greater than themselves.
Ways to teach children good citizenship
Read books about citizenship
Read alouds are a wonderful way to incorporate teaching citizenship in the classroom. Check out this blog post about Children’s books that teach Citizenship. Here are a few highlights of my favorites:
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The House that Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone
This story is about Jane Addams. Jane was the first American woman to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since she was a small girl, Jane dreamed of helping the poor. Starting in the late 1890s, Jane began to dramatically change a poor Chicago neighborhood by creating a community center around her home. Over a span of three decades, she added playgrounds, a public bathing area, kindergartens, and more to the area. Many people visited Jane’s home weekly. Jane was an important female activist in the field of social work and the American women’s suffrage movement.
We Live Here Too by Nancy Loewen
Frank B. Wise is the main character in this book. He has an advice column where children write to him about citizenship-related issues. Realist scenarios such as “throwing gum on the ground” are discussed. Suggestions of how to handle these different common situations are given to help students learn that good citizenship is really something that easily can (and should) be used each day.
Earth Ninja by Mary Nhin
This book is all about a ninja who practices recycling, reducing, and reusing. Earth Ninja shows his friend Lazy Ninja that just one ninja can better the world by doing these three simple things. Throughout the book he explains different ways that the earth is impacted negatively by pollution and gives easy steps to help solve these problems.
What Can a Citizen Do? By Dave Eggers
This book follows the unrelated actions of several different children. As the story progresses, the reader sees that the compassion and engagement of the children changes the community from a lonely place to a vibrant one. Choosing to be responsible and caring as individuals allows them to collectively change their world into the place it has had the potential to be all along. The cut-paper illustrations by Shawn Harris are extremely detailed and colorful and provide an excellent addition to the powerful message in this story. Children are encouraged to be the change their world needs.
Use classroom activities to teach Citizenship in the Classroom
Create a t-chart to compare and contrast the positive and negative traits a citizen could show. Use brag tags or a similar classroom incentive to highlight positive behaviors throughout the day. Discuss real-life examples of good citizenship in action.
Some real-life examples are:
- Picking up litter in neighborhood or at school
- Collect and donate goods to those in need
- Caring for animals
- Helping the elderly
- Follows classroom and school
Use premade resources
You’re BUSY! Choose pre-made resources to take some of the work and planning off of your plate.
My citizenship resource includes nine different activities you can use for in-person or interactive online teaching to help your students understand how to be a good citizen. I’ve also included a variety of forms, supplemental resources, and classroom decor pieces to really make teaching good citizenship a breeze!
Use the activities included to prompt students to differentiate ways of showing citizenship at home, school, and in the community. They will also learn how to show citizenship both as community leaders and in a digital world. Your students will be encouraged to think broadly by determining actions that will impact the world beyond the local community.
Use the situation cards or writing prompts to provide opportunities for discussions and freethinking. These can help you easily evaluate your students’ understanding and ability to apply their knowledge of citizenship.
Check out more resources in my character education series!
- Character Education: Responsibility
- Character Education: Kindness
- Character Education: Cooperation
- Character Education: Honesty