Self-Direction and Social Responsibility

Note!  There are multiple lists of 21st Century Skills.  The topics below are suggested by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  I’ve also included “health literacy” from the Iowa Core framework.  Early childhood educators have always been committed to the WHOLE child.  I believe WHOLE-heartedly that 21st Century Skills do indeed balance the academic core with children’s social, emotional, and physical well-being.

Self-Direction and Social Responsibility
Learning to monitor one’s own behavior, delay gratification, and support the larger group are essential personal skills and employability skills.

Buddies and Bullies – Teach children steps for dealing with buddies with this song to the tune of “Harrigan.”
I’m going to be a buddy.
I will never be a bully.         (Shake head no!)
I’ll say NO to bullies!         (Point finger.)
That is what I’ll be.
I’ll be kind and help my friends.
I’ll protect them and defend.
A buddy, that’s ME!         (Point to self with thumb.)
What should you do if someone bullies you?
         Ignore them or walk away.
What if they still bully you?
         Tell them to STOP!
If they still bully you?
         Get a friend to help you.
And if they still bully you?
         Then tell an adult.

  • Role play being a buddy and being a bully.
  • Run off “kindness tickets” for children to distribute to friends when they are helpful.
  • Do a T-chart of behaviors of buddies and bullies.

Cheers and Goals – Each month have children fold a sheet of paper in half.  On the left side ask them to draw a picture and dictate or write a sentence of something they have learned and want to cheer about.  On the right side ask them to draw a goal that they have for the following month.  Date, save, and evaluate how they are doing.

What Is a Good Student?  Have children discuss what it means to be a good student.  What characteristics describe a good student?  Act out being responsible, respectful, polite, etc.  Write behaviors children suggest on index cards and pin one to each child.  Call them by that word throughout the day.  If they are not behaving appropriately ask, “Polite, are you actually being polite?  Do I need to take your word away?”

Rules Book – Why are rules important?  Who has to obey rules?  Give each child a sheet of paper and ask them to draw a picture of a rule they think is important to your classroom.  Let them write or dictate a sentence to go with their rule.  Put their pages together to make a class “Rule Book” and have them sign their name on the front to indicate they will obey the rules.  When they are misbehaving turn to a page in the rule book that refers to what they are doing.  “Are you obeying this rule?  Show me the right thing to do.”

Voting Sticks – When you have a simple decision in the classroom (one where the outcome really doesn’t matter), let the children vote.  For example, they could vote on a book they wanted read, a game, a song, etc.  Write choices on the board and put a cup under each one.  Pass out a stick to each child.  Children place their stick in the can by their choice.  Let them estimate which one has the most votes.  Count to verify their guess.

Career Education – Have children interview their parents about their jobs.  What do they like best about their job?  How did they train for their job?  Do they need special clothing or tools?

  • Invite parents to come talk to the class about their profession.
  • Let children dress up for the career they’d like to have when they are grown.  Have them tell why they selected that career and how they plan to accomplish their goal.

Classroom Jobs – Assign classroom jobs weekly.  Title the jobs by real careers.
Supervisor – Calls the roll.
Maintenance – Picks up the classroom.
Police Officer – Makes sure everyone walks slowly in the hall.
Mail Carrier – Passes out papers.
Librarian – Cleans the classroom library.
Gardener – Waters the plants.
Meteorologist – Gives the morning weather report.
Accountant – Does the lunch count.
UPS – Takes reports to the office.

Teacher of the Day – Let children take turns being the “teacher of the day.”
They can perform simple routines and run errands for you.

Classroom Family – How is our classroom like a family?  Make a list of ways to be a good family member.
*You can also call your classroom a team.  What do good team members do?

Group Art Projects – Children can add individual components to make a thing of beauty.

  • Give each child a 6” square and have them decorate it with their picture or with a drawing that relates to a unit of study.  Punch holes in the corners of their projects and tie together with yarn to make a class quilt.
  • Give each child a 12” x2” strip of construction paper.  Let them decorate it with their name and designs.  As they sit in a circle, take one strip at a time and staple them together to make a “friendship chain.” How does a chain represent your classroom?  If one person runs in the hall or hits a friend (undo one of the links to demonstrate) the chain falls apart.
  • Cut a poster into puzzle pieces.  You will need as many pieces as there are students in the classroom.  Ask each child to decorate their piece with their name and lots of colors.  Put their pieces together on a second poster board and glue in place to demonstrate how you must all “fit together to make a whole.”


My Flag – Teach children this song to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
My flag is red.                  (March in place.)
My flag is white.
And in the corner it is blue.
My flag stands for my country.
I love red, white, and blue!

Fifty white stars              (March with arms in the air making
On a field of blue-            sparkles by opening and closing
A star for each state it is true.         your fists.)
My flag stands for my country.
I love red, white, and blue!

From North to South         (March pointing in front, behind,
And East to West                   to the right and then the left.)
We pledge to the flag each day.   (Hand over heart.)
Our flag stands for our country.
We all love red, white, and blue!

We are all Americans.         (March alternating fists
And so we always say I CAN!        in the air.)
We try and do our best
Because we are Americans!

I Can! Cover a small can with paper.  Glue googly eyes to the can.  When children say, “I can’t!” place the can on their desk and say “I CAN!”  Remind them we are “Ameri-CANS” and not “Ameri-cants.”

Symbols - Discuss the bald eagle, Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell, White House, and other American symbols.  Visit the U.S. Government's web portal for Kids - .

Organization – Create checklists, weekly homework assignments, and visual organizational aids to help children stay on task.  Let the children make mini-offices to help them focus on their work. 
*To make a mini-office tape two pocket folders together.  Glue a copy of word wall words, hundreds chart, and relevant information above the pockets.  On one pocket write “Finished” and on another pocket write “Working On.”  Children put papers they have finished and work they still need to do in the appropriate pocket.

Time Management – “To do” lists, calendars, timers, and “five minute” warnings will help children complete tasks.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Brainstorm the three “R’s” of protecting our planet. 
How can they reduce the energy they consume?  Sing this song to the tune of “Ain't Gonna Rain No More.”

Oh, I can turn it off.    (Slap hands together on
I can turn it off.                the word “off.”)
When I'm not watching the TV,
I can turn it off.

Oh, I can turn it off.    (Pretend to turn off a faucet
I can turn it off.             on the word “off.”)
When there's enough water in the tub for me,
I can turn it off.

Oh, I can shut the door.      (Pretend to
I can shut the door.               shut a door.)
I can save energy galore;
I can shut the door.

Oh, I can turn it off.    (Snap fingers on the
I can turn it off.           word “off.”)
Batteries, water, or electricity—
I can turn it off.

Oh, I can turn it off.   (Stomp on the word “off.”)
I can turn it off.
It it's something I don't really need,
I can turn it off.

What Will I Be When They Recycle Me?  What does it mean to recycle?  How does their family recycle?  How can you recycle at school?  Sing this song to the tune of “Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?”

What will I be when they recycle me?   (Roll hands in a circle.)
What will I be when they recycle me?
What will I be when they recycle me?
I’ll come back to life—you will see!   (Clap your hands and
                                                           then point your finger.)

I am an empty soda can          (Pretend to hold a soda
Made of precious aluminum.     can in front of you.)
I can save lots of energy
If you will recycle me.      (Roll hands in a circle.)

I’m an old bottle of plastic   (Pretend to hold a plastic bottle.)
But I could be fantastic!
Toys, pipes, car bumpers, and much more—
That’s what my plastic is for.   (Roll hands in a circle.)

A pile of used boxes and papers we     (Make an invisible
Come from the precious wood of trees.     square in the air.)
Recycled we’ll be as good as new   (Roll hands in a circle.)
And save some other trees, too.

I am a fine jar made of glass—    (Cup hands to make a bowl.)
Please don’t treat me like plain old trash!   (Shake head “no.”)
I’ll make new jars again and again
Recycle me—yes you can!    (Roll hands in a circle.)

Though we may look like old used stuff,   (Open palms.)
Stop, wait! Please don’t give up on us! 
                               (Make sign language for “stop.”)
Think of the great possibilities— 
                            (Put index finger on your head and tap.)
Recycle us, set us free!
   (Roll hands in a circle and then throw up hands in the air.)

*Take a field trip to a recycling center in your area or visit to learn more about renewable resources.

Litter Patrol- Ask children to bring in empty food boxes.  Cut off the top panel and punch holes in the two narrow sides.  Tie on a piece of string so the box can be used to pick up trash.  Say this rap as you clap and snap to the beat:

Litter Patrol

Here we go.
We're on the litter patrol.
We're going to work all day to put the trash away.
The planet earth, you see, is our habitat.
We're going to clean it up.
Well, how about that?


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