Respect is a word that means many things to many people. Some argue it can't be taught, but there is character education embedded in many of the lessons in schools so why is respect any different? It's worth a try, right? Especially since kids these days don't seem to be coming into classrooms armed with much of it on their own.
Here are 26 lesson and activity ideas to help teach your middle school students a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!
1. Give Examples
Anchor charts are beautiful representations of anything a teacher needs to teach. Character education is no different, and keeping a chart like this up in the classroom reminds students what respectful behavior is supposed to look like.
Learn More: Haley O'Connor (Instagram)
2. Host a Class Brainstorm About Respect
One of the best ways to teach is to start by creating buy-in. If we expect students to understand the issue of respect, they must be the ones to come up with what respect actually looks, sounds, and feels like so that they have no excuse when they forget.
Learn More: Spring Valley Green Schoolyard
3. Explicit Lesson
Working in a classroom with peers and adults requires a certain level of unspoken respect to function flawlessly. Teaching children about respect means teaching them the expectations you and others have within the classroom setting to work together.
Learn More: Overcoming Obstacles
4. Practice a Week of Respect
Whether you use the ideas presented on this calendar, or you choose your own ways to incorporate respect, each day for a week, keep it at the front of students' minds to help improve the school environment!
Learn More: Morning Bell NYC
5. Have Students Take a Quiz
There is nothing more powerful than asking yourself honest questions. Have students take this quiz to see if they consider themselves respectful or not, and then create a plan of action to incorporate more ways to show respect in their lives.
Learn More: Free Spirit
6. The Character Chronicles
With the many modalities of learning, good character education programs should include visual and auditory examples. This DVD helps teach grades 4 through 8 the important impacts of practicing respect and being respectful.
Learn More: Live Wire Media
7. Amazing Grace
This short story is a perfect quick read-aloud for students. Grace encounters some adversity and some struggles that end up teaching her and others how respect can play a role in making one another feel important and included.
Learn More: Amazon
8. Respect Others Read-Aloud
This story would make a great read-aloud for students as it teaches students about respect for others even when you don't agree with their opinions or choices. This is an important virtue to teach in today's society as people are learning to become more and more comfortable in their own skin.
Learn More: Amazon
9. Model Respect
While this might sound obvious to some people, a lot of times disrespectful behavior is met with disrespectful behavior. Some teachers and adults do not realize that the way they behave around children is exactly what those children are going to emulate. So, modeling what respect looks, sounds, and feels like is always the right way to go.
Learn More: Stepping Stone School
10. No One Eats Alone Day
National "No One Eats Alone" day is important for teaching respect. It forces students to step from their comfort zones, approach people they typically wouldn't associate with, and extend that bridge of respect that simply says, "hey, I see you and I respect that we may be different but I can still be kind and empathetic towards you."
Learn More: Beyond Differences
11. Respect Task Cards
These cards are a helpful addition to character education lessons. Kids are asked to read a scenario and then respond to it. It is helpful to practice responses before they need to so that their bodies learn to react in a calm, respectful manner.
Learn More: Worksheet Place
12. Parent Newsletter
Get parents involved in helping teach respect by sending home a newsletter focusing on this important quality. Many parents want to be involved in helping their kids become better people and if we can get learning at home and in school, it will help make our job much easier.
Learn More: Crestview Rebels
13. Use Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS)
There are many programs like Kickboard that reward students for positive behaviors. Showing respect is one of those that can be easily reinforced to help and provides real-life practice and support for kids. Pair the points with awesome prizes to encourage the kinds of respectful behavior you want to see.
Learn More: Kickboard
14. Establish Fair Classroom Practices
Kids are some of the first to be able to pick out inequity in any setting. If we take the time to evaluate our practices as adults and teachers, we can easily take direct action to eliminate these issues and create open and honest classroom discussions around what expectations on respect are from both sides.
Learn More: Nee Advantage
15. Create Respect Stickers
Get your middle schoolers creativity flowing by allowing them to create stickers about respect that they can use on water bottles, computers, folders, and more. Host a contest for the most creative version.
Learn More: Love To Know
16. Whole Group Lesson in Class
This option doesn't require any frills or additional materials. You simply need a whiteboard, some participants, and a facilitator. Perfect for a first-time lesson or a revisit of respect, this will help kids recognize disrespectful actions immediately.
Learn More: Study
17. Summarize Respect
Practice literacy skills and learn about respect with the Talking With Trees website. This great resource gives kids all the details of what respect is. Once they are done doing their research, have them summarize in their own words what they learned about this quality.
Learn More: Talking Tree Books
18. Book Study: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Teach kids respect and a little history about WWII as they see the world through the eyes of human rights and the Holocaust. This book is a great way to open discussions about caring and responsibility as ways to show respect.
Learn More: Amazon
19. Movie: Charlotte's Web
A favorite among kids, Charlottes's Web is the perfect example to show kids what respecting others, even of the tiniest size, looks like.
Learn More: Amazon
20. Create a Photography Exhibit
Unleash creativity and get students to take pictures in their daily lives of people respecting or disrespecting the environment around them. These photos will serve as awesome discussion starters.
Learn More: Love To Know
21. Teach With Movies
Teach With Movies has a great list of ideas for teaching respect through movies - every middle school kid's favorite break from the usual! Utilize this list as a way to really hone in on what your group needs so that you can get them engaged and learning!
Learn More: Teach With Movies
22. An Unexpected Lesson in Respect
Launch your lesson on respect with this sweet video that is so short, yet says so much. Teaching kids how to lead an inspirational life isn't so difficult, especially with resources like this video.
Learn More: Meir Kay
23. Respect YouTube Video With Worksheets
Morgan uses the Golden Rule and offers plain examples that any student will understand. Pair this with the accompanying worksheets and you've got a great morning meeting or quick lesson on respect!
Learn More: Rocket Kids
24. Music Videos - Get Kids Pumped
Have your staff or student body create a fun, entertaining music video to pump the school up about respect and show them on the morning show or at a pep rally. See the sample below to spark inspiration!
Learn More: CG_Panthervision
25. Develop a Play or a Drama Around Respect
Really get students involved by having them create an entire play or drama that shows what respect does and does not look like to show on a morning show or during classes. This example offers short checkpoints throughout the video to get the viewer engaged.
Learn More: Robb Underwood
26. Start a Gentleman's Squad or Ladies Club
These clubs offer students who may not otherwise have role models a way to learn how to be respectful, show etiquette, and be a part of an elite group of students who lead by example and become upstanding citizens at their campuses.
Learn More: WMAR-2 News