Merriam-Webster defines citizenship as “the quality of a person’s response to membership in a community”. Being a citizen doesn’t automatically make you a good citizen, which is why teaching citizenship to elementary students is so important. By teaching children different themes of citizenship, you can help them learn how to positively contribute to their community. Education World lists five citizenship themes you can focus on in your good citizenship lesson plans: 1) honesty, 2) compassion, 3) respect, 4) responsibility, and 5) courage. Be sure to explore these themes with your students and relate them to students’ lives to help children truly understand what good citizenship means.
Five Ways to Promote Good Citizenship
1. Encourage Children to Read Books About Citizenship
Place a variety of books about citizenship in your classroom library. Books that build social and emotional intelligence and explore themes of citizenship through real-world experiences encourage children to be good citizens now and in the future as adults. Check out the I Get Along with Others Book Set for preschoolers and kindergarteners and the Citizenship and Responsibility Book Set for K–2 students.
2. Give Children the Opportunity to Free Write or Draw
Giving children an opportunity to share their own experiences through writing and art is one way of exploring citizenship themes. Here are a few of the example prompts featured on Education World’s website:
Potential Writing Prompts
- Tell us about a time you told the truth even when it was hard to do.
- Tell us about someone you respect.
- Tell us about a time you took responsibility for something you had done or said.
Potential Drawing Prompts
- Illustrate a time when you showed bravery.
- Illustrate what you could do if you saw someone making fun of a fellow classmate on the playground.
3. Discuss How Different Book Characters Display Good Citizenship
Choose a book to read together as a class. For example, you could choose to read Johnny Appleseed to children and then discuss the ways Johnny Appleseed displayed good citizenship. Write important points from the class discussion on the board or on a large piece of paper to be displayed. Here’s an example we found on Pinterest from a first-grade teacher’s blog.
4. Make Citizenship Carnations
Reinforce the different themes of citizenship by having each child make their very own Citizenship Carnation. Inspired by an art activity we found on Pinterest, our version of the activity promotes good citizenship and gives children an opportunity to create a visual reminder of what being a good citizen means. Here are some basic instructions for how to make the Citizenship Carnations:
- Have children make a large flower (five petals) out of construction paper.
- Have children write one theme of citizenship on each of the five petals.
- Have children decorate their carnations.
5. Encourage Children to Grow into Good Citizens
Putting up a citizenship-themed bulletin board or classroom display is one way you can encourage children to be good citizens. We love this “Growing into Good Citizens” display we found on Pinterest! Simply make a tree out of bulletin board paper, give children a paper apple, and have them write what they think describes a good citizen on the apple. Then, place the apples on the tree.
You may also want to check out our Citizenship Enrichment Kit, which includes a citizenship character education curriculum with units on honesty, kindness, and other character education themes. The kit also includes four children’s books for the classroom to help in teaching citizenship.
How do you promote good citizenship in your classroom? Share your citizenship activities for elementary students in the comment section below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!