Teaching Kids about Responsibility -- WUYC Book Study, Chapter 8

I'm super excited to join in with some of my blogging friends to share our thoughts with you about an AMAZING book about character education: What's Under Your Cape? by Barbara Gruener. 
I didn't even have to think twice about buying this book and joining in on the book study. Teaching kids about character is critical in order to help them grow into well rounded, productive citizens in our community. Sometimes, I think we expect students (and even our own children) to know what it means to be respectful, kind, perseverant, etc. but that's not always the case. Barbara's book gives real life examples, classroom examples, book suggestions, and even catchy songs to teach your students about what it means to have good character.

Today I'm sharing my thoughts about Chapter 8, which is all about responsibility.
It drives me completely bonkers when, on the day a homework assignment is due, a student tells me, 
"My mom forgot to put it in my folder." 
Ummmm.... excuse me, but your mom isn't in second grade. WHO forgot his/her homework? YOU. YOU didn't put YOUR homework in YOUR folder. I can say that to my students and make them feel all sad and guilty, but what am I teaching them? That's right; a whole lotta nothing! 

To kick start the conversation about responsibility, Barbara says you should ask your students what chores they have at their house. Most children have chores in their house, even if it's as simple as picking up their toys or doing their homework. Chores should be taken seriously, as kids' chores help to make the household run smoothly. Barbara has two awesome activities and games you can use to help kids visualize the importance of chores and what happens if a chore isn't completed. 

Barbara mentions four things when teaching kids about responsibility: choices, consequences, chores, and stakeholders. I was totally with her, until the "stakeholders" part. My second graders are too young to understand what a stakeholder is. But the more I read, the more I became convinced that my students could understand and even give examples of stakeholders. Who is affected if the farmer doesn't milk the cows for a few days? Or a student puts glue in someone's hair?  Or a puppy who gets left outside overnight? Or the second grader who doesn't bring back his/her homework? I know that my students are smart enough to think of all the people (or in some cases, animals) that would be affected if any of those events took place. I will definitely be teaching my kids about stakeholders this upcoming year. Helping students to realize that their actions impact others (as well as themselves), will further illustrate the importance of being responsible.

How can you give your students the opportunity to be responsible at school? Barbara suggests classroom jobs. Do you have classroom jobs? I do. Each student in my class has a job. But how well do you "enforce" those jobs getting done? Me? Admittedly, not very well. I have a library helper whose job it is to take the returned library books down to the library every morning. Except on our scheduled library day, I glance over at the book crate and notice it's overflowing because it hasn't been taken to the library the entire week. Now I need to round up 3-4 kids to haul the books to the library before the library aide has to walk half-way across the school to come and pick the books up herself. Yes, it's the student's responsibility to take the books to the library, but what am I doing to help foster that responsibility?

Barbara says we need to hand over the reins to our students. We can't have that, "Fine. I'll just do it myself." attitude. What is that teaching them if we do it for them? You're teaching them to be dependent. Is it easier to do many tasks ourselves? Yes. I could very easily return those library books myself on my way to the copy room during a prep. But if our goal is for our students to be independent thinkers and learners, students must take responsibility!

Other highlights of the chapter include picture book suggestions and two songs for teaching kids about responsibility. Want to know what they are? Well, you'll have to pick up the book to find out! I also did a quick Google search of videos for teaching kids about responsibility, and there are SO many great finds on YouTube. If you conduct class meetings (such as a morning meeting), you could easily discuss, share, and practice the trait of responsibility for several weeks, if not a whole month.

I urge you to head over to Barbara's website and order this book. It's a quick read, and it really draws you in with all of Barbara's personal stories and real-life classroom examples. I know I couldn't put it down! You can order the book from Amazon as well, but the last I checked, the shipping time is 10-14 days. If you order directly from Barbara, you'll get it right away, and she even autographed my book! SWEET!

What do you do to teach your kids about responsibility? 

Chapter 9 is being hosted by the amazing Katie at Teacher to the Core. Don't miss it!


  1. We set monthly goals, have classrooms jobs, and set classroom agreements.

  2. Thank you, Angela, for your thoughtful, reflective review. I love what you said about stakeholders! I used to think that word was WAY too big for my little superheroes, but they always ALWAYS surprise me. It's the BEST when they initiate conversations with, "There are a lot of stakeholders in this story, Mrs. Gruener."

    I appreciate your kind words.

    Be blessed as you bless,


  3. Wow, this is a very thorough review, thank you! Our school and charter organization incorporates Moral Focus Virtues into our core curriculum and responsibility is one of them. Our founding prinicpal also ingrained in us he idea and mentality of being mindful of stakeholders. In fact, the close equivalent of the Parent-Teacher Coordinator at our school is called the Director of Stakeholder Engagement! I will most definitely be ordering this book. Thanks again!


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