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Participants (Moral Tales)

The Moral Tales program is designed for use with children in second and third grades. You may find it useful to think about the developmental norms for this age group. Not all children arrive at each developmental stage at the same time, but knowing what to expect overall from seven-, eight-, and nine-year-olds can be quite helpful, especially to first-time leaders.

In her book Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook ( Boston : Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd discusses developmental characteristics of school-age children. She notes that by age seven, children's learning disabilities and behavioral or psychological issues may have appeared and been identified. Individual learning styles and strengths may also be apparent. Children who need glasses often get their first pair around this age.

In a section on moral development, Hurd notes that the typical child in this age group is "passionately interested" in moral issues:

She seeks what is fair and right... By developing games with rules, playing sports, or creating or belonging to clubs, the school-age child practices figuring out what is fair... This play is practice for more generalized moral decision making.

In general, a child in second or third grade is:

  • Able to use gross and fine motor skills, which are almost fully developed
  • Influenced by media images and messages; beginning to compare him/herself to norms perceived as desirable
  • Engaging in logical thinking based on "concrete operational" thinking
  • Practicing cognitive skills of acquiring, storing, and retrieving information
  • Developing his/her individual learning style, which may be auditory visual, sensory, and/or kinesthetic
  • Showing his/her domain-specific intelligence, which may be verbal/linguistic, musical/rhythmic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and/or naturalist
  • Finding self-esteem in his/her knowledge and his/her student identity
  • Engaging peers; learning through mutual friendships
  • Able to comprehend the perspectives of others
  • Likely to engage in gender-segregated play
  • Interested in his/her own racial, ethnic, and gender identity, and seeking affirmation of these identities from peers
  • Learning and negotiating early understandings of social scripts about sexuality
  • Aware of and able to apply the Golden Rule (treating others as he/she would wish to be treated)
  • Energized by developing rules for play or work that ensure fairness
  • Interested in personal moral issues and able to wrestle with moral dilemmas in relationships
  • Aware of societal moral issues
  • Interested in helping to solve community and world problems
  • Showing interest in concrete aspects of faith and religion
  • "Doing" religion or spirituality by participating in rituals, practices, and traditions

Hurd offers a variety of strategies that speak to these developmental considerations and may help you shape your sessions effectively. Some of these include:

  • Provide for children's overall physical needs, including nutrition, exercise, and rest.
  • Allow children to be active; avoid extended times of sitting and listening.
  • Provide time for play and hands-on activities.
  • Present challenges that promote children's use of their thinking skills.
  • Support different learning styles.
  • Encourage problem-solving and discussion; allow children opportunities to role-play to experience others' perspectives.
  • Support children's natural impulse toward rule-making and peer-to-peer negotiation of what is fair.
  • Allow time with like-identity peers; support or facilitate mixed-peer time, as well.
  • Intervene appropriately against exclusion or bullying, yet affirm children's need to work out relational complexities as a part of their moral development.
  • Recognize the unique needs that attend the identity development of children who may be multiracial, multiethnic, transgender, and/or a "minority" in another way.
  • Offer children many ways to contribute to the community.
  • Give opportunities to "do" religion and be part of a faith community.
  • Welcome large spiritual questions; encourage questioning of religion.
  • Support self-esteem; affirm the child's developing body and identity.
  • Support the whole child as an individual and as a member of the group.
  • Provide encouragement and love.

Integrating All Participants

By adapting activities or using alternate activities, you can help ensure that every session is inclusive of children with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations. The program offers general guidance on adapting activities along with some resources for implementing inclusion. Within the sessions, some activities suggest specific adaptations under the heading, "Including All Participants."

As you plan your Moral Tales sessions, be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for children who are differently abled. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to anyone who might be in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes.

Find out about participants' medical conditions and their allergies, particularly to food. Sessions 6, 9, 15, 16 and the Gems of Goodness celebration, if you have one, include food or food preparation activities. Make sure all of the children can eat the ingredients you plan to use, or adjust the recipe. You will also want to consider food allergies when planning a mid-session snack.

Each session mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole-group and individual activities, along with alternate activities that you can substitute for core activities if you feel they better suit a group. As you begin to recognize different learning styles among the participants, let this information guide your selection of activities for each session.

You will often find the suggestion to bring out the "fidget objects" basket in the "Including All Participants" sections. This is a basket full of manipulable objects, such as pipe cleaners or clay, to keep restless hands and minds busy. It may be helpful to make fidget objects available if or when you feel some or all of the children are having difficulty sitting through longer periods of listening or discussion. Find more information about fidget objects in the "Before You Start" section of this Introduction. A full description of what they are and how to use them appears in "Leader Resources" in each session.

Some activity descriptions mention specific concerns or suggest adaptations under the heading "Including All Participants." Feel free to devise your own adaptations to meet any special needs you perceive. As the leader, you will know best how to provide a fully inclusive learning experience for the group. If you have questions about the accessibility or adaptability of a particular activity, please ask your director of religious education for advice.

In the Teacher Development section of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations website, find descriptions of a helpful resource book , Sally Patton's Welcoming Children with Special Needs.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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