I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Was That Choice Moral or Not? - A Classroom Activity & Assessment

Dear George, 
Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
Thanks for the wings!
Love, Clarence

Thus (nearly) ends the beloved holiday classic, "It's a Wonderful Life" - a film that tells the story of George Bailey and the many people whose lives he touches by his innate desire to put family and friends above personal wants and human dignity above profit.

In my humble opinion (as I'm sure I've mentioned before), this is the greatest holiday classic movie of all time, so I thought it would be worthwhile to show this movie to my 6th grade students (especially since most of them had never seen it before). However, seeing as I only see each period for 40-45 minutes a day, I couldn't reconcile giving up valuable teaching time to watch a movie just for the sake of watching a movie. (On a side note - when I taught 4th grade, I didn't have any problem simply putting in a movie, as in a self-contained classroom, I saw them all day and the poor dears were restless by the end of most days leading up to Christmas break.) So, I had to find (or create) a bridge between the movie and our latest unit, which focused (at least in part) on moral decision-making.

Well, George and the other characters surely make a lot of decisions throughout the course of the movie - from saving Harry's life to not delivering the pills from Mr. Gower to sending Harry to school instead of himself so as to run the family business...the list of decisions (good and bad) goes on and on.

This is about how I felt when I figured out the connection

I would have the students apply the three components of moral decision-making that we learned about to the scenarios/decisions in the movie. So, the weekend before that last week before break, I crafted the assessment & rubric.

Looking back on the assessment (as I am currently scoring their letters/essays), there are things I would change about it for the future. For example, I would provide some scenarios from the movie for them and have them proceed to apply the moral decision-making components in order to avoid a mere summary of movie events. I would also be more explicit with the directions about including connections to our own prayer lives, as that was the source of some confusion with the movie.

But overall, I think the kiddos did a nice job. Here's an excerpt from one student's essay:

"...When George Bailey jumped into the river to save Clarence, his object was jumping into the river...his intention was to save Clarence, and the circumstances were George Bailey was on the bridge at night with freezing water. Since saving Clarence was good in all three elements, the moral decision was good..."

Well, I think most of them got the gist of the assignment. 

...And they enjoyed this holiday classic - some even told me as they left class on Thursday afternoon that this was their new favorite Christmas film. (And I do believe they were telling the truth.)

George Bailey and his friends/family sure do have a lot to teach all of us about making decisions that reflect good morals on friendship, family, and human worth. By the end of the film, we learn that George really was the richest man in town, not by the standards of Mr. Potter but by the richness of his life blessed with those whose lives he touched.

This movie never gets old. In fact, I watched it three times this year (two of those times were with my two six grade classes and one was with my family), and I never got bored. Additionally, much like the sentiment stated below, I cried every time.

I do hope you (and your loved ones) had the chance (or will soon take the chance) to watch this movie over the holiday season. May this Christmas and New Years be a blessed one for you!

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