Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Manners, Please

Hello! It's Barbara from The Corner on Character with today's question: Ever wish that kids came to your classroom complete with proper etiquette and manners already in place?  Since sometimes they don't (am I being too generous?), it's up to us to help set the proverbial table. We undoubtedly get the time spent front-loading with manners training back as the year goes on. 
Here are my favorite go-to manners books for our littlest learners:
Manners at School, just one of the books in a series by Carrie Finn that targets manners, uses eye-popping illustrations to drive home the point that manners at school will make things nicer for everyone. It's quite direct in its approach; you'll read a sentence that gives an example, followed by a sentence that reinforces the central theme: Using good manners. Encourage students to fill in that phrase each time it's used by pausing just a bit and letting them say it with you. Then have them echo you more more reinforcement.

Manners Are Important To You And Me by Todd Snow uses sing-songy poems and expressive illustrations to relay how basic etiquette like chewing with your mouth closed, not whispering to someone when other people are around, and using your indoor voice can "make life better." Have a ball with this one by letting your budding poets guess which rhyming word comes next! Pause on each page to let them talk about a time that this scenario happened to them or let them be actors and role-play the situations and suggestions.

Please Say Please by Margery Cuyler takes the approach that "learning good manners can be fun!" After every example taken from Penguin's world, the author asks her reader - "Is that right?" - and gives him or her the chance to pause for discussion before turning the page to find out. This gem is also filled with onomatopoeia that would lend itself to putting together a little orchestra (hint, hint!) to makes those words come alive and infuse music and movement.  Oooo, I can see the parade now.

Tony Baloney by Pam Muñoz Ryan, the newcomer of the bunch, made my list because the author uses a stuffed animal (Dandelion) that forgets his manners, behaves badly and gets Tony in trouble. My favorite part is when Tony tells Dandelion that they "have to apologize . . . nicely" and Dandelion responds, "I am not feeling nicely in my heart," making it the perfect tale for helping students practice making a sincere apology. This would also make for an authentic real v. pretend conversation!

Emily's Everyday Manners by Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning tells the story of Emily and Ethan and how they work together to spread kindness in their world by using good manners and helping others. This jewel does an excellent job letting kids know that "Good manners take practice." It also does a marvelous job of conveying the magical nature of manners. Oh, and letting your little chefs host a tea party would be the PerFecT follow-up to this one.

My final pick, Please Is A Good Word To Say by Barbara Joosse, is actually the first of these that I bought because I was familiar with and fond of two of Barbara's other titles. Manners waltz through the pages of this engaging read aloud that talks about not only good words, but also trouble words. A word of caution: It does use the word "butt" when addressing the subject of "gross sounds" for which you may want to substitute bottom or behind. The last page - with a simple "OK. Now it's your turn to sing," just begged me to write a little manners ditty of my own. Try playing London Bridge Is Falling Down - go on, make the tower and let kids parade under - using this song I wrote to that tune that goes like this:

M-A-N-N-E-R-S, E-R-S, E-R-S
M-A-N-N-E-R-S, Use polite words.

M-A-N-N-E-R-S, E-R-S, E-R-S
M-A-N-N-E-R-S, Pay attention.

For your older learners, who don't need as much repetition, consider something like this:

M-A-N-N-E-R-S, E-R-S, E-R-S
When someone does something nice, we say thank you!
M-A-N-N-E-R-S, E-R-S, E-R-S
If you have to burp or sneeze, say excuse me.

Next few rounds, let students substitute the manner in italics (ie. push your chair in, use a tissue) as your songsters march under the bridge; rotate who makes the bridge with the kid who got caught when the song ended and the arms came down.

Click here to see the weekly word (from our Six Pillar framework) and manner (adapted from Ron Clark's Essential 55) that we focus on to enrich the character-education philosophy at our school. And visit me at The Corner today for more character titles for your collection.


  1. I love the idea of getting the little ones to think of other creative ways of show manners, through song. I used this method when my three were little, using song to help them memorize our home phone number and address if they got lost. I shared this post on the CCK FB page.

  2. I always loved using manners books both as a teacher and with my own kids. Great books and fun song, Barbara! And I love the idea of the weekly word and manner. I pinned your post to my Character Education board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/character-education/


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