Caring Citizenship
Fairness Respect
Responsibility Trustworthiness

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Responsible students ....
  • do what they're supposed to do.
  • persevere and keep on trying!
  • always do their best.
  • use self-control and are self-disciplined.
  • think before they act and consider the consequences.
  • are accountable for their choices. 
What's Responsibility?
Responsibility is all about choices and chores, being accountable, and pursuing excellence in everything we do. Try this echo ditty with your little learners. You say a line, then they repeat. Or, if you're brave, you can sing it with them to the tune of Where Is Thumbkin?
What's Responsibility?
Staying in control of me!
Doin' my chores faithfully,
Making choices carefully.
Thinkin' 'bout the stakeholders.
Thinkin' 'bout the consequences.
You can count on me -
Making An Allowance For Chores

Chores are a wonderful way to build and develop responsibility.
At your next family meeting, why not discuss chores and responsibilities at home. Bounce ideas off of each other. Have your child develop a list of chores that he or she should be responsible for doing. This is also a great opportunity to talk about allowance.

Here are some points to ponder:

*What chores is your child willing to do?
*How will your child keep track of chores?
*How often should chores be done?
*What are some rewards for doing the chores?
*What are some consequences for not completing them?
*Should your child get an allowance? If so, how often and how much?

Helping with chores around the house should not be optional. Everyone in the household should be able to contribute in some sort of responsible way. The allowance decision, however, is unique family by family. What is certain is that it's never too early to lay a foundation for successful money management. Talk with your child about spending and saving in healthy proportions. This discussion can lead into a productive talk about charitable giving as well.


You will need a CHORE Bingo boardpdf for each student.

At least 25 Bingo "chips" per student

For a fun twist to an old favorite, why not try CHORE Bingo? Brainstorm with your class a list of at least 30 chores, tasks, or responsibilities that they have at school, at home, and in their community. If they get stuck, help them realize that "doing my homework," "going to my Scout meeting," or "soccer practice" are all responsibilities. Once the list is complete, have students draw a 5 X 5 grid on a piece of paper, making 25 spaces so that it looks like a BINGO card (or download the CHORE board). Have them write CHORE across the top; this will serve as their BINGO card. They will put a FREE space in the middle square, then randomly fill in the squares on their CHORE board with responsibilities from the list.

As they complete their boards, the teacher will copy the list onto a piece of paper and cut the tasks into strips that will be put into a pile and randomly drawn out during the CHORE Bingo game. Students will each need at least 25 "chips" that they'll use to cover the tasks as they hear a match; dried beans, kernels of corn, pennies, or squares of construction paper work well. Once students have their chips and have completed their boards, you're ready to play.

The teacher or a student leader can select a strip of paper with a task on it and read it aloud. If students have this task on their CHORE Bingo board, they will cover it up. Continue to draw tasks from the pile until a student gets five in a row or four corners and the middle. The student who achieves this goal first says, "CHORE" and has won the game. You can also play rounds asking students to cover their tasks in fun shapes like a T, a Y, a Z, etc. or play "Black Out" where players have to cover all 25 squares to win. Once you've played a few rounds, talk with students about what happens in the game when they cover (or complete) their chores and how that relates to their real life responsibilities.

NOTE: For a variation for younger kids, why not try JOB Bingo? Have students make a 3X3 grid and fill it with nine chores (or eight and a free homework pass!).

Responsibility Reflections

Every morning, students and faculty at Westwood pledge to "give my best effort in all I do." But what does that mean exactly? What does "give my best effort" look like? What does it feel like?            
A simple way to find out is to ask your child at the end of every day to give you two or three examples about how they gave their best effort. Inquire about how it felt and prompt them to reflect upon their positive choices and the positive consequences that may have resulted. In the classroom, these reflections could be done a writing center with fill-in-the-blank half sheets that look something like this:
Today I gave my best effort when I ________________________. It felt _______________ because ________________________.

It's imperative that students understand the positive effects of giving their best effort. Want a visual to illustrate this abstract concept? Try giving each student a domino or rectangular block. As they stand it up on a table in front, have them tell you a time that they gave their best effort and how that felt. The next student can do the same, setting his or her block upright, leaving a little space between it and the one that's already there. After all of the blocks have been stood upright next to one another, tap on the first one to show them how one good deed can have a domino effect and set the stage for positive things to happen.
Here's a little song that encapsulates the Responsibility Pillar that you can sing to an old familiar tune, provided you can remember back to the days of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?

R E S - P O N - S I B L E
by Barbara Gruener
(Sung to the tune of MIC-KEY-MOUSE)

When I do things to the best
of my ability - I'm

R E S - P O N - S I B L E!

Think before I act and show

R E S - P O N - S I B L E!

Persevere, never quit,
always show responsibility.

Do what I'm supposed to do,
stay in control of me.

R E S - P O N - S I B L E! 

Shopping-Cart Virtue

According to a story in the book Hugs for Dad by John William Smith, a father asked his son after grocery shopping to return their cart to the retrieval area. Although it would have taken only a minute, the son protested.

"C'mon, Dad," he said, "there are carts all over the lot. None of those people returned theirs. No one expects them to."

Then Mom chimed in. "For heaven's sake, they pay people to collect the carts. Returning one more won't change the history of the world. Let's just go."

Dad was about to surrender when he saw an elderly couple walking together to return their cart. After a moment, he said to his son, "We're not responsible for what other people do, but we are responsible for what we do. There are two kinds of people: those who put their carts away and those who don't. We put our carts away because that's the kind of people we are."

This story isn't just about grocery carts. It's about doing the right thing in a world that seems to promote rationalizations and excuses that demean or trivialize simple acts of virtue. There are two kinds of people: those who find the strength to do what they ought to and those who find excuses not to.

People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world.

I'm not saying people who don't return their shopping carts are moral felons, but there is a lot to admire in people who have such a strong sense of decency and responsibility that they put principles above convenience.

NOTE: This commentary was written by Michael Josephson from the Josephson Institute of Ethics, home of the Six Pillar framework, who has a daily radio spot during which he shares his thoughts about character. If you'd like to receive these commentaries by email, visit to sign up.


When we talk to students about responsibility, we can't do so without mentioning STAKEHOLDERS. The initial discussion about what a "stakeholder" is might go something like this:

Counselor: Who knows what a "stakeholder" is?

Student: Someone who's holding a big juicy steak about to eat it?

Counselor: No, but that sounds really good right now. Perry's anyone?

We eventually come around to a different kind of steak - the stake in the ground that holds something up, like your tent. We talk about "stakeholders" as anyone who might have a stake in your choices, in the outcome of your decisions. So I ask the students this simple question, "Who will care?" Try these questions with your little stakeholders and see where the discussion goes.

*Who will care if you show up late for a baseball or soccer game?
*Who will care if you don't let your dog in at night?
*Who will care if you sneak out of the house after your curfew to drive around with friends?
*Who will care if you take a ride from a driver who has had a few alcoholic beverages?
*Who will care if you choose never to recycle anything?
*Who will care if you don't follow the speed limit or other traffic laws?
*Who will care if you don't do your homework?
*Who will care if you don't pick up after yourself at home? in the classroom?
*Who will care if you don't show up for a play date?
*Who will care if you promise to give a friend a ride to Skatenight and you forget and go without him/her?

This is a great activity for those long car rides between Saturday soccer, football, or baseball games. Why not turn off the radio or tv, think of some of your own, and give it a try! You may be surprised at how many stakeholders a person really has. 

Chore Chain

This activity can be done to illustrate the importance of everyone doing his/her chores to make a household, a club, or a classroom function well. Using strips of paper, children write down their most important chores. Examples might include setting the table, line leader, flossing their teeth, feeding the pets - something that is exclusively their job. If they say they have no chores, remind them that homework could be considered a chore. If they have two, they can write one on each side of the strip of paper. Have students share their chore(s) aloud as you staple their strip into a ring to attach to the next student's strip.

When they've all shared their important chore, you will have made a class "chore chain." You can reference a real chain and how strong a real chain is when every link is securely in place. Have them brainstorm things for which you might use a chain: a swing, to pull a broken down car, to pull rollercoaster cars up. Talk about how important a strong chain is. Then have them imagine what will happen if someone doesn't do their important job. Tear one of the strips in the middle to show what happens to the integrity of the chore chain when one link breaks because someone didn't do his/her chores. Now you have two shorter chains that you might still use for smaller jobs, maybe, until they imagine someone else forgets or chooses not to do their job. Another link comes out and weakens the chain further, and so on.

This visual can springboard a discussion about the consequences to themselves and their stakeholders if the chore chain breaks and help them understand the importance of taking responsibility for their jobs.

Behaving Outside The Box

The responsibility pillar states that responsible people use self control and are self-disciplined. But do "self control" and "self discipline" mean the same thing to children as they do to adults? In the illustrated picture book, The Big Box by Toni Morrison with Slade Morrison, we see that those concepts seem to be in conflict between the generations.

Simple Synopsis: This creative masterpiece serves as an excellent metaphor for freedom of self-expression, self-control, and individuality. Based on the adventures of three feisty-spirited children, this book details their youthful antics fueled by their unbridled freedom. Patty is a rebel in the classroom, Mickey upsets his neighborhood, and Liza frees the animals on the farm. Challenged by how to handle their energetic kids, the powers-that-be gather to figure it out. Instead of championing their innocence and celebrating their creativity, they diagnose the symptoms and treat the illness by forcing them to stay within the boxy confines of their orderly adult worlds. Oh, they mean well, but at what cost?

After reading the story aloud, prompt discussion with questions like these:

1. Did Patty do something wrong? What?
2. Did Mickey do something wrong? What?
3. Did Liza do something wrong? What
4. Who acted unfairly in this story?
5. The children got really cool stuff when their parents visited. Would you be willing to trade your freedom for those things? Why or why not?
6. Were the children acting responsibly before they were put in the Box? Do you suppose that time in the Box would improve their behavior? Why or why not?
7. Describe a time when you might have felt like Patty, Liza, or Mickey. What steps did you take to improve your situation?
8. Think about the Six Pillars of Character. Did the three children show good character?

You can use the following activity for follow-up and reinforcement:

1. Please Release Me!

Ask your students to choose one of the children: Mickey, Patty or Liza. They will be writing and delivering a short speech, campaigning for the release of their chosen child from his/her prison sentence. They can do it as a third-person narrative on their child's behalf or in the first-person as the child him/herself. Encourage your students to base their argument on the Six Pillars of Character. Allow students to use the following questions as a guide:

1. Why would your chosen character benefit from his/her release?
2. What has your chosen character done to deserve his/her release?
3. How will your chosen character behave differently following his/her release?
4. What has your chosen character learned from his/her time in The Big Box?
5. Where will your chosen character go following his/her release?

Just One

Check out this book to illustrate the power of one child's choice on its myriad of stakeholders. Young Katie's innocent smile ignites a far-reaching circle of warmth and selfless giving. With one simple act of kindness, she touches the hearts and lives of people she may never even meet. This masterfully-illustrated story inspires everyone to pass along One Smile wherever they go.

After reading it together, ask yourself and your child(ren) questions like, "how many stakeholders are involved in Katie's choice to smile at that stranger in the park that day?" and "what might have happened to the man had Katie chosen to look away or ignore him instead?" and "what might happen with the other stakeholders as a result of his actions if he doesn't get that One Smile to pass along?" This book really combines the responsibility pillar with the caring pillar and is rich in discussion possibilities.

Mrs. Gruener keeps a copy of One Smile by Cindy McKinley in her office if you would like to check it out.

Three Pebbles And A Song

The entertaining children's book, Three Pebbles and a Song, by Eileen Spinelli, serves as an excellent resource to teach the responsibility pillar.            

Under strict orders, an easily-distracted young mouse named Moses heads out into the world to help his family by gathering for the winter. Along the way, Moses gathers all right, but not the sort of things that his father, mother, or sister feel like they need. When they take inventory, everyone in his family has gathered something useful to help them weather the season. But what does Moses contribute? Your students will be pleasantly surprised by the ending of this little tale. Find out if they think Moses did his job. Ask them to support their opinion. Did it turn out okay that Moses' contribution was important after all? Why or why not? Have students share a time when they may not have followed instructions and done their responsibility perfectly. What was negative about that experience? Did anything positive come out of it? Why is it sometimes important to be flexible?

Ask students to write a paragraph changing the ending, supposing that Moses had done exactly as he was told. How would the winter have been different for Moses and his family?