The development of a school-wide Touchstone, created cooperatively by students and faculty, is a powerful component to establishing an atmosphere of belonging and shared values that connect all of us in our desire to be positive, caring, learning citizens. This lesson provides a detailed guide to the process involved in creating a school touchstone, a statement of the high standard of speaking and acting that we strive to achieve.
- Students will be able to identify at least four key values that are essential to positive character at our school.
- Students will be able to describe how those values can be demonstrated by students on a daily basis.
- Students will be able to create sentences that will be used as the basis for the development of a school-wide Touchstone.
- Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
- Smooth river rocks
- Values list with student-friendly definitions
- Examples of Touchstones from other schools
- Prepared “Touchstone Soup” worksheets
- Introduce value of Citizenship. Briefly discuss student roles as citizen of the US, state, town, and school.
- Read Stone Soup. Ask students to think, as they listen, about connections between this story and citizenship. Discuss the connection. (Many people contributing something small to create something grand).
- Explain the concept of a Touchstone:
- “As citizens of our school, we are going to create something very important called a Touchstone. Originally, a touchstone was a dark, hard stone that was used to determine the value of other metals within rocks.” (Describe how rocks were rubbed against a touchstone to leave a streak and compared to a streak of the valuable metal to determine genuine quality).
- “Sometimes a touchstone can be something tangible, like a worry stone that helps people feel safe and grounded.” Show examples of smooth river rocks.
- “The word “touchstone” has come to have other meanings. Our touchstone will not be something that can be touched – it will be a touchstone of words. It will be like a pledge or promise that describes the high standard for speaking and acting that we will all try to achieve. We will try to live up to our Touchstone of words! It will also be something we can rely on to help us feel that we belong to our school community. It will make us feel safe and valued here!”
- Read an example of a Touchstone from another school.
“As in Stone Soup, we will all give our own ideas and contribute small pieces to develop a greater thing – we will be making Touchstone Soup. Unlike our school motto and mission that were written by adults, you will be writers of our Touchstone.”
Divide students into groups of 3-4 students. Distribute “Touchstone Soup” Worksheets and list of core values. Instruct each group to select 4 key values, the ones they feel are most important. Ask each group to compose 4 sentences that describe how that value is demonstrated at your school. Emphasize words, actions and beliefs rather than definitions.
- Share and discuss group-generated sentences.
Conclusion discussion: Explain the next stages in the Touchstone creation process.
“Your contributions today are part of the important process of developing a Touchstone for the entire school community. The next steps will be to pass your ideas to the fifth and sixth grades for their contributions toward the writing. We hope to complete this by the end of the school year. Thank you for your wonderful ideas, and for the important impact your work will have on life at our school!”
Extensions and Adaptations
- The fourth grade sentences will be passed on to members of the adult Character Education Committee who will work with fifth grade students to condense fourth grade’s work into six concise sentences.
- Fifth grade will pass the sentences along to sixth grade students and teachers who will work together to revise wording and structure of the sentences that will create the Touchstone.
- Students will recite the Touchstone weekly as part of our morning announcements.
- Students will create monthly videos depicting Touchstone principles.
- Students and faculty will recognize students whose actions exemplify the Touchstone with “Touchstone Touchdowns” or “Touchstone Triumphs”.
- A Touchstone Reflection form will be a part of every discipline referral.
- The Touchstone will be incorporated into classroom curriculum through poetry, journal prompts, artwork, shares, and morning meetings.
Related Links and Resources
Building an Intentional School Culture: Excellence in Academics and Character
by Charles Elbot and David Fulton
“Touchstone Soup” Worksheet
Keys to Success Letter