Ask students to gather in small groups of 2-3 and come up with a definition/explanation for what values are. Alternatively, you can complete this activity as a class. To spark conversation, provide them with the following scenario:
Misha is in the library with her friends and they are talking loudly about the movie they watched together last night. Mr. Jones, the librarian, already came over and asked them to quiet down because other students were trying to work and they were being distracting, but Misha’s friends continued to be boisterous and started making jokes about how strict Mr. Jones was.
Although Misha really wanted to feel included in her group of friends and it would have been easier for her to go along with the conversation, Misha decided to respect the needs of other students and listen to Mr. Jones’ request: She left her group of friends and found a quiet corner where she could read a book that she had been excited about starting. One of Misha’s values is respect, which involves thinking and acting in a way that shows others you care about their feelings and their well-being.
In this scenario, Misha makes the difficult decision to live by her value of respect even though it might have been easier to continue being disrespectful.
In your own words, and based on this example, what is a value?
Once the group has agreed on a simple definition, ask students to brainstorm examples of different values (ex. kindness, empathy, respect) and to think about a scenario (real or imagined) where their actions might be influenced by their values. Encourage students to discuss:
- What might get in the way of living into your values (i.e. walking the talk)?
- Are there certain values that are more important or better than others? Why or why not?
- What influences the values that you have (ex. family, environment, opportunities, previous experience, etc.)?
- Can your values change over time? If so, what makes them change? If not, why not?
As a class, take a couple of moments to share the definition of values that groups came up with and identify any common themes, similarities, or differences that come up. Ask students to explain how or why they decided on their specific explanation. Use this opportunity to emphasize ideas that align with the commonly accepted definition of values, correct beliefs that are inaccurate, and highlight any gaps.
To conclude, create a definition of values that the whole class agrees upon (and which aligns with the commonly accepted definition of values). This definition will be the foundation for the next activity.