Values Clarification

Children are no different from other people. They’re just shorter. Inger Stevens.

Through exploring their beliefs and attitudes, values clarification helps children discover and strengthen what is important to them. This is an excellent technique for (a) expanding children’s awareness of life beyond their classroom and home; (b) helping children come to grips with where their values are, in relation to their parents’, siblings’, peers’, and teachers’; and (c) encouraging children to stand up for, and be proud of what they feel is right, even though others may not agree. Although values clarification’s merit increases as children get older, I believe independent thinking is a healthy living quality we should foster in all school-aged children.

Values Clarification is based on seven components of valuing proposed by Raths, Harmin, and Simon (1966):

Prizing one’s beliefs and behaviors

–prizing and cherishing

–publicly affirming, when appropriate

Choosing one’s beliefs and behaviors

–choosing from alternatives

–choosing after consideration of consequences

–choosing freely

Acting on one’s beliefs


–acting with a pattern, consistency and repetition.

The goal in values clarification is to help students use these processes in finding out about themselves; what beliefs and behaviors they value. Ways of achieving this are helping students (a) find alternate ways of thinking and acting; (b) weigh the pros and cons, and consequences of their options; (c) evaluate whether their actions equal their beliefs, and, if they don’t, how students can bring them closer together; and (d) make up their own minds.

How do you go about doing this? I recommend reading Values Clarification by S. Simon, L. Howe, and H. Kirschenbaum (1968). It is an excellent book, full of good ideas on how teachers can encourage their students’ free thinking. Most of the strategies are intended for older children and adolescents, but in some cases they have primary grade versions as well. Teacher participation is encouraged, although the authors suggest you express your views last, and stay away from moralizing or imposing your feelings on students.

The following exercises are taken from this book, and reprinted by permission of Hart Publishing Company.

1. Values Voting


Voting provides a simple and rapid means by which every student in the class can make a public affirmation on a variety of values issues. It develops the realization that others often see issues quite differently than we ourselves do.


The teacher reads aloud one by one questions which begin with the words, “How many of you…?” For example, “How many of you think your parents are too strict?” or, “How many of you have a best friend?” After each question is read the students take a position by a show of hands. Those who wish to answer in the affirmative raise their hands. Those who choose to answer negatively point their thumbs down. Those who are undecided fold their arms. And those who want to pass simply take no action at all. Discussion is tabled until after the teacher has completed the entire list.

This strategy can be useful in helping children better accept and understand people different from them. Questions like, “How many of you have a friend who is handicapped?” or, “How many of you know someone whose skin color is different from yours?” broadens children’s views of people, as well as breaks down their stereotypes, clarifies their misperceptions, and quiets their fears. You may also want to let children think up their own themes and questions.

2. Proud Whip


It helps students become more aware of the degree to which they are proud of their beliefs and actions, which encourages them to do more things they can take pride in. Students also hear new alternatives from their classmates’ lives.


The teacher asks students to consider what they have to be proud of in relation to some specific area or issue. A sample question is, “What is something you are proud of that you can do on your own?” or, “What are you proud of that your father or mother did?” The teacher whips around the room calling upon students in order. Students respond with the words, “I’m proud of…” or, “I’m proud that…” Any student may pass if he chooses.

3. Sensitivity Modules


This strategy tries to bridge the gap between the world of the classroom and the world students see on television and experience in their own lives. It provides a brief unit of experience, enabling students to become more sensitive to issues and people in the world around them. Such real experiences give substance to their developing values.


The teacher or class thinks up one or more experiences that would help students better understand a subject they are studying. For instance, one teacher, when her class was reading Helen Keller’s Story of My Life, had her students walk around school and in their homes blindfolded for a day, so they might become more sensitive to Helen Keller’s way of experiencing the world. Other ideas are having children write with their wrong hand for a day, visit an old-age home or special school, or attend a Sunday school class. At the end children discuss their experiences with the class.