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Manners and Etiquette:
Teaching Essential Ingredients for Success


Whether they use a formal curriculum or simply take advantage of serendipitous opportunities, teachers are taking good manners off the back burner. Although modeling excellent etiquette always is important, these educators say that focusing on manners in the classroom is not an option -- it's a must. Included: Discover two different approaches to achieving the same goal -- better manners!

"What I do now is just a carryover from raising seven children," Delores Hawkins told Education World. "Since I attest to traditions and values that I feel are necessary to maintain an orderly and civilized society, it was always my goal to teach my children the proper way to act."

A retired elementary teacher from Maryland, it was Hawkins' role as mother to four girls and three boys that led her to a second career as an "etiquette guru!" Years ago, with aspirations of entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off, she created a cookie that was a great hit with her eldest daughter. It became her favorite, and Hawkins planned to name it for her.

"That created a small problem because we have seven children, and the other six wanted to know why she could have a special cookie when they did not," recalled Hawkins. To keep the peace, she created six additional cookies and the Cookie Bunch was born.


What followed was a group of dolls, each with hair color to match an essential ingredient in one cookie flavor -- orange for carrot, dark brown for chocolate chip, and more -- and then a coloring book, and a storybook entitled The Cookie Bunch and the Magic of Good Manners. While presenting her story to students in the early elementary grades, Hawkins was asked by a principal to develop an etiquette program that would help sixth graders prepare for middle school. For the last four years, sixth grade students at North Forestville (Maryland) Elementary have completed the program that resulted, "Steps to Success."

Back to School

What drove retired teacher Delores Hawkins to return to the classroom and to stay?

"This year marks the fourth year of my involvement with the students at North Forestville Elementary School," she said. "During this critical time when chaos and turmoil confront us on a daily basis, we cannot emphasize good manners and traditional values enough. Modern technology has propelled us into the 21st century, however, we still must prepare our children with the keys for successful living. We all need to be concerned about our children. If I can help someone to be a better person, it all will be worthwhile."

"The etiquette program is structured to enhance self-esteem and character with emphasis on socially acceptable behavior," explained Hawkins. "We define and explore the consequences of our actions. The importance of self-respect and respect for others is taught to give the confidence that is necessary for each student to become self-reliant as he or she enters middle school."

Of course, Hawkins also teaches the proper way to set the table and which utensils to use. The sixth graders who work with her do so in groups of six for eight-week sessions, and they have embraced the program whole-heartedly. At the end of each session, the students are served cake and punch and receive a certificate. At the end of the school year, the entire sixth grade attends an upscale luncheon to put into action the skills they learned.

"In today's society we always are in a hurry; looking for a shortcut for everything," Hawkins observed. "Sometimes that is evident in the way our children present themselves in public arenas, such as school, church, shopping, and other public places. A reinforcement of good social behavior at all age levels would be most beneficial."


When Jill Novy had the good fortune to be offered a free lunch and manners lesson for her second graders, she didn't hesitate to accept. Kevin Anolick, the father of twins in her class at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, was the owner of Ruffino Italian Cuisine, and he suggested that a mealtime visit would be the perfect opportunity to review good manners.

Approximately 50 students from the second-grade classes of Novy and Laura Revenew, and a few parent chaperones, loaded onto a bus one morning for a trip to the restaurant. When they arrived, the wait staff seated each child, and Anolick gave a brief lesson on manners.

"Kevin explained how gentlemen help ladies with their chairs, that customers put their napkins on their laps, what is an acceptable noise level, how each utensil is used, the correct way to pass a dish, and how to request something from the wait staff," recalled Novy. "After that, small groups of children were taken back into the kitchen to see how the chef works and how a kitchen runs. The kids were even shown how homemade pasta is made.

Lunch was served with a menu of bread, soup, spaghetti, and Italian ice. The wait staff treated the students with the respect afforded paying customers. At the end of the lunch, Anolick escorted the students to the bus, where he led them in a round of "On Top of Spaghetti." "He is a very fun guy!" Novy remarked.

"The students loved it!" she said. "Follow-up discussion in the classroom reiterated quite clearly the manners and behaviors that were learned and why. We talked about practicing them at home that night. We carried the learned manners and considerations into the cafeteria. Throughout the year, when class party situations arose, we all had a common background of knowledge from which to draw regarding polite behavior."


Novy feels that proper behavior in public, particularly in restaurants, is a key concept second graders need to master. "I am appalled daily by the inconsiderate behavior of children of all ages that is tolerated by the parents in restaurants," she explained. "Kids run around, climb in and out of chairs, and are noisy. It sometimes seems that parents don't realize that children are capable of much higher behavioral expectations."

Good communication is vital in making a restaurant visit such as this work well for all involved. Novy believes it is important to be sure that there will be ample wait staff for the students, to clearly explain the limitations of young children and patience, and to provide ample adult supervision to monitor and reinforce good behavior.

"Not only did Kevin make a very favorable impression on the students -- many parents commented that their child was using good manners more often at home -- but the way the parent volunteers who accompanied us on the trip were treated was exceptional," said Revenew. "One parent in particular said that she was so pleased that her child could not only use proper manners, but also understand the purpose for them. Overall, I think it made such an impact on the students that they carried those skills with them into the classroom. As teachers, we were able to remind them of appropriate voice levels, and relate that to a real-world situation they had experienced, as opposed to simply telling them that they were too loud."

To express their thanks, parents tipped the restaurant's staff, and notes about the activity were sent home with the students. Parents were encouraged to visit the restaurant with their families. Novy also wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in praise of their generous host.


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Mind Your Manners: New Books Help Out
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Writing Bug Student Work Sheet
Students respond in writing to the prompt: Imagine you live in a world where everybody has bad manners. Write an imaginary conversation between two people. At least one of those people should have awful manners.

Sharing Under the Sea
Children need to learn to share and express their feelings appropriately. This lesson fosters communication, builds social skills, and stresses the use of polite manners.

Classroom Problem Solver: The Rude Student
The basic mission of school is to teach the three R's. However, a fourth R merits teachers' attention as well: Respect. Just as students need to master reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, they also need to learn the importance of acting respectfully toward teachers and classmates.

Good Manners Everywhere
Designed for students in grades two and three, this lesson focuses on using good manners in e-mail communications, called "netiquette."

Be a Good Friend
Reinforce good manners with literature-based activities from Clifford the Big Red Dog!