Building Character in the Classroom

Over the last few months (and more really), our country has watched as hate-filled acts have taken wonderful people from their families and friends unnecessarily. There are really no words that help make these events understandable, and it leaves us feeling sad, frustrated, angry, and divided. As we look into the eyes of the children in our classrooms, we see potential for great things…generosity, kindness, understanding, respectfulness, and helping hands. This week, I have chosen “Gifts from the Heart” as the theme I’d like to celebrate with Thematic Thursday because at a time when it’s easy to feel angry, I think we should throw all of our energy into celebrating the positive things in life. My hope is that these teaching ideas, book suggestions, activities, and resources will support the importance of positive character, working as a community of learners, being inclusive to ALL members of our class, and putting a stop to bullying which has become so prevalent in our society.
thematic2bthursday-3175887If you have ideas that have worked well, I encourage you to add them in your comments, links to websites or products that work well, and your blog posts. To link up this week, simply use the image above at the top of your blog post, write about your ideas, and add your blog button below in the linky. I would love new posts, but if you  blogged not long ago on a topic related to this, that is fine too. Just add the image to the right somewhere in your post and link back to this post. Now…on with a few ideas from me…

One of the best way to work on character building is with literature. There are several authors that I will be highlighting today that offer a collection of books with a character building theme. The first is a favorite of mine (and she’s probably not new to the majority), Patricia Polacco. Patricia lived through bullying, and her experience which is shared within her books provides an opportunity for great talking points. Thank You, Mr. Falker shares what it was like for her struggling to read. Her classmates were unkind, and she suffered. The sequel to Thank You, Mr. Falker is Junkyard Wonders. It tells about her upper elementary experience and how her teacher built she and her classmates up with showing them how junk can be turned to a treasure. Through the love ans support of her classmates and teacher, she learned to be confident and strong. Finally, Bully is a must use mentor text for ALL upper elementary classrooms. It is perfect for internet safety and peer relationships. The units I have developed for these three books will be included in the resources at the bottom of this post if you are interested in exploring them.

Another author that has worked hard to build up a collection of community building and character building texts is Julia Cook. I was lucky enough to meet her not once, but twice. She visited our community as part of a school visit with my school and another locally. [This post] highlights her work. Her books address many mental health conditions, classroom struggles such as attention, tattling, and lying, as well as peer relationships.
original-787936-1-8526046The final author that I actually follow on Twitter is the author of the Howard B Wigglebottom books, Howard Binkow. These books are great for primary grades at the start of the year as you’re establishing classroom routines, but they can be used throughout the year too. In fact, here is a seasonal option about giving.

Community building activities are extremely important at the beginning of the year, but are also important all year long. To help you with activity ideas, I created a Pinterest board with the purpose to put resources and such all in one place. Here is the link to the board (and a preview).

From this board, there are a few activities and blog posts that I want to highlight. The first is [THIS POST] for the David books on Cara Carroll’s First Grade Parade. I especially love Cara’s anchor charts for peacemakers and peacebreakers. I can see wonderful discussions coming from generating these.


f184a1ffb545a6db59e6256d5fc5f926-1913767Another activity I loved is this Student Shout Outs box by Kindness Seeds. How wonderful it would be to have specific examples showcased all over the wall. I think it not only emphasizes acts of kindness, but celebrates the individual which gives a huge self esteem boost.

slide11-8875503Another way we can send positive messages to our students is by having a weekly motto. Choosing character building quotes or messages like this sample from one of the motivational posters sets I have in my store or some you may create on your own, posting them (or projecting them) for discussion and keeping them in a prominent location for reference throughout the week provides a reminder to carry it out in our actions. The guidance counselor at my previous school runs the Bucket Filler program, and I can see these working well together for that.

the2bgift2bof2bnothing2bcraftivity-5070771I have one more activity I’d like to share from my friend, Sarah at There’s No Place Like Second Grade (and now Third). She blogged about this wonderful project inspired by the book, The Giver. Well, I loved the idea, and I used it with my students shortly after. (and I wish I had samples to share!), but here is one from Sarah’s blog. It is linked to her post, so you can read more of how she used this with her students. The gist is that we each are unique and have special gifts that cost nothing, but add joy to the lives of others.

Technology can be very, very helpful in the classroom and at home, but it can also bring out some of our character flaws. One way to make technology a positive influence on character is with a site like Google Classroom or Today’s Meet where you can have a live discussion with students sharing comments (with a moderator reinforcing positive comments). Today’s Meet works well for those who like Twitter. Prior to your lesson, come up with key questions that are open ended and that lead to deep thinking. Pose these questions and allow time for students to ponder. If you want to tie in internet safety, grab the book, Bully and share it as a lead into the discussion of cyber bullying and internet safety.

Google forms offer teachers a window into the thinking of students too. Teachers can create surveys to gain perspective on their students feels and yet keep things anonymous if needed too.

Another tech tool I’ve used are response paddles. They are great for discussing any type of question, but they can also work well for character discussions too.

Have you seen The Kid President clips?  These are wonderful to use as a hook into lessons. Here’s one about how to change the world.  Love it!

Thanks so much for dropping in. I really hope that you find something in this post or that’s linked up that will…change your classroom and help just one child feel accepted and another pause and think about a better way.

Finally, I’m going to link up with Andrea at Reading Toward the Stars for her Book Talk Thursday too. If you love sharing books, take a moment to check out the selections she’s chosen for this month, and if you’d like to pin this post to come back to later, here’s an image to help you out.


Happy reading, friends, and just think…only a little more than a week til winter break!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Literacy Spark

    I didn't come across that Christmas book about giving when looking! The student shout outs are great…I used to do a compliment circle when teaching first and the kids love it and really learn how to focus on things other than just appearance. Thanks for hosting this linky!

    Literacy Spark

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