5 Ways to Build Character in the Classroom

Building character in the classroom is part of building a positive school climate and part of building relationships. In this post, tips are shared to help teachers help students feel they are a valuable member of the team. Free resource included.
Cliques, bullying, and lying are just a few challenges teachers and parents work through with children. These problems can not only create drama in the classroom, but they can lead to longterms struggles for children. In fact, social interactions can make or break the school experience for kids. What can we do to make a difference? How can we turn things around when we see a need for social skills intervention? I am certainly not an expert in this field, but I believe we as classroom teachers and community leaders can support children with a few changes in our classroom routine.

TIP ONE: USE CLASS MEETINGS

Class meetings do not need to be long to be effective. In this post, ideas are shared for building character in the classroom. Check it out for more information and a FREE RESOURCE. #communitybuilding #socialskills #classroomcommunity
Class meetings do not need to be long to be effective. Many teachers post a morning message with a journal prompt for students to work on when they enter the classroom, and if it's been a crazy start to the day, this routine can be very calming. Once all have arrived, it's a great time to reflect on the goals for the day, the day's events, positive happenings at home, and to work on character. 

Have scheduling issues? Sometimes your morning meeting may need to be a mid-morning meeting or an after lunch meeting. That is no problem at all. In fact, you may find after lunch the best time since kids typically have playground issues to resolve. Regardless of the time, class meetings are a must. 

For information on using classroom meetings, check out [THIS POST] on Edutopia.

TIP TWO: BUILD A POSITIVE CLASSROOM COMMUNITY

Building a positive classroom community has been proven to help students in many, many ways. In this post, you'll read about what you can do to start the year off right and help your students feel important and valued. #communitybuilding #socialskills #classroomcommunity
The things we do at the beginning of the year set the tone for the rest of the year, so that's the best time to build community. And how do we do that you might ask? Is it important to include refreshers? The answer in my opinion is with fun. Students need to break through barriers and get to know their classmates. They need to recognize that every single member of the classroom has value, feelings, knowledge, and opinions. To feel safe to put yourself out there, you need to have trust in peers, and in order to have trust in a person, you have to know them.

What can we accomplish when we build learning communities? Are learning communities limited to just classrooms? The answer is no. We, as teachers, need learning communities that offer all of the same traits (safe, trusting, supportive, etc.) Even teachers need to feel valued. No matter where you work, teams can make a difference.

To work on community building, you might include fun activities throughout the year purely to help your children feel they are valued and part of the whole. Below are a few ideas you might try out:
With each of the activities I linked above, you can find a plethora of other ideas you may enjoy too. Each of the sites linked included a long list with directions, and rather than recreate the wheel, I figure you can check out the sites for more ideas.

TIP THREE: BUILD POSITIVE WORK RELATIONSHIPS

Relationships matter. (period) It is so important that kids feel connected, safe, and cared for. In this post, tips are shared to help you build character in the classroom #relationshipsmatter #motivation #characterintheclassroomFrom day one, we have an extremely important role as the classroom leader. We can make or break a kid with the things we say and do, and it's important to remember body language matters. If we've had a rough day, there is nothing wrong with sharing in general that we're having an off day and/or are not at our best, and if you are genuinely kind, caring, and invested in your kids, that's the main thing. 

Our last superintendent did have one great piece of advise, and that was "Keep the main thing the main thing." My interpretation of that is to get at the heart of teaching. Know your students. Value them. Respect them, and above all else, give each of them your very best every day. We are human, and there will be days when you forget to copy that one page you needed for your lesson or forget to return a phone call. Forgive yourself and move on. 

With relationships, we need to go beyond the four walls of our classroom too. We need to do our best to build positive relationships with our families and with our colleagues. Care about them and their lives, and try to show that care by reaching out to them. Positive relationships help students belong, and even the worst behaved child in your classroom, needs love and support. In fact, behavior is communicating. It is sharing what's going on inside. Without sharing the nitty gritty, I will say that behavior that seems out of control isn't in control. Brains are wired differently, and some of our students need more patience and support than others. There is NO one size fits all curriculum, and there is NO one size fits all behavior plan. Relationships matter.

TIP FOUR: MODEL, MODEL, MODEL

You are the classroom leader, and you have an audience listening. That's a huge responsibility, and in this post, you'll read how you can make this year the best year for every kid in your class. Free Resource included #teachersareleaders #communitybuilding #characterintheclassroom
As we think about what we want for and expect from our students, the highest priority for all teachers is happiness and safety, but as a close second, we want children to become lifelong learners following their passions whether it's engineering, nursing, cooking, or cleaning, we want kids to be passionate adults. In the classroom, the best way to draw these things out of our kids is to show our passion for learning. Show them that curiosity counts and that it can drive us toward discovering things about ourselves and the world we live in. 

In the classroom, we can model character through the read alouds we share, through sharing our personal stories, through listening as much as talking, and through our interactions with other staff and students. My principal whom I adore said, "Your audience is listening." Kids do not miss much, so as we make choices, we need to be mindful that little eyes and ears are watching and listening. 

TIP FIVE: USE CHARACTER BUILDING CURRICULUM

Literature is a teacher's most valuable asset in the classroom. A great book can spark conversation, provide examples for modeling, give comfort, calm a child, and so many other things. In this post, tips are shared for building a positive classroom community and climate Check it out for a free resource and ideas you can use day one.
I mentioned sharing read alouds with positive characters, and if you look to the left, here's a list of books you can use as starters. There are so many great books to choose from. You can also check the Pinterest board below for additional titles and book ideas. The key is to build upon character themes. You might choose a theme a week and use pictures books or choose build your character theme around a novel you're studying. Regardless of which you choose, having a variety of resources helps you extend the theme across the curriculum and across a period of time. Kids need multiple teaching methods to learn math and reading, and they need multiple teaching methods to build character too. 


Recently, one resource that I'm personally invested in is my Character Building Poetry Bundle. I wrote 32 different poems for the bundle on 32 different character themes such bullying, conflict resolution, perseverance, trust, empathy, integrity, honesty, patience, compassion, and procrastination. Each poem includes the following:

Building character in the classroom is part of building a positive school climate and part of building relationships. In this post, tips are shared to help teachers help students feel they are a valuable member of the team. Free resource included.
  • vocabulary cards that you can post on a word wall for long after you use the poem and use for instruction
  • a comprehension and word building page, a page for students to illustrate the meaning
  • a concept building organizer to work on the skill, 
  • a page for student to illustrate examples and mark text evidence,
  • and the poem on a blank page that you can project or include in a poetry anthology for reference all year long. 
Poetry binders can be used for fluency work too, and they're a great keepsake for the end of the year. Each of the poems can be tied with literature for more comprehensive work on the trait or as problems arise in the classroom. Several teachers have commented that they're looking forward to using the poems during their morning meetings, and I thought that was a fantastic idea. For a free sample, click [HERE].

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I think I'll end with one final thought. Our world is changing. We can not isolate ourselves and just take care of #1. We depend upon each other socially, emotionally, physically, and economically, and because of this, we must all be on the same team. Our students lives are just beginning, and the time we spend together in the classroom is a small fraction of their lives as a whole. However, if we as teachers dedicate ourselves to helping the whole child, then I believe our jobs will impact lives beyond just the curriculum that we teach. I hope these few ideas provide you with a little food for thought as you're lounging poolside or just relaxing instead of lesson planning.


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