Having a positive character is more important now than ever before. In fact, character development is probably the most important subject we as teachers have to teach. With so many demands on instructional time, it can be challenging to work in community building, problem solving, work on self esteem, and the many character traits that are included in a character development curriculum. Yet, for healthy living and socialization, we have to find the time for building character in the classroom . Our counselors are stretched thin, but there are ways that we can all work on these topics. In our reading lessons, we can try to get more from our teaching “buck” by building on these themes through literature and writing. Today, I want to share with you a few titles and ideas I’ve come across that you could include within your lessons.
Books that Build Character:
The Bad Seed by Jory John:
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
The book is about a poor young girl who is new to the class. She comes in with short sleeves and sandals in the middle of winter dirty, sad, and embarrassed. Kids whisper and no one welcomes her in. They treat her badly and then, one day she’s gone. They’re left with guilt.
In this unit, I use the book first for theme building. Teachers compare/contrast theme to main idea, analyze quotes from the story, discuss with guiding questions, and explore story vocabulary, etc. Then, students work on applying the theme to their own classroom with a Kindness in the Classroom lapbook which allows students to think about themselves, their classroom, their communities, and their families. Finally, there is a class book where students introduce themselves. The finished book could be given to new students to read and add to so that hopefully, no students would be treated like Anna.
The Day the Crayons Quit by: Drew Daywalt
Bully by Patricia Polacco
In this unit, I include before, during, and after activities you can use to work on schema building, vocabulary, cause/effect relationships, making comparisons between books and characters, and summarizing before moving on to persuasive writing about why bullying is wrong and how to overcome it.
Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
Additional Titles You Must Find:
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting has been around for a while, and it is a wonderful story of coming to America and what it’s like to being an ELL student. This book would lead to great discussion and an opportunity to discuss different cultures too.
Another great book is Enemy Pie. This book has also been featured in many blog posts and resources, and in fact, there are quite a few free and paid resource for it. The focus is on friendships and connections. Be sure to check it out!
The Name Jar is a fantastic book too, and my friend, Sandy over at Sweet Integrations has a wonderful lesson to go with it. You can check it out [HERE].
The last one I want to talk about is Nerdy Birdy It is a newer book, and it’s all about a bird that just doesn’t fit in with the other birds. [THIS POST] on my blog talks all about the book, and you can download a free lesson on Author’s Craft. Of course, any time you dig into a text, you have the opportunity to build on the theme and expand with writing.