Are you looking for ways to build character in the classroom? Bringing character education into your classroom will give children a sense of community and teach them core values. It will help children identify and demonstrate positive ways of handling themselves and treating others. When a whole school focuses on character education, it brings an even larger community together. Wouldn’t it be great to get your whole town involved? State? Country? Continent? World? All we need to do is start somewhere!
I am happy to share ideas that WORK! For many years, I taught in a school that focused on character education. Diane Senn, the author of Bee Your Best: A School Full of Characters , was our school counselor. She would come in our classes and teach character education. I loved how she would have our whole school focused on one character trait a month. Students and teachers alike would walk around finding positive traits in each other. So fun! I’m always trying to find new ways to teach and tie things together, so I decided to pick character traits that would fit into a monthly theme. This is what I planned:
Tell students that you will all be CHARACTER ED DETECTIVES throughout the year, looking for good character traits in each other. Each month, focus on one good character trait. Children will brainstorm situations, point out what they see in others, and evaluate themselves. Have them write about someone or themselves and create a door decor to display each month. Students in the school as well as other teachers, parents, and admininstrators will love to walk by each month to see what GOOD CHARACTER your class discovered. Students will be so proud of themselves. They will beam from ear to ear if someone else points out one of their positive traits. Homeschool moms- you can do this too! Make a spot (like the fridge) where you display a written note about your children using each trait. You can have them write about it or you can write about them and even snap a picture of them using a particular trait!
Below you will find a monthly theme with each good character trait. Mix up how you look for them each month. Some months use “We” and work together as a whole class on one trait. Other months use “I” and let your students write about themselves. And still other months you can have students look for the character trait in others. There is a mentor text or two listed for each trait below, but now I have bigger mentor text lists HERE.
I should wear a crown for the day because…
For the first month of the school year, introduce all of the good character traits. Click on the picture below for a free list to use in your classroom! You can either have students write why they should wear a crown using one of the traits in their writing, or place a blank pineapple with each child’s name. Pick someone to be KING OR QUEEN for the day and write something about him/her. Or keep the display up all year and pick a KING OR QUEEN for the week. A pineapple theme is perfect for the beginning of the year! Start the year off with a positive, fun vibe! BE A PINEAPPLE! STAND TALL, WEAR A CROWN, AND BE SWEET ON THE INSIDE!
I am helpful like Johnny Appleseed!
September is Johnny Appleseed Month! Why not use Johnny to help teach the character trait helpful! Read Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg and discuss how he was KIND AND HELPFUL. They pretty much go hand in hand so why not discuss more than one trait! Then brainstorm ways to be helpful or what to look for when searching for helpful traits in others. Use apples to display student responses!
I am brave if you dare!
October is a spooky month, which is why bravery is the perfect character trait! Read the mentor text Brave Irene by William Steig. Then brainstorm ways children can be BRAVE/COURAGEOUS. Since they are synonyms, introduce courageous too and increase students’ character ed vocabulary! Look for these traits in others too! Many schools don’t allow teachers to put up Halloween decorations, but you can use pumpkins for the display!
I am thankful!
Thanksgiving is in November, so it is the ideal month to explore the character trait – thankful! Read the mentor text Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney. Start the discussion on the character traits THANKFUL/GRATEFUL. Emphasize that there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for-even tiny things! Help students think about abstract ideas. As a whole group, small group, or even partners, share ideas! Use a turkey feather to display students’ thoughts. Make a turkey and put the feathers around it. Cute, cute, cute!
I can be giving!
Christmas and other holidays are celebrated in December. It is the month of gifts so GIVING came to mind right away ! Start off by reading a mentor text: Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming or The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Decorate some cute little prezzies, use real bows, have students think of ways to be GIVING, and place them under a tree. Once again, think outside of the box. Don’t think of physical things. If your school doesn’t allow Christmas trees, that’s ok. Just display the prezzies for your Gift of Giving! Everyone likes a prezzie!
I will persevere in the new year!
What do you think of in the New Year? Resolutions! People make goals for the year. PERSEVERING is the perfect character trait to teach alongside New Year’s resolutions. Children will form a deeper meaning of their goals! Read a mentor text: A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams or The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper or Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan. Have students think of things they may want to improve and goals they want to reach before the end of the year. Use balloons to display their goals. Tell them to check back at their goals occasionally to assess their progress!
I am honest like Abe!
Abe Lincoln’s birthday is in February so we usually honor him during this time. Abe was known as being an honest president. This makes February an awesome month to introduce the character trait of HONESTY AND TRUTHFUL. Read a mentor text: The Empty Pot by Demi or Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport. Have a discussion on honesty and ways to be honest. You can decorate with an Honest Abe hat! Did you know he carried notes in his hat? Put an honesty note in a black hat!
I am so lucky!
Although lucky is not a charcter trait, it was too cute to pass up for March. I love St. Patrick’s Day and leprechauns! To go along with lucky and the theme, you can discuss the character traits OPTIMISTIC AND HUMBLE. Lucky things happen to positive people! or Lucky things happen to humble people. Read a mentor text: Move Your Mood by Maginiation Press. Use a four-leaf clover to display students’ responses! Display it with a pot of gold and rainbow.
I care about the Earth!
Earth Day is in April. What better way than to dicuss how to care about the Earth? Take the time to discuss pollution, waste, and how to recycle, reduce, and reuse! Read the mentor text: Thank You Earth, A Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre or I Can Save the Earth by Little Simon and explain to students that they are CARING by when they help the environment. Use a mini Earth to display how they plan to take care of the Earth! This is also an opportunity to work on an Earth Day project together and make sure to have recycling bin in your room!
I can bee loyal!
Bees come out in the spring and make for an adorable door decor! Of course you can use any character trait with bees. I chose to bee LOYAL because Memorial Day is also in May. You can have a discussion on loyalty to our country too. Read a mentor text: Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt. Students can brainstorm ways of being loyal to others or to the world around them. Decorate with bees! It makes an adorable bulletin board!
That completes a year of Character Education! I now have a lists of mentor text for different character traits HERE. I hope you found something useful for teaching character traits in the classroom or home. When it is time to switch out your bulletin board or door decor, send home the adorable testimonies of good character found in your student(s). Parents will love love love displaying their child’s GOOD CHARACTER notes at home!
If you would like all of the door decor prepped and ready for a year of Character Ed, click below for the bundle! It includes everything you need to complete the door decor all year. In each month, you will find cute crafts with a variety of writing templates, other bulletin board pieces for display, lists of ideas for each trait, signs and mini cards! Start building character today!