Character Education in Five Easy Steps

"Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success." - John Hays Hammond

When I was preparing to become a teacher I envisioned my classroom of the future to be a caring learning community built from consideration and respect. One which applauded responsibility and perseverance; where friendships grew through cooperation and sharing. Unfortunately, I found the reality to not always be so picture perfect. Oh I had some amazing kids who were hard working, kind, and generous, but I also had children who seemed unfamiliar with words like respect and honesty. It never occurred to me at the time to intentionally teach these things. After all, they weren’t in our curriculum, so I only addressed character traits as situations warranted.

Character education helps teach your students to make better decisions and implementing those traits creates a more cohesive and productive learning environment.

Fast forward a couple of years. Behavior problems in school seemed to be on the rise maybe because more and more kids were going to before and after school programs which meant less time with families…less time to teach those important traits that would build the foundation for how they would choose to treat others and what effort they would put forth in school. It became obvious that we as a school family had to do something. Our counselor put together a set of traits that the entire school would work to develop. There was a specific trait we were all to focus on each week and one child from our class was to be recognized for demonstrating that trait. It was a great start but without any character building resources, planning lessons became a time consuming chore and as time went on, it was the thing first eliminated from the lesson plan when teachers ran short on time.

I saw a definite improvement in attitudes, behavior, and relationships in my classroom when I took the time to plan character lessons and I truly believed these things were important for my kids to learn as they had the potential to have a lifelong impact. That is when I decided to create a resource for myself to make character building lessons meaningful yet save me hours and energy I did not have time to spare.

I wanted to make this a part of every day but needed to fit it into an already full schedule and find a way to make it engaging as opposed to the kids feeling they were getting a daily lecture. My plan has worked great in early elementary and could easily be tweaked for upper elementary as well.

Depending on your district schedule and when you begin, choosing ten to twelve traits and repeating them once after you’ve been through all the first time will work well to fill your plan for the school year.

Here’s a glimpse of my weekly character education plans:

Monday – Introduce the Character Trait Responsibility by reading the picture book “The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Chores”. Briefly discuss the story and the word responsibility.

Tuesday - Pose a question or give a scenario that focuses on that trait during Community Circle for further discussion and help them make a personal connection. Plan one or two questions to use depending on time allowed and responses.

Does it matter if people think you are responsible? Why or Why not?
How can acting irresponsibly hurt a friendship?

Wednesday - Have students participate in an activity related to the trait to help them understand the value of the trait:

Personal responsibility means choosing to do the right thing without being told.
Have students create personal lists of things they can do such as: making sure their “completed” homework is in their backpack before they go to bed, being ready for school on time, making sure their pencils are sharpened before class starts, doing their classroom job without being reminded, etc. Have students place a check mark beside each thing on their list each time they do it over a week. Then ask students to journal about how well they did and set new responsibility goals for the following week.

Thursday - Have students write about how they can demonstrate the trait to show they can apply what they’ve learned.

Friday - Present an award to a student that has exhibited the trait during the week.

I promise it will be well worth your efforts when you see how character education helps teach your students to make better decisions and implementing those traits creates a more cohesive and productive learning environment.

Try out my responsibilities set for free or find my entire character education resource here.

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