How to Teach Character in Your Classroom

Character TeacherSchools that focus their efforts on Character Building produce students that are more productive and more confident than schools that don’t.

But how do you incorporate the teaching of Character in the classroom without getting too preachy?  Well here are some ideas that I’ve seen work in schools around the Southern California area

  1. A Character Trait Each Month – Each month the principal (or whoever does the announcements) announces that “this month we are focusing on ________”  Enter the character trait that you feel is most important. It can be respect, fairness, trust, etc… Then, follow it up with a little story about a person that got some kind of positive result from using that character trait.  For example: “This month we’re focusing on kindness. Here’s a little story for ya. Little Joey came home one day to find his grandmother sitting on his favorite chair in the living room. He said to her, ‘grandma, what’s going on. Why are you sitting in my chair?‘ Well, the grandma looked at little Joey and said ‘I just haven’t been feeling well, and I’m staying with you for a couple of weeks’. She couldn’t walk and was so weak that she could hardly talk. Well, at first Joey was upset, but then he decided that his grandma was there for a reason. And that it was his job to help her get better. So every day, when Joey got home from school, he helped his grandma with her food. He fixed her soup and helped her exercise. Pretty soon, before you know it, little Joey’s grandma WAS feeling better. She was walking better. She was talking better. After a while Joey’s grandma was fit as a fiddle and was able to go back to her own house and live on her own. Joey’s grandma never forgot how Joey had treated her. Even though she was in HIS house, he treated her with respect and helped her get better and live on her own. Years later, right before Joey’s grandma died, she wrote a letter thanking him for his kindness. Joey’s parents had the letter framed. It now sits above the mantle telling everybody how kind Joey was. Every person that walks in that living room knows that Joey is a kind person that can be trusted. Joey is one of my heroes. How about you?”
  2. Recognize Character Traits in the Media – When reading books or doing social studies, be proactive in recognizing different traits in the characters.  For example, all the explorers in American History showed “Tenacity”.  Through thick and thin.  While losing friends and supplies and families members, they trudged on until they finally reached their destination.  Now that’s TENACITY! (By the way, there a great story about Pharrell Williams on my next post.  It shows Tenacity and Perseverance.  Click here to see it.  You’re welcome to share it with your students)
  3. Make a New Years Resolution Tied in with Character – Have every student write down their New Year’s Resolutions.  Make sure they list or tie it to a Character Trait.  Have them read it out loud (if they want.  No reason to embarrass any student).  This will help in presenting new character traits and get them thinking clearly about them in the new year.
  4. Have Discussion Groups – Here’s a chance to talk about what really happens in a students life.  Every week (or when you have time), sit your students down and have them give you real examples of real experiences that they have gone through and seen or shown character.  Getting the first student to talk is almost always difficult.  So you can tell your own story, tie it into character, and get the conversation started.  You can even list them on the board to show what great students you have.  Ex: Bobby showed Cooperation by helping his mother bring in the groceries.  Kids love to see their names in a positive light on the board.
  5. Caught with Character – Let’s reward the students that show character.  Create a small prize.  It can be a little ribbon, or even a little slip of paper that says “Caught With Character”.  Each time a student is “Caught” showing good character, they get a reward.  If you use slips of paper, they might be able to trade them in at the end of the month for a bigger prize.  Ex: Five “Caught with Character” slips buys you a small stuffed animal.  Cheap prizes can be gotten at Oriental Trading.

There ya go.  Five easy ways to introduce character in the classroom.  And they won’t even take up very much time.

Don’t underestimate the power of these exercises.  Students with good character score better and make teaching easier.  Over time this will make a difference.

I welcome your comments.

Dedicated to adding character to the classroom (and outside the classroom)
John Abrams –
Southern California’s Top Elementary School Assembly Performer


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