Welcome to the World of Character Education

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tacky the Penguin By: Helen lester

Tacky the Penguin is a wonderful story about embracing ours and everybody else's differences. 

Grades K-4
Theme: Bullying and accepting others' differences

Tacky, the penguin, lived with five other penguins. But Tacky was not your ordinary, proper penguin. he was odd and did everything different. One day, several hunters came to hurt Tacky and his friends. All the penguins, but Tacky, hid. Tacky confused the hunters with his different behavior. Finally the hunters ran away. Even though Tacky was different, the others were glad to have him around.

  • Students will preview the cover and back cover of the story. Have them make a list about the differences they see between Tacky and the other penguins.
  • Discuss character traits and why we may like some characters we come across while reading.
  • Character Award
    • Students will create a character award ribbon. The components for this will be:
      • Illustration of the character
      • Character traits this character possesses
      • What did the character do to deserve this award

Lesson Plan Ideas
Lesson Plan Ideas about Penguins 

Use with any of these books! Very cool graphic organizer

Use This for any of the books you've read with your students or any book students have read independently.
Components are:
  • title
  • author
  • stars of the book
  • setting
  • illustration of favorite scene
  • favorite part of the story
  • This book deserved the first place trophy award

Amos and Boris By: William Steig

Amos and Boris by William Steig is a heartfelt story about two unlikely friends who help in their most dire situations.

Theme: Friendship

Grades: K-3


Amos, an adventurous mouse, had always wanted to travel the ocean. On day, he decided to build his own ship and explore the ocean. However, he found himself in the middle of a terrible storm and was thrown from his boat. He thought he was a goner when all of a sudden a whale appeared curious to find such a creature in the ocean. Amos and Boris (the whale) became fast friends. As Boris was taking Amos back home, they talked about their lives and what life was like on land and in the water. When they had finally arrived to take Amos home, they were sad to realize they might not ever see each other again. However, when they were no longer younger creatures, Boris was traveling and a hurricane had hit where he was traveling. He was beached on land nearby, the same place that Amos had happened to make his home. It was finally his turn to help his friend who had saved his life. He immediately went to find two elephants to help him and as soon as the whale had been beached, he was back in the water. Both realized they would never forget one another.


Yes, this book is a wonderful tale about friendship, but this would be a great time to compare and contrast mammals that live on land and mammals that live in water.

Discuss important vocabulary that some students may struggle with such as: breakers, sextant, mackerel, grandeur, plankton. Discuss these vocabulary words and have students use the Frayer Model.

I have modified this in the past and have added the box mnemonic device/illustration to help students remember the nature of the word. I have also added a box that requires students to write a complete sentence using the word.


Character Cards: Have students create character cards (kind of like baseball cards) about Boris and Amos. This can also be used as a research project as well. On this card will be the following criteria:
  • Name, species 
  • Home/habitat 
  • Description of the character: physical features, charmcteristics 
  • Role in the story 
  • Supreme behavior: what did these characters do that demonstrated what we learn in character education. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comparing and Contrasting Classic Picture Books VS. Postmodern Picture Books

Here's an idea! It's an interesting concept to allow your students to explore literature throughout the threads of time. Have a variety of books about friendship and bullying, both classic (Frog and Toad are Friends, Corduroy, Swimmy) and postmodern books (nonlinear narrative form story books- see Literature and the Child). Have students vote upon several they would like to read as a class. Before they vote, give them time during your SSR or DEAR time to preview these books (look at the cover, illustrations, author, etc). Once students vote, read each of these books and discuss their similarities  and differences about characters, settings, plots (whether a similar problem/solution arises). You'd be surprised at what you'll find!

Complete a Venn Diagram (as a class) and have students write a compare and contrast essay that depicts the similarities and differences between the characters, their problems and how the solutions to those problems.

The Other Side By: Jacqueline Woodson

Theme: Friendship
Grades 2-6
The Other Side written by: Jacqueline Woodson is a powerful story about children, and how some differences make friendships grow stronger, rather than tear them apart.

John Newberry Honor Book 2006 
Mitten Award Finalist 2005 
SIBA Book Award Nominee 2006 
Civil Rights for Kids 
Summary and Review:
The Other Side takes place in a small rural town, where Clover, the African American girl lives next to a fence that segregates her town from the white population. Clover is curious about the fence after her mother told her never to cross it, as there was danger on the other side. However one day Clover notices a girl on the other side. For the length of the summer, all they do is stare at each-other on opposite sides of the fence. Finally the both find the courage to introduce themselves, and instead of breaking their parents' rules by climbing over the fence, they both settle for sitting on top of it. As Clover's friends see her sitting beside the white girl on the fence, they look at her strangely, however soon enough the fence becomes just a mere post in the ground and the friendship becomes the foundation for something beautiful.

1. Vocabulary
-Write the word segregation on the board. Ask you students if they have ever heard or seen this word. Discuss the idea of segregation and the role of race during the 1950's. Make a BKWL with your class determining everything they know about segregation, everything they want to know, and after reading, everything they've learned about the subject. Under the "B" Column provide students with important background about the Civil Rights Movement to further their thinking.


1. Reader's Response:
-Clover and Annie made friends very slowly. How do you make friends? What do you say? What do you do? How do you act? Do your friends look and act like you?
2. Story Quilt
-Students will make a story quilt with the elements: Main Characters, Setting, Plot and Theme. Review the story elements with the students and have them write a short paragraph (4-5 sentences) for each element. Students will then illustrate a picture depicting each element.
3. Walking in Someone Else's Shoes
-Students will write a journal taking on the perspective of one of the main characters. Students will write about what they see on the other side of the fence and their feelings about the other child.
-Students will also incorporate why we should not judge people by their appearance and what it means to be a friend.

Thank You Mr. Falker By: Patricia Polacco

Theme: Bullying and Friendship
Grades: 1-6
Thank You Mr. Falker written by Patricia Polacco is a touching story about a young girl who is bullied and a teacher that comes to her rescue.    

Websites to Prevent Bullying and Violence

Thank You Mr. Falker, written by Patricia Polacco,is the story of a young girl who struggled with reading throughout her educational career in elementary school. The setting of this story was during the 1950's, where the young girl, Tricia was forced to move from school to school after the death of her grandparents. Tricia really wants to learn to read, however she continues to struggle every school year after being passed on from class to class. Tricia cannot read the letters on a page and the torment keeps coming from her classmates. After awhile, she begins to believe the lies her classmates say about, she begins to believe that she's dumb. In the fifth grade she gets a new teacher named, Mr. Falker. He identifies her problem and works with her day after day to help her achieve her goal of reading as well as helping her deal with the ridicule of her classmates. Mr. Falker changed her life. He brought the joy of reading back in her life. 
Pre-Reading Activities:
  • Using their Reading Response Journals, have students respond to the questions:

    • "Was there something you really wanted to learn about or learn to do?
    • Was there anyone who you looked up to, who helped you with this?
    • Did anyone ever bully you because you couldn't do something
  • Have students write about what a friend is supposed to look like, how they're supposed to act, and what they do that makes them a good friend.

Post-Reading Activities:

-Students will make an Ant-Bullying pamphlet.
After reading, discuss with students some things they can do to prevent bullying in their classroom environment. Also discuss how students or children feel when they are being bullied.
-Anti-Bullying Boxes
Some students may not feel comfortable sharing with an adult that they are being bullied. The Ant-Bullying Box is a great way for students to report an incidence of bullying anonymously without any fear of having their name mentioned to another student.
-Letter To a Helping Hand
Have students write a letter to someone who may have helped them in the past with a friendship or bullying situation (students do not need to send these letters).

Multimodal Vocabulary Activities:
Students will create a Wordle using all of the words that describe how they feel when they or someone else is being bullied, as well as other words of phrases from the book Thank You Mr. Falker.
-True Life: Dealing With Bullies
Students will create short video diaries that describe how they feel about bullying. Students can also role play and take on the identities of bullies and the bullied. Afterwards, they can debrief on camera and discuss ways to prevent this from happening.

Rainbow Fish By: Marcus Pfister

Theme: Rainbow Fish is a wonderful story about Friendship.
Grades: K-2

Rainbow Fish is a wonderful, award winning, children's book series, as well as a television show after the books became such a hit. 


In the original book, Rainbow Fish, Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in the deep blue sea. However, just because you're because you may be beautiful on the outside, does not mean you have a beautiful spirit on the inside. Rainbow Fish's scales were so beautiful, sparkling with colors of purple, green, and blue, that everybody wanted at least one. All of the other fish would ask Rainbow Fish to come and play with them, but Rainbow Fish wouldn't even acknowledge they were there. Even though Rainbow Fish was beautiful, he he was unhappy because he had no friends. One day, one of the fish he swam by everyday asked for one of his beautiful, shining scales. Rainbow Fish's scales were the most important thing in the world to him. So he refused and the other fish ignored him every time he swam past. One day, he received some very good advice from a wise Octopus and he finally decided that the friendship of the other fish were of greater value then his beauty. He gave each fish one of his shining scales. 

Pre-Reading Activities:

  • Discuss Friendship with your students. Create a Friendship web as a class. Discuss what makes a good friend and what your students look for in a friend.
Post Reading:

  • Use the template shown below and have students (Grade 1) write what they think a friend is. Provide them with the sentence starter: "A friend is..." 
  • After reading, brainstorm what a friend is and write students responses on chart paper.

Esmeralda and the Children Next Door by: Jenny Nimmo and Paul Howard

Theme: Friendship and Differences
Grades: K-2
Esmeralda and the Children Next Door By: Jenny Nimmo and Paul Howard is a wonderful story about friendship, and how friends can come in all shapes and sizes.

Summary and Review:
Ever heard the phrase, Never judge a book by it's cover? Esmeralda wished the children next door had. When Esmeralda was a young girl who was different from the day of her birth. She was a larger child with two parents who were members of a traveling circus. They wanted her to be a big and strong circus performer, whereas the only thing she wanted was to be friends with the children next door. The only problem was, these children were afraid of her because of her size. These children were mean to her, constantly telling her she can't do this or that, especially play with them or hold their baby sister. One day there was a giant wind storm and a branch was very close to falling on their baby sister. Esmeralda ran to her rescue! The children realized she wasn't scary at all. Esmeralda became ill and the all the children wanted to do was play with her. The children visited her everyday, until one day she finally awoke. The children were so excited to see her, Esmeralda went back to working in the circus, but not as a strong girl, as a trapeze artist. And during the fall, Esmeralda and the children played together everyday. They became the best of friends. This is a wonderful story about how different people make the best of friends. 
Pre-Reading Activities:
1. Reader Response Journal 
Students can respond in their journals or through class discussion to the following questions:
-Have you ever turned a friend away because of their appearance?appearance -Have you ever tried to be friends with someone who wasn't very nice to you?
-Make a prediction based on what you think the story will be about.
2. Quality Character Traits
-Students will brainstorm a list of character traits they look for in a friend. The teacher will write these words on chart paper. The teacher and students will discuss the meaning of these words before, during and after reading.
3. Pre and Post Reading: Compare and Contrast Your Thinking
-Students will draw a picture of their ideal friend. Then, after reading the story, ask them how their picture has changed. Ask them to draw another picture that reflects their thinking after reading.

Post-Reading Activities
4. Quality Character Traits Continued
- Using the chart the teacher and the students had made before reading, students will make a story cube with each character trait. Each side of the cube will include:
a. Trait
b. The definition of the trait
c. Illustration depicting the trait
d. A sentence that describes the trait