Welcome to the World of Character Education

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sign of the Beaver by: Elizabeth George's Speare

Topic/Theme: Friendship
Grades 2-5

The Sign of the Beaver (Paperback)
This historical fiction book is about a boy who is left to watch his families alone alone in Maine during the eighteenth century. Matt is twelve years old and learns to survive in the wilderness thanks to a Native American boy named Attean. In return, Matt teaches Attean how to read. They learned to become friends inspite of the many differences their cultures have.

  • Discuss the differences of the Native American and American culture. What are some similarities and differences? Should you judge someone by their culture or beliefs?
  • Do you have a friend who is a polar opposite of you? How do you get along? What do you like about them?

  • Ask students to select passages from the book that signify the developing friendship of Matt and Attean.Have students write a journal entry  about the passages they recovered from the story.
  • Have students complete a  post-card from  Matt's point of view based on how he felt the day Attean left with his tribe.
  • Have students choose a scene from the novel they feel best represents friendship. Students can write a script and act it out. Students can also change the scene to make it a more present day version of their friendship.

I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting off a Little Self-Esteem by: Jamie Lee Curt

Topic: Dealing with one's emotions and self-esteem
Grade: Pre-K-2
I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Estee
Book review:
This piece of text is a feel-good piece for children. This book alternates different points of view between boys and girls. This book teaches children to like themselves and have a positive attitude.

  •  Journal Entry: What are some things you like about yourself? Is there anything you'd like to change? Why or why not?
  • Have students complete a chart before reading and after reading about what they like and how they feel about themselves. Have students compare and contrast after reading the story.

Post-Reading Activities

  • What makes me, me? Students will get ten post-it notes and list ten different character traits about themselves. Once students have finished listing these traits, tell them they must take one trait away. How does the removal of this trait affect you? Continue this process with three more words. Then, give students the opportunity to regain their traits. How do your feelings change?
  • Teaching empathy to students can be a difficult task. You can do this by introducing them to the needs of our elderly by contacting a nursing home. Students can create a greeting card for those who don't have family there to support them.
    • Extension: Students and elderly can become pen pals.

The Sissy Duckling by: Harvey Fierstein

Theme: Bullying
Grades K-3
The Sissy Duckling
Elmer is a duck, but the only thing is, he is a bit different. The other boy ducks like play sports and build forts, whereas Elmer likes to bake cakes and put on a show for everyone. They are constantly teasing him and calling him a big sissy. But the biggest sissy in the world can become a hero overnight. Elmer's father gets a wound from a hunter and Elmer saves the day.

Reading Activities-
  • After reading, have students pair shair the ways the Sissy Duckling was teased and how he was feeling throughout the story.
  • The students and teacher will then read, The Ugly Duckling. Once the Ugly Duckling has been read, have students pair share using the same criteria as before.  Students will then complete a Venn Diagram for each book.
  • Share it, post-it- Students will write down three activities they like to do. Place two categories on the board, Boys and Girls. Have teacher read each post-it and place them under each category. Discuss choices. Can some activities be liked by both boys and girls? Add a new column to your chart: Kids Activities. Look at each post-it over again and determine whether these activities can be liked by both boys and girls. 

The Gold Threaded Dress by: Carolyn Marsden

Buy The Gold-Threaded Dress, Carolyn Marsden, 0763615692
Theme: Bullying and Peer Pressure
Oy is a girl who came from Thailand and went to America. In her country her name was Oy, but when she arrived in America her teachers called her Olivia. Life for her was difficult; girls leave her out of games, and a boy named Frankie teased her. Oy was quite the artist, but when she drew her self portrait with brown hair and round eyes, she found herself the object of ridicule. The children called her, Chinese, which was not her nationality. No one talks to her, until the most popular girl, Liliandra finds out she has a beautiful, silk-threaded dress from Thailand that has been in her family f
or years. Liliandra wants this dress to make her look as beautiful as a princess. The question is, is Oy willing to risk her family's respect and loyalty to become popular?

  • Have you ever been pressured to do something you didn't want to do to earn respect from others?
  • Have you ever used or been used by someone?
  • Put Yourself in Someone's Shoes: Interview a classmate and write a diary entry based on that person's thoughts and feelings about school.
  • Be a journalist-Complete a research project based on the country and culture of Thailand. What are some of their customs? How do they dress? What foods do they eat?
  • Interview a Character: Partner up students so that one character is Oy and the other is Liliandra. Each student will take turns being the reporter. If your school has flipcams or imovie, they can dress their part and complete a news interview that will be played for the class.

The Brand New Kid by: Katie Couric

The Brand New Kid
Theme: Bullying and Friendship
Grades: 1-3
Lazlo is a a new transfer student from Hungary. He thought he was in for a great year at Brookhaven elementary school, but he was in for quite the surprise. He had never felt so terrible before. His new school was not as he expected. Because of his differences, he was ridiculed and tormented.  His looks were different, his mannerisms were different, which made him the perfect target. At first, Ellie and Carrie, two young ladies at school, took part in the taunting, then they realized he had done nothing to deserve what the other children put him through. They befriend him and the rest of the class sees what a great person he really is. 

Pre-Reading: Discussion Questions/Journal Entries
  • What was your first day of school like? Do you remember your feelings? Write about how you acted and felt on the first day of school.
  • Why do you think people pick on others?
  • Why were the kids in class so mean to Lazlo?
  • What did Ellie do to make a difference in Lazlo's life? Was this important?

  • Students will write an acrostic poem using the word, "Welcome." On the first line (word will be written vertically) students will write a word or a phrase that begins with the letter "W". The teacher and students will continue with each letter. Once you have completed this, have students create their own using the word, "Friendship."
  • "Lights, Camera Action" Students will role play using several different situation: New kid at school, bully, a child who always plays alone at recess, the new kid at school picks on others, etc.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Hundred Dresses by:Eleanor Estes Illustrated by:Louis Slobodkin

This story is told from Maddie's perspective (main character), a girl in the other main character's class (Wanda Petronski). Wanda is a friendless polish girl who is constantly teased for her strange last name as well as the same tattered blue dress she wears everyday to school. Wanda claims she owns 100 dresses that are located in the closet of her worn down home. The girls in her class refuse to believe her and ask her to describe one of her dresses everyday. Eventually Wanda ends up moving to the city, and enters a dress design competition. This proves that she was telling the truth and the girls who made her life miserable are very impressed by her talent as an artist.


  • Have students make predictions about the book based on cover and title.  You will discuss with students ways that they are different from one another.  Also discuss the positive and negative aspects about being different.
  • Review with students the meaning of character traits.  If the class doesn’t already have a list of common character traits, make one before students complete the activity.
  • As the students read the story, have them fill in two charts, one for each character.  There should be a blank chart on each side of the paper.  Have the students leave the boxes labeled “character traits” empty until after the story is finished. Discuss how a character’s actions, words, feelings, and thoughts determine their character.  
  • Once the students have  compared the two characters, they will use that information to determine how each of those characters would react to a certain situation.  Explain to students that people respond to situations differently depending on their character and beliefs.  Read aloud the example situation on the “What Would They Do?” worksheet.  Explain to the students that they are going to write how they think their two characters would respond to the situation based on their character traits and the character comparison charts.  Have students share their responses when finished.

How to Lose All Your Friends By: Nancy Carlson

Theme: Friendship
Grades Pre-K-2
This book is a guide to anyone who wants to lose all of their friends. This is the "what not to do book," when trying to be a good friend to someone. There is no main character in the story, just several characters being crabby, not sharing, eating all of the cookies, and locking the door to their room so that their friends can't play with their toys. This book discusses several instances that we see in the classroom on a daily basis: sharing, tattling, cheating,etc.

  • Have a class discussion with students and make a T-Chart about what makes a good friend and what does not make a good friend.

  • Winning Friends-Divide students into small groups and ask them to brainstorm ways you are able to win friends. Once students have had about ten minutes to discuss, go around the room and ask students to share their suggestions which you will write on the board. If they have suggestions that have the words "no" or "don't" try and help them change it to a positive connotation.  
  • Investigative Reporter-Students can create a documentary about friendship. They can interview people within their school and at home about what makes and breaks friendships.
  • Students can also make a class book by choosing one of the examples written on the board and illustrating each concept along with a sentence or two about the quality they chose.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chrysanthemum by:Kevin Henkes

 Theme: Bullying and Self-Esteem
Grades: K-2
Chrysanthemum is starting her first day of Kindergarten. However, because her name is so different she finds that, that is just one of the many jokes that hurts her feelings on her first days at school.  Her parents reassure her again and again that her name is beautiful.  The music teacher helps Chrysanthemum feel better by talking with the class and sharing her name, which is just as unique as Chryanthemum's with her.  The mice children learn a valuable lesson and Chrysanthemum regains confidence in her name and herself. 

  • Students can write a personal narrative about a time when they were put down by another student or friend.
  • Have you ever put down another person before because of something silly?
  • Journal Entry: Explain how the relationship between Victoria and Chrysanthemum changed. Has something like this ever happened to you?
  • Pick a perspective: Students will write a diary entry as one of the character's from the story: the bully or the bullied. 
  • Have students make an acrostic poem of their name using positive character traits about themselves.

A Weekend With Wendell by: Kevin Henkes

 Theme: Bullying and Self-Esteem
Grades: Pre-K-2
Sophie has to spend the entire weekend with her cousin Wendell. He makes up all the rules when they play house, Sophie is the dog and when playing Bakery, Sophie is yet again the least important role: literally, she's the sweet roll while Wendell gets to be the Baker. Sophie can only take so much and when Wendell tried to change her hair with shaving cream, she was done playing and showed him that she was quite capable of being a leader.


  • Journal Entry or Discussion Question: Have you ever had a friend stay the night at your house? Was it fun? Why or why not?


  • Reader's Theatre: Have students practice for Reader's Theatre. Students can be assigned roles and make props. After students have selected a part of the book they wish to role play, the teacher and students can debrief about how they think the main character, Sophie was feeling.
  • Write to a bully- Have students write a letter to a bully. What would you say to this bully and how would you tell the bully to stop picking on you without being a bully yourself?

Bootsie Barker Bites By: Barbara Bottner

cover art
Theme: Bullying

Bootsie is a designated play date because her mother is the friend of a girl in her class. But once they are told to play, Bootsie begins to terrorize the younger girl. She bites and she kicks and is a  mean bully. Our narrator is told by her mother that she must learn to get along with other children and she means Bootsie. At first, the little girl tolerates it and does not tell on Bootsie because she is ashamed. Then, she does the right thing and tells a grown-up as well as give Bootsie a taste of her own medicine.

Pre-Reading Journal Entries:

  • What is a bully?  A bully will do these things:  hurt, tease, hit, threaten, leave other out, call you names, spread rumors about you. 
  •   How does bullying make you feel?  Some feelings are:  angry, sad, lonely, confused, scared, worried 
  • Special Friend-Students will find a stuffed animal that represents the part of them that stops the hurtful words and actions from coming out. Each child will then describe why he chose that particular stuffed animal.
  • Toss a Compliment- Students will throw a beach ball around the room and share one compliment or one thing they like about another student in the class. 

Oliver Button Is a Sissy by:Tomie dePaola

Cover Art - Oliver Button Is a Sissy

 Theme: Bullying
This story is based on Tomie dePaola's life as a young child. Oliver Button doesn't like sports like all the other boys in his class. He likes to read, draw pictures and dress up in costumes. Everyone calls him a sissy, even his dad. When he enrolls in dance class, all the other boys make fun of him and even worse, some writes on the school wall, "Oliver Button is a sissy." Regardless of what is written, Oliver keeps dancing in hopes of winning a contest. When he doesn't, he's afraid to go back to school to face all the bullying, but to his surprise, "Oliver Button is a sissy" is not longer written. Sissy is crossed out and the word "star" is written in its place.


  • Journal Entry: Have you ever been made fun of for something you were interested in? 
  • Have you ever made fun of someone for something they were interested in?

  • Select some students to act as "roving reporters". During recess, lunch or another selected period of time, have them observe, record, and tabulate how many different situations, dialogues, or actions demonstrated bullying behaviors. Have them report to the class and then discuss the results.
  • Have students write a news article about bullying and how it affects their lives at school on a daily basis. Students can interview their classmates as well as teachers. After, the class can put together a class newspaper and publish it for the school to read.

Elizabeti's School By: Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by: Christy Hale


Theme: Self-Esteem


Elizabeti is Swahili and it's her first day of school. She has new shoes, new clothes and a positive attitude. She couldn't be more excited about it, until she gets there. She realizes that she misses her family and she doesn't know many children there, until she sees one of her friends who introduces her to this new wonderful world. Everyone is so friendly and she begins learning new things about school and life. She realizes that school is a great place and making friends isn't so bad after all.

Pre-Reading and Post-Reading Activities:

  • Discuss background knowledge about people from Tanzania. Complete a BKWL Chart about Background knowledge, what students Know, Want to know, and after reading, complete the learned column.
  • Have students complete a journal entry: Have you ever been new to a school or a situation? How were you feeling and what did you do to try and feel more comfortable?
  • Write a letter to a new student: Your class can write a letter to an upcoming student. Tell them all about your grade level and what to expect when they arrive. Make them feel good about entering a new environment.

Dorothy and Mikey By: Keiko Kasza

Theme: Friendship
Grades: Pre-K-2
Dorothy and Mikey is small collection of stories about to hippos who are best friends, who are constantly competing against one another. 

Summary: The Knight and the Princess
Mikey and Dorothy are the best of friends, but when Mikey wants to play it has to be his way or no way. Dorothy decides not to play with him, and he's forced to play by himself, but it's just not the same. Things begin to look up when Dorothy comes back and they make a compromise. Two friends can win in the end.


Mikey was constantly bragging about how he was better than Dorothy. No matter what it was: jumping higher, standing on one foot or running faster. After Dorothy lost to all of those things, and Mikey would not stop bragging, she wanted to outsmart him. She tricked him into standing on one foot with his eyes closed, in terrible heat, while she went home and sipped on cool lemonade.

The Poem

Mikey was being really mean to Dorothy. He wouldn't let her swim in the mud with him, or sit in a box (that did not look very fun). He just didn't seem to want to be around her, and she was angry. After she realized why he wanted to be alone, she realized he was just being a good friend. He was writing her a poem about their friendship and Dorothy couldn't be happier.

  • Create a Venn Diagram with students comparing and contrasting the front and back cover of the book.
  • Ask students to write a journal entry about what makes a good friend. 
  • Complete a picture walk and have students complete a prediction based on the illustrations and each character's facial expressions.
During and Post-Reading
  • Have students write a poem about their best friend or someone they care about. Allow them time to make a web to list the qualities and activities they enjoy doing with their friends.
  • Have each student complete a drawing of their best friend. Label the picture and have them write a few sentences based on why this person or animal is their friend.
  • On a very big piece of paper, have one child lay down, and the other child trace the first child. The children may color in their bodies and cut them out to hang around the class.

Lucy and the Bulley By: Claire Alexander

Theme: Bullying

At school, Lucy was THE artist. Everyone would always ask for her to draw them different things. Everyone except Tommy.  Tommy made it a point to make fun of or ruin everything that Lucy made. Until one day when Lucy came home and her mother realized how upset she was. After the teacher stepped in, Tommy was no longer picking on Lucy and eventually they became friends.

For children in Kindergarten and First Grade

  • Have students discuss predictions for the book based on the cover, the title and the author (if you've read other books by Alexander). 
Post Reading/lesson Ideas
  • Have your students create a mural showing various situations at school where bullying takes place and then have them relate these murals to the story by drawing a scene that they made a personal connection with. 
  • Have students draw a cartoon  with thought bubbles showing what the characters would be saying or thinking if they were handling bullying situations in a healthy way.