Frame from Erin Bradley Designs
I try to integrate character education into all subjects that I teach, however I have found that it lends itself perfectly to Language Arts. There are so many wonderful children’s books that teach important values and lessons. One way that I infuse character education is discussing the theme, or “THE MEssage” of the stories we read. We talk about what the author is trying to tell us through the character’s thoughts, words, or actions. We also talk about how someone’s opinion of the theme for a story may be different from someone else’s. Many times there are multiple messages hidden in a story, and each person will pick up on a theme that speaks the most to them.
After reading a story, we will have one student read to us some of the previous themes we have determined as a class. Then the students can raise their hands and tell the rest of the class which theme stood out to them the most for that particular story and why. After everyone who wants to share has shared, then we take a class vote on which theme most of the students thought fit with that book. I make sure to stress that there is no “right” or “wrong” theme, we are just picking the one that most students see fit. Then we put a picture of the book up under that theme.
Here are just a few of my favorite character traits/themes and books that I use to teach them with my class:
A Day’s Work
by Eve Bunting
by Alexis O’Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith
by Patricia Polacco
by Peter H. Reynolds
Brothers in Hope by Mary Williams
by David Shannon
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Up the Learning Tree
by Marcia Vaughan
Character education can also easily be tied into the Common Core standards. Here are a couple of the 4th grade standards that we address when we discuss and analyze these books in my class. No matter what grade level you teach though, you can always find a way to relate character education to the standards!
Common Core Standards:
4.RL.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text: summarize the text.
4.RL.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g. a character’s thoughts, words, or actions)
To print the theme posters that we use in my class that were created by Beth Newingham, you can go to this Scholastic site. They are listed under #5: Finding Common Themes in Fiction Texts.
What books to you use to teach good character?
I would love to add to my list!