Building Character in the Classroom

Building character in the classroom starts on day one. Check this post out for teaching ideas and resources you can use all year long.

I think one of the most important pieces that needs to be taught in the beginning of the year is character building. We have so many standards to cover during the year, but the beginning of the year is filled with ice-breakers and getting-to-know-you activities that are easy to insert character-building into. This year I am putting an especially large focus on it in my room. I will discuss easy ways to bring character building into your room with this post through CARES, displaying character trait anchor charts, and read alouds.

Why Character Education Matters

Character education will improve the overall climate and culture of your classroom. Character is an essential part of every individual in your class. Social growth is just as important as academic growth, which can be easily forgotten in school schedules booming to meet all the standards we are given each year! I like to do small character studies that don't take up too much time, but give students a better understanding of how to understand and work on their own character. Some of the most important values that I like to focus on include caring, courage, fairness, friendship, honesty, perseverance, respect, responsibility, and tolerance.

Building character in the classroom starts on day one. Check this post out for teaching ideas and resources you can use all year long.

Cooperation-Assertion-Responsibility-Empathy-Self Control

On my biggest bulletin board in my room, I put together a board to give students better understanding and a reminder of CARES. CARES is an acronym that stands for cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. These are essential social skills to help kids gain a better understanding of what respect means. Respect is such a vague term that is constantly thrown about in school, yet many kids don't entirely understand what it means. Using CARES shows several facets of the word, and that respect is an umbrella term for a variety of social character. I LOVE having a board in my room dedicated to character because it is a terrific focal point and reminder for my kiddos. If I see a student pushing another student, I can have them go up to the bulletin board and remind themselves what it means to show empathy toward another student.

We go over each of these words in the beginning of the school year, because let's be real, most kids are not going to know what these words mean! We read a variety of picture books to help us focus on these essential character traits, and think of ways to show each of these skills.

Character Traits Studies:

Building character in the classroom starts on day one. Check this post out for teaching ideas and resources you can use all year long.Besides learning about the acronym CARES, we also have character trait studies. These studies consist of picking an essential character trait, discussing, doing a read aloud, and finally creating an anchor chart on it. On the anchor chart, I separate the paper into fourths (basically it looks like a Frayer model!). The middle of the box says "I can be honest/caring/kind/empathetic/etc. by....". Then, each of the fourths says: "is," "does," "says," "is not." I originally saw a similar model on Pinterest about being a good classmate from Using My Teacher Voice, and I think it is a perfect model! Sidenote: I cannot imagine teaching without Pinterest. Truly such a fantastic visual and tool to help make us teachers the best that we can be. What I love about this anchor chart is that it provides concrete examples about how to show a character trait. We post these around the room as reminders throughout the year.

Building character in the classroom starts on day one. Check this post out for teaching ideas and resources you can use all year long.

Read Alouds that Support Character Education

Here are some great books that are fantastic for various types of character:


    • A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
    • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
    • Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
    • South by Patrick McDonnell


    • Mirette on the Highwire by Emily Arnold McCully
    • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
    • Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco


    • It's Not Fair! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
    • Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell
    • Stone Soup by Ann McGovern


    • Best Friends for Frances by Russel Hoban
    • Chysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
    • Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin


    • A Day's Work by Eve Bunting
    • The Empty Pot by Demi
    • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto


    • Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
    • Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
    • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss


    • Lily's Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
    • Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
    • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein


    • The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey
    • Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola


    • The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane Derolf
    • Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski
Do you have any great books to add to the list? Let me know in the comments and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to add them to the list! These are just some of my faves, but I am always looking for new books to keep it fun and interesting when I teach these every year :-)

Do you have any lessons or ideas that you love for character education? I look forward to hearing them.


  1. So many great ideas, Kelly! Love this post and sharing now!