I don't think I can ever have too many ways to teach the children how important it is to be kind and caring. So, as we get ready to begin a brand new school year, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you- as well as some great freebies! Hopefully you may find something new to use with your kids. Grab a cup of coffee or tea- because I have LOTS of ideas to share!
First, let me share some of my brand new finds. I can't wait to use these books. They are wonderful.
Stick and Stone, by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld:
Here is a little sample of the sweetness:
This book made me think of this saying that I love. I made this little picture for it. My students are really good about not calling names or being mean. I think it's because we do so much talking about kindness, that they know it would break my heart most of all if they were mean to another student in the class.
NEXT is the SWEETEST book.
I found this video to share with you so you can see it-
What a great way to bring up topics like being kind and including EVERYONE. How would you feel if you were the invisible boy and nobody chose you or asked you to play? What is one way you could think of to include someone who may feel left out?
Finally, I bought The Three Questions based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. This book is for me. I LOVE children's books- and their messages.
Here is a video of the story so you can see what it's all about. It has such a wonderful message: Live in the moment. You'll love it. I know it.
Here is my Character Education Prezi that I made and use a lot in my classroom. I put together some of my favorite videos and posters to help remind my kids to keep the "kind" in Kindergarten.
It is free at my TPT store if you would like to have it. Enjoy!
Littlest Sweet Pea has some great question cards for developing positive character traits free at her TPT storeI also love these Character Moral Focus Posters from Teaching is Colorful. They are such great explanations of nine different traits.
Miss Nelson is Missing shared a Character Building Honesty Activity that will be wonderful for class discussions. I always try to get my kids to understand that mistakes can always be forgiven if they are honest about them.
I found this great site called We Do Listen Foundation. It offers FREE animated online books, with lessons , posters, and songs to go along with each story. You can click below and listen to the animated books. I added this to my Character Education Prezi, so it will be on there, too.
(I use this book to introduce "like.")
(Guess what sight words I introduced with this book?
If we were all alike, it wouldn't be as much fun in our classrooms. Our differences make us special- like this macaroni! (Or some days 'wacky' like this macaroni!) We learn to appreciate the special gifts we each have.
I love The Crayon Box that Talked by Shan De Rolf. If you click on the picture below, it will take you to the link to the Vimeo Video.
Alana Von Fister has a cute Elmer Math Activity Pack free at her TPT store.
Here are some other favorites...
Punchinello's hard-earned lesson shows us how important it is to be who we were created to be, and why that matters. So let this wonderful tale help you remember two things: that you were made unique for a reason, and that there is one who will always help you be you--wonderfully you.
Punchinello learns that it can be difficult, foolish, and even dangerous to try to keep up with the latest fads and that Eli, his maker, gave each Wemmick different characteristics on purpose.
Here is the video You are Special by Max Lucado. I love this story, too.
From dots and stars to stripes!
When Camilla stops trying to please everyone else and isn't afraid to be who she really is, her bad case of stripes goes away.
I found this idea from I Heart Crafty Things. She printed out black and white pictures of the children and let them add chalk or chalk pastel stripes!
One of my all time favorite stories about being yourself is Dandelion by Don Freeman.
I usually read this story to the children in the spring. We go outside and pick dandelions, group them by tens, and count how many we can pick.
We also illustrate this poem to go along with our dandelion day.
Here is a description from Amazon.
Once there was a little white owl who lived by himself in the snow. He didn't have a mommy. He didn't have a daddy. He didn't even have a name. But he didn't really mind too much. His head was full of happy stories...
I have two bags full of things for the class to see. I ask them to choose which bag they would like have. I will share what is that bag with the class. Of course, inside the beautiful bag, I have a dried-up glue stick, some old gum wrappers, and a broken crayon. Inside the plain white bag, I have Hershey Kisses or Smarties or something like that. You can't judge a book by its cover. Lesson learned! :)
Leo the Late Bloomer reminds the children that everyone learns things at different times and everyone has different strengths. And that is how it is supposed to be! This is such a great lesson for the children who don't feel like they are reading or writing as quickly or as well as the other children.
After they decided they can't tell the color- we talk about how we are all the same on the inside, like those M&M's - no matter what we look like on the outside. One year, one of my little guys said, "We are all delicious on the inside!"
This is one of my favorite bracelets that I have. It is from Signals. I wear it all the time. I don't think it's available anymore. (You can google image it and find some on Etsy shops, I think!)
Of course Pete the Cat is always a favorite for Character Education.
Pete is such a great reminder to never give up. Pete has some bad things happen to him, but he doesn't throw a fit, or cry, or give up- he just keeps on singing his song!
My class loves reading, listening to, and watching Pete the Cat stories pretty much anytime.
I added the Pete the Cat videos to my Character Education Prezi so they are on there whenever you want to use them.
We made our own Pete the Cat to hang up in the hall. I found the pattern on April's Chalk Talk blog, and she got it from Hooray for Kindergarten. The pattern is here.
I'm sure we have all heard or said, "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." Well, someone decided that would make a good story. Here you go! It goes along nicely with Pete the Cat's happy attitude. My kids now say, "You get what you get, and you're happy with it," because I like that better than not throwing a fit. I don't want to give them any ideas...
This old favorite is always a great choice, especially now with all of the "I can" statements. I take each child's picture the first few days of school, holding the sight word cards, 'I' and 'can.' I put the pictures around our 'I can' poster.
First Grade and Fabulous shared this wonderful The Little Class That Could freebie! What a fun class book this would make.
This next one is always a favorite. It is different, and maybe that's why the kids like it. Kindergarteners are pretty self-centered and think that they can kind of do whatever they would like- but this helps them realize what would happen if EVERYBODY did something.
Here is a sample picture if one person squeezed the cat:
These next two are great for making connections and creating a Venn diagram to compare/contrast. Plus, it is always a good lesson for children to see that hard work pays off. They are also great conversation starters about how working together makes things better for everyone.
The Very Busy Spider is a good book to help teach the children about working hard and sticking to a job until it is done. I also use this book to tell the children that when I am working with my group at Center Time, I am like The Very Busy Spider who can't be interrupted unless it is an emergency- because when I am with their group, I need to give my attention to them, too, and not be interrupted. I even have my little spider beanbag on my table to remind the children.
The Eagle and The Wren by Jane Goodall is one of my favorite stories to teach the children about the importance of working together. The birds have a contest to see which bird can fly the highest. Each bird in the story states his strengths, and the eagle is quite sure he will win this contest. Unbeknownst to the eagle, the wren has hidden in his feathers, and just when the eagle thinks he has flown the highest and can go no higher, the wren flies out from the eagle's feathers, flies a little higher and wins the contest. They both claim the win together, because the wren could not have done it without the help of the eagle.
Helen Lester has written some of my favorite Character Education books. The children love them. They each teach such a good lesson, in a humorous way. Here are some favorites:
Kevin Henkes' books are always fun to read and each have a great lesson.
I use my Kevin Henke's Author Study Packet when we use his books. The kids always love that unit.
I fit in lessons about being kind any chance I get!
(This salad is actually a picture of Easy Fruit Salad from Mother of Pearl It Is- not mine, but similar ingredients. yum.)
Here is an explanation about Friendship Salad on Teacherweb if you haven't heard of it. There are several good posts if you google it and want more ideas. I do mine a little differently because I use the canned, mixed fruit to represent all of us mixed together in our new class family. Then, I add some other fruit like: the pineapple is when we help each other; the peaches are when we share with friends; the yellow bananas are when we make good choices; the maraschino cherries are when we use sweet, kind words. The marshmallows are all the sweet, fun, happy things we will do in our classroom full of friends. The cool whip is when we "hold hands and stick together" by being good friends watching out for each other in and OUT of the classroom. I take out the black banana and start to put that into the salad. Of course that is horrible- and we revisit the yellow bananas that stood for making good choices. It is NOT a good choice to put a rotten banana into our special salad just like it is not a good choice to BE a rotten banana in our special class family. I don't have the children cut up the fruit. The canned fruit works out really well for me. The only thing I cut is the yellow banana- and as I cut it, I have the kids tell me some "good choices" they are going to make this year.
These are some of my favorite books to use with this lesson, but any friendship books are great!(You can stretch this book out and do a few parts at a time.)
These books are great lessons about the importance of sharing. Friends share.
When we make our own Rainbow Fish, I use left over sparkly silver bulletin board border to make the scales.
Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is good to read when we talk about giving and sharing, and making others happy.
These next books are good for teaching children about sticking up for friends if something is wrong. They are good conversation starters.
I LOVE this Monster's Manners Unit from Growing Kinders. I love everything about it and so do the kids!
Millie Fierce is a fun book. Here is the description:
Millie is quiet. Millie is sweet. Millie is mild. But the kids at school don't listen to her. And she never gets a piece of birthday cake with a flower on it. And some girls from class walk right on top of her chalk drawing and smudge it. And they don't even say they're sorry!
So that's when Millie decides she wants to be fierce! She frizzes out her hair, sharpens her nails, and runs around like a wild thing. But she soon realized that being fierce isn't the best way to get noticed either, especially when it makes you turn mean. So Millie decides to be nice, but to keep a little of that fierce backbone hidden inside her. In case she ever needs it again.
I kind of feel like Millie was me there in the beginning some days. I think that is why I had to have this book! (I don't really want to end up like The Giving Tree... so I want to keep a little Millie Fierce in me... It's all about balance. :)
This is a good one, too- for being kind EVEN to your "enemies."
Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna is a wonderful story about telling the truth and not spreading rumors.
Here are some good quotes from the book:
“There is one more thing," said Mr. Peabody. "Now you must go and pick up all the feathers."
... "I don't think it's possible to pick up all the feathers," Tommy replied.
"It would be just as impossible to undo the damage that you have done by spreading the rumor that I am a thief," said Mr. Peabody. "Each feather represents a person in Happyville." ... "Next time, don't be so quick to judge a person. And remember the power of your words.”
“It doesn't matter what it looked like. What matters is the truth." (Mr. Peabody to Tommy)”
― Madonna, Mr. Peabody's Apples
― Madonna, Mr. Peabody's Apples
I like to use Words are Not for Hurting when we talk about using kind words.
I love the Wrinkled Heart lesson. Here is a great description of the object lesson from KindergartenKindergarten. After we make and display our big hearts, I have the children retell the lesson with smaller hearts that they take home. Their homework is to teach this lesson to their family.
The Toothpaste Lesson is one of my favorite object lessons, because the kids really "get" it. I use a travel size tube of toothpaste. I ask a student to come up and squeeze out all of the toothpaste onto a plate. That's the fun part. Next, I ask him or her to put the toothpaste back into the tube. We wait. And wait. This is such a great visual to remind the students that words that come out cannot be put back, just like that toothpaste can't be put back- so they need to remember to have kind words come out. Unkind words hurt, and can't be put back. This is from Fourth and Ten.
Spell Outloud has a good explanation of the object lesson and this picture that I printed out and use as a reminder in my classroom.
This book is great for a lesson on kindness!
In the book, Miss Ruler's class keeps track of kind deeds on a bulletin board. The children do so many good deeds, like clearing the table after dinner and helping other people, and soon they have 100 acts of kindness.
After we read this, my class was really excited to share some kind things they each had done for other people, so we decided make our own heart board! This was our chart in its beginning stages. If one piggybacked on another, I put them beside each other. We talked about how boomerangs come back to you when you throw them, just like being kind comes back to make you feel better.
My kids LOVE this Kindness Boomerang video to go along with the book. We watch it a lot during the year.
Richard Giso made an activity to go with Kindness is Cooler- that is much more professional looking than my cut out hearts!
If you haven't read this book, here is a synopsis from Amazon:
Ordinary Mary is an ordinary girl from an ordinary school, on her way to her ordinary house-who stumbles upon ordinary blueberries. When she decides to pick them for her neighbor, Mrs. Bishop, she starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world. Mrs. Bishop makes blueberry muffins and gives them to her paperboy and four others-one of whom is Mr. Stevens, who then helps five different people with their luggage-one of whom is Maria, who then helps five people-including a man named Joseph who didn't have enough money for his groceries-and so on, until the deed comes back to Mary.
We started with a good vocabulary lesson about "ordinary," "extraordinary," and "deed." The book really got my kids thinking that they could each make a difference by doing something kind. They also loved the fact that it was a CIRCLE STORY! Gotta love that!
The very favorite part was the last page which shows exactly how one kind deed can touch everyone in the whole world. Mary made five people happy. They each made five people happy, so that made 125 happy people - and so on... See for yourself...
Another similar and wonderful book is The Boy Who Changed the World, by Andy Andrews.
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
The Boy Who Changed the World opens with a young Norman Borlaug playing in his family’s cornfields with his sisters. One day, Norman would grow up and use his knowledge of agriculture to save the lives of two billion people. Two billion! Norman changed the world! Or was it Henry Wallace who changed the world? Or maybe it was George Washington Carver?
Both books have a wonderful message, but both were a bit wordy and long for my children. I condensed some of it so they understood the theme and message, because the message is fabulous.
This book is a simple, pay-it-forward message of kindness.
Even the smallest acts of kindness can powerfully impact the lives of others. This truth is beautifully demonstrated as we follow the far-reaching effects of young Katie's innocent smile.
With this simple gesture, she ignites a circle of warmth that flows from person to person, touching the hearts and lives of people she may never even meet.
With this simple gesture, she ignites a circle of warmth that flows from person to person, touching the hearts and lives of people she may never even meet.
And of course...
I actually like this one better for my Kindergarteners than the How Full is Your Bucket, but they are both great.
We love this song from The Learning Station!
My big bucket in the middle of the picture below is full of blue glass stones from the Dollar Store, to look like drops of water (kind deeds!).
After we read the book, each child drew a picture to show how he/she could fill someone's bucket. I taped on a blue glass stone to take home as a reminder- to put beside the bed or some place special, so the children could remember to do something kind for someone when they saw it.
First Grade Fever by Christie shared these adorable Bucket Filler Posters at her TPT store.
I found this cute beanbag that I use to help the children think about "bee-ing" kind. I throw it to one child who tells me some way he/she can be kind, then that child throws it back to me. It works best having the kids throw it back to me in between instead of trying to throw it to each other.
Ms. Kara has these cute Bee Kind Random Acts of Kindness Slips at her TPT store that would be great to use in the classroom. I love the idea of teaching children to play with another person and let that person choose what to play. When you teach children the concept of sharing, it's tricky. It would be like someone saying to you out of the blue, "Oh, that's your favorite book? Give it to her to read right now." Or "Oh, I like your favorite pen you write with all the time. Let me use it now." Children need to be ready to understand the emotions behind sharing and learn to share. Learning to play together nicely encourages relationships, and children more naturally want to make friends happy and learn to play kindly together. .
You could make a Kindness Class Book with this activity from Jenny Spencer!
Sweet Surprises is an oldie that my kids had. The little girl looks for "sweet surprises" that she can do for her family - acts of kindness that nobody knows she has done. She wants to find ten. She does nine, and then her mom does one for her to surprise her and make ten. It is just sweet- and gets children thinking of ways they could help out or do something kind for someone else.
My friend Susanna from Whimsy Workshop has a darling Random Acts of Kindness Class Book freebie at her TPT store. What a wonderful home project this is for families!
Susanna also shared this sweet poster that I have on my wall in my classroom. I love when the children write around the room and two of the words I see almost every time are "be" and "kind" because of this poster.
My friend Sarah, from A Sunny Day in First Grade, made these wonderful Kindness Catchers. The children can write down positive things they see during the day, and you can share them at the end of the day! Catch them being kind!
The Kinder Project shared these 26 Random Acts of Kindness ideas in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary School. These would be great to share with the class, and to encourage the kids to brainstorm even more ideas.
The children could make a Kindness Chain with their acts! This one is from Leaping into Teaching.
Amber Marker made this sweet poster.
My QR Codes and Writing Prompts Packet has both QR codes and 160 prompts for 102 stories. Many of the stories are character education stories. I make a packet of Character Ed QR Codes that I use for center time. We use the prompts all the time to go along with our books. Each prompt has a QR code for the story right on it, too, so the children can listen to the story again at home!
Here are the books in the packet. I've highlighted the books I like to use for Character Education, and the ones I put into a Character QR Code book for centers.
A Visitor for Bear- Bonny Becker
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- Judith Viorst
Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday- Judith Viorst
Alphabet Adventure- Audrey Wood
Always in Trouble- Corrine Demas
Beautiful Oops- Barney Saltzberg
Bedtime for Frances- Russell Hoban
Blueberries for Sal- Robert McCloskey
Bread and Jam for Frances- Russell Hoban
Caps for Sale- Esphyr Slobodkina
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type- Doreen Cronin
Corduroy- Don Freeman
Courage- Bernard Waber
Curious George- H. A. Rey
Do Unto Otters- Laurie Keller
Elmer- David McKee
Enemy Pie- Derek Munson
Feathers for Lunch- Lois Ehlert
Fortunately- Remy Charlip
Frog and Toad are Friends- Arnold Lobel
A Swim, Spring, The Letter, The Story
Frog and Toad Together- Arnold Lobel
A List, Cookies, The Garden
Go Away Big, Green Monster- Ed Emberly
Goodnight, Moon- Margaret Wise Brown
Harold and the Purple Crayon- Crockett Johnson
Harry the Dirty Dog- Gene Zion
Have You Filled a Bucket Today?- Carol McCloud
Hooway for Wodney Wat- Helen Lester
How Full is Your Bucket?- Tom Rath
I Don’t Want to Go to Bed!- Julie Sykes
I Like Myself!- Karen Beaumont
I Went Walking- Sue Williams
If- Sarah Perry
If Everybody Did- Jo Ann Stover
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean- Kevin Sherry
In My New Yellow Shirt- Eileen Spinelli
In the Small, Small Pond- Denise Fleming
In the Tall, Tall Grass- Denise Fleming
Interrupting Chicken- David Ezra Stein
Is Your Mama a Llama?- Deborah Guarino
Jennie’s Hat- Ezra Jack Keats
Just Plain Fancy- Patricia Polacco
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler- Margery Cuyler
Leo the Late Bloomer- Robert Kraus
Library Lion- Michelle Knudsen
Little Blue Truck- Alice Schertle
Llama Llama Mad at Mama- Anna Dewdney
Llama Llama Misses Mama- Anna Dewdney
Llama Llama Red Pajama- Anna Dewdney
Me First- Helen Lester
Mean Soup- Betsy Everitt
Millie Fierce- Jane Manning
Millions of Cats- Wanda Gag
Miss Rumphius- Barbara Cooney
Mouse Paint- Ellen Stoll Walsh
Mouse Shapes- Ellen Stoll Walsh
Mrs. Wishy Washy- Joy Cowley
My Friends- Taro Gomi
My Lucky Day- Keiko Kasza
Not a Box- Antoinette Portis
Not a Stick- Antoinette Portis
Oh, No!- Candace Fleming
Only the Cat Saw- Ashley Wolff (no QR code)
Pancakes, Pancakes- Eric Carle
Quick as a Cricket- Audrey Wood
Roller Coaster- Marla Frazee
Rosie’s Walk- Pat Hutchins
Scaredy Squirrel- Melanie Watt
Shiver Me Letters- June Sobel
Silly Sally-Audrey Wood
So Few of Me- Peter Reynolds
Some Things are Scary- Florence Parry Heide
Splat the Cat-Rob Scotton
Square Cat- Elizabeth Schoonmaker
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon- Patty Lovell
Stone Soup- Ann McGovern
Stuck- Oliver Jeffers
That’s Good! That’s Bad!- Margery Cuyler
The Big Orange Splot- Daniel Manus
The Carrot Seed- Ruth Krauss
The Day the Crayons Quit- Drew Daywalt
The Girl Who Never Made a Mistake- Mark Pett
The Important Book- Margaret Wise Brown
The Jolly Postman- Allan Ahlberg
The Kissing Hand- Audrey Penn
The Little House- Virginia Lee Burton
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear- Don Wood
The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything- Linda D. Williams
The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings- Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (no QR code)
The Little Red Hen- Paul Galdone
The Little White Owl- Tracey Corderoy
The Napping House- Audrey Wood
The Pout Pout Fish- Deborah Diesen
The Rainbow Fish- Marcus Pfister
The Relatives Came- Cynthia Rylant
The Very Cranky Bear- Nick Bland
This is Not My Hat- Jon Klassen
Tops and Bottoms- Janet Stevens
What If You Had Animal Teeth- Sandra Markle
You Can Do It, Sam- Amy Hest
Here are some sample prompts from the packet with QR codes for you. Just click HERE if you'd like copies of them!
It is a slide show type Prezi, so you click through the arrows on the bottom. I included some of my favorite quotes and pictures, videos, and a link to a wonderful post called The Small Side of Numbers by Dan Pearce, from his blog Single Dad Laughing. You can click through at your own pace and watch or skip any of the videos you want. I didn't make this Prezi to use with my class. I made it to use in a class for teachers. It was just some inspirational thoughts that are good for all of us to remember- good for older students and adults. I thought you might enjoy it to go along with all these Character Education books.
We are so lucky to be able to teach children who are at such a receptive age, and love to learn the lessons we share with them. The more kindness we sprinkle into their days, the more they will learn to give it away to others. I hope you found some fun things to use with your class!