Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Favorite Character Trait Picture Books

My favorite lessons that I teach in my second grade classroom are character education lessons.  I think it is so important to discuss character traits with students and there are so many amazing picture books that can guide your lessons!  Here are a few of my favorite picture books for teaching character traits:

What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick does an amazing job of teaching students that their actions have consequences.  I usually use this book to aide in my discussions on respect.  The illustrations make the book humorous, but they also drive home the point of "what if everyone did that".  For example, one of my favorite illustrations shows what would happen to the bears at the zoo if everyone ignored the sign that says "don't feed the bears"....when you look at the illustration on the right page and it showcases fat and unhappy bears who have been way overfed!

Stand Tall Mary Lou Melon by Patty Lovell is another awesome book for teaching character traits.  I use this one for teaching encouragement.  There is a great resource by the NED Show Website, which is a school-wide character education program that visits schools all over the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  They offer a lot of free resources for teachers to use in their classrooms and I love that they've already aligned a lot of picture books to character traits for you.  If you want the PDF of the Stand Tall Mary Lou Melon resource that I've used in the past then click HERE.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Gile Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees is the cutest book ever! And it is a great book to use with confidence.  In the book, the other animals are very unkind to Gerald the Giraffe when they see his dance moves.  They make fun of him, but Cricket says kind words to help Gerald learn to dance to his own music. When I teach this lesson I use a giraffe cutout from yellow bulletin board paper and giraffe spots in brown paper, so I can have each child write down one thing on a spot that they'd like to build their confidence in. We have conversations about how Gerald built up his confidence with dancing with the help of Cricket and how we can build up each other's confidence in areas that we struggle by using kind and encouraging words.  There is also a lesson plan that coincides with this book from the TED Show website: click here for the PDF.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a really good book for patience and cooperation. It is a story about a little boy named Liam who finds a struggling garden.  He decides to take care of it and after a long time it starts to grow and spread beautiful green in the dark city.  Soon, lots of other people join in and help take care of the garden.  I pair this amazing story with our nonfiction text in our student books, From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.  Finally, we collaborate to plant seeds and the students collaborate to water them each day and watch them grow into flowers.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson is a fun story with a good twist at the end that teaches a good lesson about friendship.  In the book, the boy who is telling the story talks about how much he dislikes the new boy, Jeremy Ross, who moved down the street.  He thinks that Jeremy Ross laughed at him one day, so he puts him on his enemy list.  However, the boy's dad has a solution for bullies like Jeremy Ross and he calls it: enemy pie.  The only trick to enemy pie is that you have to spend a whole day with your enemy before you give them the pie.  This story sends such a great message about friendship.  And personally as a tired full-time teacher...I love that there is a read-aloud version of it on Storyline Online.  That 10 minute read-aloud is lets me take a break from talking and gives my students a break from listening to me!

The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman is a twist on the boy who cried wolf.  It has amazing illustrations and it is a classic story of the importance of honesty.  In the book, Little Wolf doesn't like the dinner dishes that Mother Wolf makes each night, so to avoid his dinners he lies about seeing a boy in the woods.  Each time the Wolf family goes out to search for a boy, their dinner gets ruined.  Eventually, there really is a boy but, of course, nobody believes Little Wolf after all of his shenanigans.  I love this story and it is also a great way for me to compare and contrast two similar stories, by reading The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

I have discovered first hand the impact that character education lessons can have on student moral and relationship building.  Recently, I did a bunch of lessons on the character trait, honesty.  It seemed to be a character trait that one of my students was struggling with, so I ended up developing a bunch of lessons that would encourage honesty.  If you want to read more about my character trait lessons on honesty, then check out this post:

What are you favorite picture books that teach character traits?  Have you done anything with the books that I listed in this post or have you used other books?  I'd love to hear about your experiences, so leave me a comment below.


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