Friday, December 6, 2013

All Things Character Education!

Hi! I am Carolyn Kisloski, from Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together. I know there are lots of posts about Character Education, but I am always looking for a different book, activity, video, or object lesson to share with my class.  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 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!

Character Education 50+ Books and FREEBIES @ "PreK+K Sharing"

This time of year, there are some books that we all  probably use for holiday character education lessons.

Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer is a good lesson about being yourself and learning that your differences make you special. You are made exactly the way you are supposed to be to do wonderful things.
At my blog, I posted LOTS and LOTS of reindeer freebies and fun if you want to check those out!

The Grinch is all about learning to be kind, be kind, be kind.  It makes you feel better inside!

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree has always been one of my favorite stories to share with my class. 

It's great for so many things. The children love to retell it and remember each character who was able to have a new Christmas tree. It's also good for teaching that you don't have to be BIG to make a big difference in the world!  I LOVE this poster from Peppermint Plum.

Miss DeCarbo shared a sweet bulletin board idea and freebie at her TPT store to encourage Christmas Kindness that would go really well with Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree.  I love activities that encourage children to see and appreciate the good in others.

Christmas Kindness {Freebie}Christmas Kindness {Freebie}
Here is my Character Education Prezi that I made and use a lot in my classroom. I put together some of my favorite Youtube videos, songs, and posters to help remind my kids to keep the "kind" in Kindergarten.

I try to fit in as many character lessons as I can throughout the year.  Wouldn't it be nice if that were the common core?

Andi Webb has some great Character Counts Character Traits Posters free at her TPT store.  Each poster has a really child-friendly definition of a character trait including: Patience, Respect, Trustworthiness, Self-Discipline, Perseverance, Kindness, Integrity, Responsibility, and Tactfulness. These are wonderful for to start conversations about a trait, or to choose one each week to focus on in the classroom.

Character Counts {Character Trait Posters}Character Counts {Character Trait Posters}Character Counts {Character Trait Posters}Character Counts {Character Trait Posters}

Littlest Sweet Pea has some great question cards for developing positive character traits free at her TPT store.
Free Developing Positive Character Trait CardsFree Developing Positive Character Trait CardsFree Developing Positive Character Trait CardsFree Developing Positive Character Trait Cards

I also love these Character Moral Focus Posters from Teaching is Colorful. They are such great explanations of nine different traits.
Character Moral Focus PostersCharacter Moral Focus PostersCharacter Moral Focus PostersCharacter Moral Focus Posters
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 people are honest about  them.
Character Building - Honesty [Free Activity Packet]Character Building - Honesty [Free Activity Packet]Character Building - Honesty [Free Activity Packet]
We Do Listen Foundation 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.

In our classroom, we talk a lot about how important each one of us is to our class family. We talk about how we are the same, and how we are different- and that our differences are what make us so special.  Here are some favorite "Me" books:

(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.

It's fun to talk about the different noodles- shapes and colors- and compare it to our class family. We are all different shapes, sizes, colors, and we all have different strengths and things we are good at doing- like drawing, writing, singing, tying shoes, or running fast.  That is what makes our class special.  It wouldn't be fun to sort a bowl of all plain elbow macaroni!  

These next books are all great for showing that being different is what makes a  person special.

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.

Sweet Elmer the Elephant is always one of my favorites.

We always design our own Elmers. Sometimes I print him out on large graph paper to color. Sometimes I have the children tear construction paper pieces to glue on. Sometimes I have the children design him anyway they would like.    They write a sentence about what  makes them special to go with their elephant.  We have an Elmer parade when they are all finished, and we share our fabulous creations.

Alana Von Fister has a cute Elmer Math Activity Pack free at her TPT store.
Elmer Math Activity PackElmer Math Activity Pack

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.

 From dots and stars to A Bad Case of 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 stripes!
I had each child write, "I like me!" with chalk underneath his/her striped picture.

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 picked. 

"When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds, or a hundred wishes."

We also illustrate this poem to go along with our dandelion day.
Little White Owl by Jane Chapman is a sweet story that shows children the beauty of being happy with themselves and loving their differences.  It is also a good book about storytelling!

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...

This object lesson is about not judging something (or someone) by how it looks.  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.  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.

I loved this object lesson!

I also love this lesson with M&M's. First the children get to choose their favorite color and eat it. The next time, they have to close their eyes and pick an unknown color and eat it. THEN, they have to tell me what color they ate.

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!" 

(We model how it is NO FUN to cheat because it ruins the game. It is easy to tell the color when you open your eyes and cheat... They sort of need to be reminded of that. After that, I didn't have anyone even try to cheat.)

This is one of my favorite bracelets that I have. It is from Signals.  I wear it all the time.
I liked this poster, too! Yum...

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.

KBass has a wonderful  Pete the Cat Emergent Reader FREE at her TPT store that goes with this story!
Pete the Cat - Emergent ReaderPete the Cat - Emergent ReaderPete the Cat - Emergent ReaderPete the Cat - Emergent Reader
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.

Gloria Rojas has a fun Pete the Cat Syllable Count Freebie at her TPT store. 

Pete the Cat Back to School Syllable CountingPete the Cat Back to School Syllable CountingPete the Cat Back to School Syllable Counting

FinnTastic offers this free The Cat with Cool Buttons Subtraction Activities Unit with several different subtraction activities.
The Cat with Cool Buttons - Math  Subtraction ActivitiesThe Cat with Cool Buttons - Math  Subtraction ActivitiesThe Cat with Cool Buttons - Math  Subtraction Activities

Sarah Tharpe Winchell has a free I Have Who Has sight word game featuring a cat "similar to Pete the Cat."  :)  My kids will love this game.
Similiar to Pete the Cat an I Have Who Has Game with Fry WordsSimiliar to Pete the Cat an I Have Who Has Game with Fry WordsSimiliar to Pete the Cat an I Have Who Has Game with Fry Words

Amber Monroe has a Rockin' Touchpoint Numbers Activity free at her TPT store. I love all of her products.
Rockin' Touchpoint Numbers {A FREE Touchpoint Number MemorRockin' Touchpoint Numbers {A FREE Touchpoint Number Memor

I also love Jennifer Garcia's If... Then Activity

FREEBIE- If...then statementsFREEBIE- If...then statementsFREEBIE- If...then statements

Cindy Blakely has a cute Buttons Book freebie to help children count and learn color words.

Buttons Buttons BooksButtons Buttons BooksButtons Buttons Books

And finally...Alyssa Curry has this sweet motivational poster free at her TPT store, just for a fun reminder!
Pete the Cat Motivational Poster
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.

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. This book helps them realize what would happen if EVERYBODY did something.

      Here is a sample picture if one person squeezed the cat:


These next two books 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 fit in lessons about being kind any chance I get!

Friendship Salad is always a great beginning of the year activity, but sometimes I like to revisit it as we begin our new year, after Christmas break.  Just like a great book, a great object lesson can be shared again and again.  Sometimes different children remember it the second time who didn't really 'get' it the first time.

(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:

Amanda, from First Grade Garden, shared some great pictures to download at her blog with her lesson about Stop/Talk/Fix.  You can read her post here and download her pictures!
And it is a wonderful time to introduce some of my FAVORITE FRIENDS...
I love Frog and Toad- but I usually wait until a little later in the year to introduce these friends.  I did get some bigger Frog and Toad books, so the pictures may be better for the earlier part of the year.

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.

 Tico and the Golden Wings by Leo Lionni is also a good story about the joy of giving.
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.

Bleagh is a cute little story about a monster who goes to school for the first time and learns important lessons about different values.

I LOVE this Monster's Manners Unit from Growing Kinders.  I love everything about it, and so do the kids!  It goes along great with Bleagh.
Monster Fun! Teaching Manners and Expectations

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  

 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.

 Here is a nice poster from Mr. Magician about using Kind Words.
 Be Kind Poster
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 they 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.

Look what I just found at TPT!  Richard Giso made an activity to go with Kindness is Cooler- that is much more professional looking than my cut out hearts! 
 Kindness IS Cooler, Mrs. Ruler ProjectKindness IS Cooler, Mrs. Ruler ProjectKindness IS Cooler, Mrs. Ruler Project

Another favorite:
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.

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 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.
I had to share this picture from the beginning of the year when we did this activity- because who could ever be a better bucket filler than Christ?!?!?!  This little sweetie tried so  hard to write his whole name. I told him that I was fine with "Chris" since his name is so long. Apparently, he was expanding it one letter at a time- and this made me laugh out loud. 

First Grade Fever by Christie shared these adorable Bucket Filler Posters at her TPT store. 
Bucket Filler Posters {Freebie}Bucket Filler Posters {Freebie}Bucket Filler Posters {Freebie}

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.

Bee Kind Random Acts of Kindness
 You could make a Kindness Class Book with this activity from Jenny Spencer!
Brown Bear Helps with Classroom Management by Looking for

Sweet Surprises is an oldie that my own 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!
Random Acts of Kindness Class Book Template - Whimsy WorksRandom Acts of Kindness Class Book Template - Whimsy Works
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. 
Be Kind (Classroom Poster) Whimsy Workshop Teaching
My friend Charlene from Diamond Mom made these sweet You've Been RACKED cards that would be so much fun to leave behind after your random acts of kindness!
You've Been RACKed! Random Acts of Christmas KindnessYou've Been RACKed! Random Acts of Christmas Kindness 
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!
Kindness Catcher {Positive Behavior Reinforcement}Kindness Catcher {Positive Behavior Reinforcement}Kindness Catcher {Positive Behavior Reinforcement}Kindness Catcher {Positive Behavior Reinforcement}
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.
26 Random Acts of Kindness
The children could make a Kindness Chain with their acts! This one is from Leaping into Teaching.
Kindness Chains
I love these Be Kind Signs from Chalk One Up for the Teacher.
Be Kind SignsBe Kind SignsBe Kind SignsBe Kind Signs
Amber Marker made this sweet poster.
Spark of Kindness- Motivational/Inspirational Quote
I made a Prezi called The Power of One.  It is free at  my TPT store

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.

I hope you found some new treasures or were reminded of some oldies but goodies. I'd love you to stop over and visit or follow my blog! Thanks for sticking with me through this post.  I like having everything all in one place when I want to check back and use something, so I hope you do, too!
 Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.



  1. Thank you for an awesome list that will be great for any parent or teacher! I post a picture book review and activity every Friday and link up with children's author Susanna Leonard Hill;s Perfect Picture Book Friday blog post. ( She has a page with over 1000 picture book reviews and activities or resource lists that is both alphabetized and's an amazing resource.

  2. What an awesome post! Thank you!


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