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Character Education - Courage, Kindness, Responsibility, Caring, Self Control, Perseverance

FYI: Second Step Elementary Age Program.  This program was my favorite supplement in teaching Character Education, mixed in with my own material.  You may want to check them out.

Confusius: To see right and not do it is a want of courage.
Marie Curie: Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.

It takes courage to stand up for our own convictions and not buckle under peer pressure, rather than go along with what everyone else is doing.  It takes courage to express oneself even when others may not agree.  It takes courage to tell the truth, face fears, and to know the difference between being brave and being reckless.  There are times when being brave and having courage is in saying, NO, rather than doing something that is wrong or may end up hurting us.

Eugene the Brave, by Ellen Conford: Younger
Eugene is a opossum who is afraid of the dark.  With his sister trying to help, he tries to escape his fear and sleep through the night.

Mr. Washington, by Les Brown: Older   Third Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul
It takes courage for a young man to get through school with his learning difficulties.  Mr. Washington, a teacher, helps to inspire this young man (Les Brown), and he shows great courage in continuing forward.  (Teasing is only slightly touched on in this story.  It is a good point to discuss; Les Brown says he was use to being teased).

Art Activity: Cherry tree of Sacrifice
In Japan, one of the meanings behind the cherry tree is that it stands for sacrifice.  Brave men and women show courage and work in fields of sacrifice every day.  Some of these men and woman are in the armed services, police officers, and fire fighters just to name a few.

(For Younger children, make one large tree out of a large shopping bag and have each child add a couple of blossoms.  Twist trunk once and tie with a string while working on the tree).  Use a lunch size paper bag and open it so it can stand on its own.  Just above the seam (carefully hold bottom of bag), twist several times.  I unfold the bag to cut branches, others cut while the bottom is twisted.  Using scissors cut strips from the top of the bag, down to where the twisted section is, or will be if you have unfolded the bag.  There should be about 30 strips of paper in all (twist back truck if unfolded).  Three strips at a time, twist sections together to form branches.  If there is an uneven number of strips left at the end, make one branch with 2 or 4 strips of paper.  Cut small pieces of white or pink tissue paper and glue on the branches of the tree for cherry blossoms.

More Activities:
Draw a picture about courage; standing up for yourself or someone else, saying no to doing something unhealthy, or wrong (such as teasing someone or saying No to drugs).

Brainstorm ways to show courage, or jobs that show courage.

Brainstorm the difference in having courage and being reckless.  

Write about: Your friends are teasing/bullying someone, what do you do and why?  Or, write about a time you went along with the crowd even though you knew it was wrong; how did it make you feel?

Elbert Hubbard: Recipe for having friends; be one.
Theodore Issaac Rubin: Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.  

Children can be cruel to each other; teasing someone and then saying, I was playing, or I'm only kidding is not acceptable.  Instilling kindness is essential to put an end to bullying.  Kindness is the character trait that is basic to all that is good.  Kindness can be shown by being friendly, willing to help, being gentle or empathetic.  Showing acts of kindness can improve the quality of life.  The kindness we show to people, animals, and to the earth is given, and then reflected back to us.

Have you Filled a Bucket Today, by Carol McCloud; Younger
A heartwarming book that encourages positive behavior.  Children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness.  The concept of filling the bucket with happiness through kindness.  

Night Watch, by Roy Popkin; Older  Chicken Soup for the Soul
A tender story about a young serviceman's kindness to someone he didn't even know.
(story can be found at

Art Activity: The Kind Tree
Scroll down to the bottom of kindness for the outline.  Copy and then trace the two flower outlines on colored paper.  If you are using this for older children, you can use leaves for those who may not want flowers.  In the center of the smaller flower, have children dictate or write a way they are going to be kind to others, (it is helpful to brainstorm ways of being kind to others, first).  Glue the center of the small flower onto the center of the large flower, fold peddles inward and roll the tips.  On butcher paper or the back of wrapping paper, draw the outline of a tree or shrub, and glue the flowers on.  

More Activities:
1. Have a thank you day.  Find opportunities to say Thank You!  Say thank you to the neighbor who is nice to you, a friend who is kind, the mail carrier, a teacher, the school custodian, the school secretaries, lunch personnel...  

2. Brainstorm ways you can be kind to people who have special needs.

3. Discuss what a good friend truly is.  What is it that changes a person into a friend?  How are friends kind to each other?  What kind of behavior is not a real friend?

4. Write a paragraph about a time you showed kindness, or someone showed kindness to you.  How did it feel to give or receive the kindness?  Decorate and post the writings on a kindness board.

5.To be kind is a decision.  We can decide to be kind, considerate, rude, or mean.  Discuss how we can choose to be kind, and how being kind can become a good habit.

Abraham Lincoln: You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Williams Howard Taft: Too many people don't care what happens so long as it doesn't happen to them.

To be responsible is to do the things that need to be done.  It's a person who is reliable, dependable, and does not blame others for their actions.  The habit of blaming others greatly hinders people from meeting their responsibilities, (cause and effect).  We want freedom to make our own decisions, however, it is not always clear to us that decisions carry consequences.  This is a character trait that is a process and evolves; when people are able to meet their responsibilities, they feel proud of themselves and have a feeling of satisfaction.  

Clifford the Small Red Puppy, by Norman Birdwell; Younger
Read the story before the art activity.  It takes responsibility to take care of a dog, especially Clifford.  This book also includes the concept of appearances being deceiving and the potential that something may turn out differently than what it would seem.

Art; Clifford's Bones
Scroll to the bottom of Responsibility and copy the dog house on colored paper and the bones on white paper.  Cut out and glue to a background piece of construction paper.  For grass cut a strip of green paper and make cuts on the strip 3/4 the way down.  

A Good Reason to Look Up, by Shaquille O'Neal; Older
Chicken Soup for the Soul
When Shaq was young, he often went along with the crowd.  His father told him, "Be a leader Shaq, not a follower.  Since people already have to look up to you, give them a good reason to do so."  Mr. O'Neal shows responsibility by trying his best to follow his father's advice.  
(story can be found at

1. Brainstorm responsible behavior.  The next day call roll and have children answer: I am responsible when I...

2. Is it the responsibility of an athlete to act as a role model since they are in the public eye, or should they be able to live their life as they want, even if they are being irresponsible.  
What are the consequences of being irresponsible.

3. Give each child an envelope and tell them they will need the envelope at school tomorrow (you can make it for a longer period of time).  It is their responsibility to keep the envelope safe and not to open the envelope.  The next day tell those who have the envelope unopened, that they can now open their envelope.  Inside is a note saying: Thank you for being responsible.  You can have ____ minutes of free time on ___.

4. Write five things to say to yourself if you are tempted to act irresponsibly.  

5. Describe something you have done that is responsible, and how you felt afterwards.  
Did you learn from it?

6. Describe what society might be like if no one was accountable for their actions.  What would happen if no one kept their promises or commitments.

Clifford The Small Red Puppy

Mother Theresa: We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.
Aesop: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

To be a caring person means you are sensitive to peoples feelings.  Other characteristics are kindness, generosity, compassion and showing concern for others.  A caring person thinks about their actions and how they will affect others.  We become caring people by undertaking actions that show care.  Caring people can change the world, one person at a time.

The Biggest and Brightest Light, by Marilyn Perlyn
This is based on a true story.  Amanda's teacher has a child in the hospital.  Amanda helped her teacher by raising money for the hospital bill.  Through her efforts, she found that helping someone else gave her the best feeling she has ever had.  It was better than eating a chocolate sundae, better than opening up all the presents at her birthday party...  The story is heartwarming and beautiful.  

Mr. Gillespie, by Angela Sturgill;   Chicken Soup for the Soul
Mr. Gillespie is a touching story about a young candy striper who cared.  Much of her time was spent with Mr. Gillespie, holding his hand and talking to him; Mr. Gillespie was in a coma.  Her act of caring for someone she did not know helped him to recover, at least Mr. Gillespie sees it that way.
(Story can be found at

Art Activity: Heart
People who care have big hearts.  Cut out big white hearts for each child.  Children/students write or dictate a sentence about someone they have been caring to, or someone who has shown care for them; older children can write a paragraph.  Write directly on the heart, or on a piece of paper, (or type); cut the paper to fit the heart and glue it on.  Children can decorate the heart with crayons, colored pencils, and/or glue on smaller hearts.

More Activities:
1.Brainstorm what it means to be a caring person.

2. Write about the most caring thing anyone has ever done for you, and how it made you feel.  What effect did it have on you?  

3. Write about a time you were caring to someone.  A time you cared for a pet, helped your parent, sibling, or friend, showed care for the earth, volunteering you do, or hope to do in the future.

4. Imagine you have won a lot of money, and you would like to spend all of the money helping people.  Who would you help?  Brainstorm and then write a paragraph.

Self Control
Seneca: The greatest remedy for anger is delay.
Olin Miller: If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.

Self control is the capability to make decisions on how and when we express our feelings.  Self control is doing the work first, and having free time afterwards; the longer we put things off, the more we will dread them.  Having self control of our words is important since once the words have been spoken, they are out in the world and it is impossible to take them back.  It is only human to speak without thinking once in awhile, but we still take the chance of hurting someones feelings.  We all get angry which is not a problem, it is how we react when we are angry that is important.  We do have the choice of when and how we express our feelings.

Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley?, by Rebecca Caudill; Younger
Charley has to learn self control as he attends a summer preschool program.

Who Was Jackie Robinson, by Nancy Harrison; 8 and up
In 1947 Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in major league baseball.  Had Jackie not showed immense self control, the integration of African Americans in baseball would have been damaged.  

Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, by Sharron Robinson; Older
Any story of Jackie Robinson is a favorite of mine.  This is a longer story of Jackie Robinson written for children, by his daughter, Sharron.  She shares memories of her famous father, who broke the color barrier in baseball.  

Go over Stop, Think, Go, and practice calming down techniques.  When counting, it should be done at a slow pace.  I don't want to get in trouble, should be repeated as many times as needed.  Scroll down to the bottom of Calm and Cool for the Stop Light outline.

Calm and Cool
Scroll down to page 4 and 5 for an Example of how to fill out, Calm and Cool.


Author Unknown: If you get up one time more than you fall you will make it through.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Every artist was once an amateur.

Perseverance is an opportunity to learn.  Think of all you have accomplished so far.  At one time you had just learned how to sit up, then crawl, eventually walk, and then run.  Another way to look at perseverance is to remember what you knew on your very first day of school, and what you know today; it took perseverance.  It is easy to stick with something we enjoy.  Perseverance helps us move forward when the task becomes difficult; this builds good character.  Persevering says: I Can, and I Will Keep Trying!  

A Girl Named Helen Keller, by Margo LundellYounger
This is a true and inspiring story on perseverance.  A wonderful way to introduce children to Helen Keller.  It covers Helen's struggles after becoming deaf and blind, and her eventual triumph of learning words with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

Art Activity: Water Drops
It was very inspiring when Helen Keller connected the concept of water with sign language.  Enlarge and print out Yes I Can coloring page.  Color water drops and add glitter.  Scroll to the bottom of perseverance for the outline.

Walt Disney, by Tom Zeleznock; Older
This is a great story for older students since most everyone has heard about Disneyland.  The story tells of Walt Disney's perseverance and his many failures before he was successful.  Your children/students will enjoy this short story.
(Story can be found at down to the last story)

Goal Activity:
If the goal setting is within a classroom, fill out a sample goal sheet so that students understand the steps, or fill the sheet out all together.  If this is being done at home, the parent can explain how to fill out the sheet as you go.

More Activities:
1. Write out the steps it takes to care for a pet, play a sport or musical instrument.

2. Discuss the perseverance it takes to overcome obstacles when you have a physical difficulty, such as blind, deaf, paralysis...  Or, think about if we would know who Helen Keller is today, had she not had obstacles to overcome and the perseverance it took.

3. Listen to music from a CD.  Brainstorm all of the people it must have taken to make this one CD.  

4. Research Thomas Edison: It is thought that Edison tried more than 5,000 materials for the filament in the light bulb, before he found tungsten.  He has been quoted as saying that the trials were not failures, because he now knew all the things that did not work. 

5. Research Beethoven who was deaf when he wrote some of his most glorious compositions. 

Helen Keller

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