Building Character with Characters!

Our time every day is limited and so so precious. In my ideal fantasy teaching world, we would have plenty of time to cover all the curriculum, plus work on social skills, citizenship, make art, sing songs, etc.

This is not our reality however, and we have to make the most of our time! I try to cover more than one subject area when reading aloud to my students.

At the beginning of the school year, I carefully choose books that will not only hook my students into being voracious readers, but that will also help me teach those all-important (painful!) procedures. At times, I can also use strong character models to help build citizenship. Fortunately, our district curriculum has us focusing on fiction for the first month of school, so that is supportive of these goals as well.

So many of the stories we hear in the first weeks, have characters that are experiencing simple problems: anxiety about school, a new teacher, sharing with a friend, etc. If I don’t already have too many other teaching points, then I guide the discussion toward analyzing the traits of characters in the story:

“Oh dear. Look at her face in this story. What do you think is happening?” OR “Why do you think he said that?” OR “ Would you want your friend to do that?”

Many times my students can see easily through a fictional character, what they cannot see in real life. They swell with pride when they interpret Chester and Wilson’s feelings about Lilly (Chester’s Way, Kevin Henkes). They burst with excitement at Buddy’s comic consequences as a result of not listening carefully. (Listen Buddy, Helen Lester)

Once we’ve made some connections between ourselves and our new “book friend,” then I post a small color copy of the cover on a bulletin board that grows throughout the year. Here is what my board looked like after a few weeks of school:


I love being able to refer to this board during the year when we need some reminders about being kind, or sharing, or including others. When that unit about character traits rolls around, it’s suddenly a breeze!

If you would like to use the same title pieces, and a simple reading response page to help students make the connection, click HERE to get a little freebie! I just printed them on colored cardstock and laminated the pieces. I don’t own the book cover images, so I cannot share those. The book covers I display change every year based on books we read.

Building Character with Characters!

Good luck! I hope this helps you to become better every year!


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