Elementary Character Education Ideas

Teaching Our Students to Be Thankful

by laura_gurley on January 14, 2013

I am currently visiting America’s Mart in Atlanta– a huge shopping expo for store owners. I have been hunting and hunting for some spectacular teacher gifts for our store– something that really helps students show just how much their teachers mean to them.

While walking through hundreds of booths in my search, I started thinking about the virtue of gratitude– How can we help to teach our students to be thankful?

One of the best things that I did with my students was to have them create class thank you cards! Whenever we had a parent helper or volunteer do something for our class– we made sure that they received a card. The students always looked forward to creating them.

Here are a few great ideas for creating your own class thank you notes. It’s such a simple idea that instills a great sense of appreciation in our students.


1) Make a Sticky Note Thank You Card











2) Create a Photo Card









3) Make Thumbprint Cards



How to Teach Kids Respect

by Laura Gurley on April 18, 2012

One of the most highly searched character-related education topics is how to teach kids respect, according to google searches. It’s the character trait teachers scour the internet to find ideas on how to teach most often. And it’s not difficult to see why– respect has its fingers in almost all classroom management issues. Respect can also include a student’s relationship with oh-so-many:  the elderly, the authority, the younger, the environment, animals, and for various races/religions/genders, etc.

And since teachers globally are googling it so often, I thought we’d take a day to highlight a few of the top resources for teaching respect in the classroom I’ve found, to date. Enjoy.

Character Counts Lesson Plan Ideas. This list of 18 lesson plans on respect spans several different grade levels. Lesson ideas range from a focus on showing respect for the non-native student, listening skills, respecting each other, and giving respect to everyday heroes.

35 Activities You Can Do to Learn Respect. Dr. Michele Borba assembled this excellent list of 35 practical activities you can encourage students to do, or do as a class, that encourage respect. Activities include: creating a “recipe” for respect, making a button or bumper sticker with respect’s motto, and engaging in classroom discussions on specific questions.

School Counselor Rob’s Video on Respect. In this 5 minute simple, drawing-style video, a teacher explains practical examples for respecting places, things, and people. Suitable for elementary grades.

The Cornerstone for Teachers’ Month of Respect. Our own Angela Watson has created a fantastic resource on character education over at her blog. If you scroll down to the month of January, you’ll find a definition, talking points, and several resources about the topic.

Create a Respect Rap. Show students the following short youtube from some elementary students. After you talk about respect and brainstorm what respecting others and ourselves might involve, group students and have them write and perform a rap for the class.

Fearless Lions Respect Video and Rap. {Don’t Miss This One Below! It’s really good!} This 5 minute video would be an excellent lesson starter or quick reminder to your students of what respect should look like. The first two minutes videos a common classroom scenario of disrespect, while the last three minutes shows a well-done rap/music video by a class of older elementary students and their teacher. {You can see just the rap itself, without the first scene, here.}


Have any other ideas for teaching respect in the classroom?  Have you found a lack of respect to be an issue with your students, parents, or co-workers?

Related Posts. Top Ten Character Education Posts  |  Make Your Classroom Kinder  |  Teaching Individuality Classroom Management Top Ten Classroom Management That Works

Want More Practical Teaching Tips? Visit our past teaching tips here. And the winner of last week’s teacher-door prize? Lindzee M., comment #17! Thanks to all who entered!

- Laura L. Parker, Editor and blogger at LauraParkerBlog

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Teaching kids (and ourselves) about being judgmental

by angela_watson on April 5, 2012

Have you seen this video? It’s been making the rounds on the interwebz for awhile and recently gained attention again when a high profile video-curating site shared it. Currently it has over 70 million views. Take a look–it’s only 45 seconds:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ysqh1uzqGrc?rel=0]

What thoughts floated through your mind as you listened to this child sing?  Maybe you had some of the same ideas as the people who commented about the video on YouTube: Yeah, he’s cute and all, but isn’t it sad that this child is so fat? How could his parents feed him so much junk food? Letting a kid get that big…wow…almost seems like child abuse.

Now watch this video the young man, Sam, made a few years later:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jLToe6diKs?rel=0]

Well. It turns out that Sam is not obese at all. He happens to have a chronic, aggressive kidney disease which results in extreme swelling in his body, and the medication he takes to control the disease often makes the swelling worse. His weight problem has nothing to do with what he’s eating (or what his mom has been feeding him.) In fact, take a look at these two photos of Sam, one before he was inflicted with the disease, and one just a few weeks later:

Cuppycake boy before and after his disease

Isn’t it amazing how that one extra piece of information about Sam’s health completely transforms the way you view this young boy and his family? One missing link can alter your whole perspective of a situation.

I commend Sam for taking the criticism he received and turning it into a lesson on compassion and refraining from judgment. You can show the first video to your students and ask them to share their preconceived notions about Sam, then show the second one and talk about how their feelings changed after watching the second video. Here are a few teaching points you may want to guide them to understand:

  • People you see on the internet are real people, with real feelings.
  • The things you write on the Internet could be seen by the person you’re writing about and could be hurtful.
  • Watching a 45 second YouTube video does not give anyone enough information to make a judgment about a person.
  • Sometimes truths which appear to be self-evident are completely false.
  • We should always show compassion to others, because we have no idea what the extent of their problems might be.
  • It’s better to believe the best about others and give them the benefit of the doubt before criticizing.

What other lessons could you draw from Sam’s story? I’d love to hear about your (and your students’) reactions.

Angela Watson is the creator of The Cornerstone, a collection of print and online resources designed to make teaching more effective, efficient, and enjoyable. Angela was a classroom teacher for 11 years and currently works as an instructional coach and educational consultant based in New York City.  She conducts webinars and writes books centered on her passion for helping teachers build strong classroom management and a positive mindset so they can truly enjoy their work. Angela’s website, TheCornerstoneForTeachers.com, features hundreds of free teaching articles, lesson ideas and activities, classroom photos, printable forms/posters, and more. You can follow her on Twitter at: Angela_Watson .


Teaching Tips Tuesday {Stop the Nag. Ask the Question.}

by Laura Gurley on January 31, 2012

Do you feel like you have slowly become a teacher that nags?  A teacher that lectures more than a Harvard University professor? An educator that ends up harping more than cheerleading?

I get it. In parenting and in teaching, it’s so easy to become the Character Cheetah without even realizing it — pouncing on the the same flaws in students, over and over again. {And I know, I know, if they wouldn’t have the flaws, you wouldn’t have to pounce so much.} But eventually, I’m afraid our voices become nothing more than the adults’ voices on the Charlie Brown cartoons . . .  ”waa, waaa, waaaa . .  .”

“This is not responsible to forget your homework, again, John. How many times is that this week?”

“Kiley, you have to stop pushing to the front of the line. That’s so rude.”

“Guys, be respectful!”

“Stop leaving your bags in the floor. Clean up the stations. Don’t write on the desks.”

“What is your problem?  Didn’t you hear me say to stop talking when I am trying to teach?!?”

day 071: project log lady
We all know the Character Cheetah has made an appearance in most of our classrooms, and we also know that it’s not a pretty site. Or an effective teaching strategy at that.

Try this. When you catch yourself beginning to harp on a student for a behavior, particularly one that is related to their character or is affecting your classroom management, skip the nag and ask them this simple question,

“What does {insert behavior here} say about your character?”

And then, wait for their answer. Have them evaluate their actions themselves. And see what happens.

Maybe their actions reflect dishonesty or irresponsiblity or selfishness or a lack of kindness. Maybe they are displaying laziness or disrespect or pride. But, don’t be the one to tell them about it. Let the student be the one to take responsibility for what his or her actions are communicating.  Of course, be sure to communicate that one instance doesn’t equate to a dishonest character forever. However, you will want to take a chance to remind them that . . .

Actions speak louder than words.  Be sure that what you are saying without words is what you want to be communicating.

And, of course, this works the opposite way, too. When you see a student displaying a positive quality, take the chance to ask  the same question and give them the chance to claim their good choices, too. {Especially in front of others, of course.}


The winner of last week’s Teaching Tips Tuesday link-up was the lovely lady that linked up Sarah Mackey’s idea for “Heart Attack” good behavior punch-cards. Congratulations!  Send an email with your mailing address to: lauraleighparker@gmail.com, and the vintage chalkboard is yours!  Thanks, again, to CrabAppl1 for donating this item.


How about you?  ’Fess up. Do you struggle with nagging your students verbally?  How do you handle difficult students?

Photo credit here. Laura has a Middle Grades Education degree and blogs at aLifeOverseas.com.


Five Ways To Make Your Classroom a Kinder Place

January 24, 2012

Welcome to our second edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday. We are making this a weekly event here at Inspired Teacher, and many weeks we’ll be doing giveaways to participants. Today, in fact, we are giving away a gorgeous vintage chalkboard for all who share a teaching tip in today’s link-up. So be sure to read [...]

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The Top Character Education Lessons Plans and Motivational Videos of 2011

January 7, 2012
Kids at zebra crossing

If you are looking for easy lesson ideas or videos to encourage good character in your students or children, the following is a listing of the top articles on character education which InspiredTeacher.net has produced in the year 2011. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to commit to a time-consuming curriculum to teach intentionally and inspirationally. [...]

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Justin Bieber Visits a Needy School

January 4, 2012
Justin Bieber Spreads Inspiration to a Needy School

If you work with students in any capacity, you know Justin Bieber.  Our family is homeschooling in Thailand, and we even have a cat named after the guy. {Bieber is a cute kitty name, is it not?} Much to my surprise, and to the delight of my eight-year-old daughter, I came across this inspirational story [...]

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The Gift of Sincere Compliments

December 12, 2011

In eighth grade, I begged my mom to put me in another school. I was a country girl plopped down in a city school. I wore sweatshirts, and they wore Guess. I laced-up scuffed Reeboks, and they sported sparkling Keds. I played Madonna again and again, and they jammed out to the Beastie Boys. I [...]

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Why Character Education?

November 11, 2011

Why should a teacher spend valuable class time on character education when students aren’t held responsible for things like kindness, respect, or integrity on those ever-pressing end of year state tests? I get it. I do. A teacher is overwhelmed with pressure to barrel through curriculum and oftentimes it leaves little room for intentional instruction on [...]

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Kindness in Words

October 11, 2011
Kindness in What We Say

The following is a character education lesson on kindness.  It can be used with your children or with your students.  You can watch this two minute video of my demonstration of the lesson, and then grab some blocks and do it yourself for the students, or you can just show them the video itself.  Either [...]

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