After 12 years in the classroom I continue to learn and grow as a teacher, and each year I revise my practices to reflect my new learning. I by no means have everything figured out, I continue to make mistakes, reflect, and learn. But, I have become more intentional with implementing what I have found to work well for my students. One of those areas of increased intentionality is my instruction on character development. As I shared in my previous blog post, this is an area of instruction that has been important to me since my first year of teaching.
The creation of The Character Tree has helped me dramatically with implementing a consistent routine for instruction on character development. Just as in any classroom, I have ongoing (and unplanned) opportunities to address my students social emotional needs and I do turn those opportunities into teachable moments. But, The Character Tree has allowed my students and me to have a predictable time each week in which we are able to intentionally learn and talk about character development.
At the same time every Monday afternoon my students and I watch the new Character Tree episode for the week. I aim to keep this routine (and all routines in my classroom) predictable for my students so they know what to expect and count on each day. I even created a schedule card for The Character Tree that goes with the visual schedule I post at the front of our classroom each day to remind my students of what the day will hold, click here to download it.
Prior to watching a new episode, I let my students know which character trait the episode focuses on. If it is a new trait we haven’t yet learned about I ask them if they have heard of that trait before and if they have any predictions about what it might mean. If it is a trait that was introduced in a previous episode, I ask them what they remember about the trait and if they have exhibited the trait themselves, or observed anyone else in our class exhibiting it. I then tell them who the prominent figure is that we’ll be learning about in the episode. I have found that more often than not, the prominent figure is someone they are not yet familiar with. I have also found that they really enjoy the biographical information each episode offers and they like “getting to know” each person!
Throughout the week that follows I continue to place emphasis on the character trait we learned about on Monday. One way that I do this is by selecting picture books to read to my class during the week that highlight the trait. After reading a picture book to my class we have conversations about how we noticed the trait throughout the book. I have found the conversations we have after each episode and also after reading books to be the most powerful in terms of further developing my students understanding of each character trait.
If you are looking for book recommendations that go with each trait, then download the supplemental resources that go with each episode and you will find book suggestions at the bottom of each teacher’s guide. Also, The Character Tree blog features a few posts in which we recommend picture books based on character traits, click here to take a look at those.