Kick off your back to school season with a fun, character building unit including fun back to school activities. These 12 character building exercises are perfect for ANY elementary classroom and address various important character building topics. Welcome your students back to the classroom and build a strong classroom community by trying the fun back to school activities below. Typically, I do one of these back to school activities a day for the first few weeks of school during our science/social studies time.
I Wish My Teacher Knew…
At the beginning of the year, vulnerability can be a difficult thing. Before talking about character, it is important to get to know your students on a more personal level. One way to let students open up anonymously is by completing an “I Wish My Teacher Knew” activity. During this time, students can tell you ANYTHING about them. It can be silly things, serious things, simple facts and more. You will be so surprised what students will tell you and it is a great way to get them to open up at the beginning of the year.
Teach students to show respect to others by pairing this fun volcano activity with My Mouth is a Volcano. Students will learn about why interrupting can hurt the feelings of other students or kids, and then will reflect on what they can do if they feel like their “volcano” is about to explode and they are NOT able to wait for their own turn. This can make a great individual craft or a cute bulletin board for your classroom to keep on display.
Manners at school are so important. Students need to know what POSITIVE choices and what NEGATIVE choices at school look like. I love to read the book He’s Been a Monster All Day to my class and then talk about monster manners. We simply look at various things that can happen at school, and decide if it is or is not acceptable for school. This is another great bulletin board to keep on display, but also is a great reinforcement lesson that can be broken out throughout the year as needed.
Showing Respect to School Supplies
Showing respect extends beyond classmates. Respecting property is important too. I love to pair The Day the Crayons Quit with talking about respecting our school supplies. We read the text, write a letter to our crayons (and other school supplies) and talk about how we are going to take care of our supplies throughout the year. This is also a great time to write a “class contract” that can be put on display for the year. We do this as a shared writing piece, in which we talk about all of the ways we are going to show respect at school. I write for the class, then have the whole class sign it at the end.
Showing Character at Recess
Have you ever met Mean Jean the Recess Queen? She is NOT pleasant and stomps around ruining everyone’s time. Not the type of queen you are expecting, until someone finally stands up to her. I love to pair this read aloud with an activity in which we talk about how real kings and queens would act on the playground. Students get to make their own crowns and wear them all day while also committing to one way that they will make the playground a better place this year.
Showing Love – Kissing Hands
Students that show character are students who show love. The start of the school year can be hard for ALL students, but especially those who might be missing someone at home. One way to make students feel more comfortable at school is to make kissing hands for someone at home. This can be a parent or another loved one. This helps students know that they are not alone in missing someone at home, but that they can also have independence at school as well.
Ways to Make Friends
Billy Bully is really good at chasing all of his friends away on the playground. He is not always kind, he doesn’t always remember his manners, and he slowly loses his friends. He has to think of ways to get his friends back when he ends up with none. This might be a similar situation to some of your students, who might for one reason or another, struggle to make new friends. In groups, I love to have students make posters of 10 ways that they can come up with to make new friends during the school year. Ideas can be as simple as saying hello to new people at recess, or as kind as helping someone who seems to be having a difficult day.
Giving Compliments – Being Bucket Fillers
Being a good person is important, but so is being a bucket filler to others. After reading How Full is Your Bucket?, I love to have my students make compliment buckets. We create a bucket craft and then write about how we would fill other people’s buckets either at home or at school. This makes a great bulletin board and a great reminder for the year on how we can be bucket fillers!
Make Your Mark
Character is not only about being a good citizen. It is also about being creative and finding your own voice. One book that does a great job teaching this is The Dot. I love to read this text, then give my students a paper with a dot in which they can create their own fun image using the dot. This teaches students about creativity, but also allows students to see that every student is going to come at this with their own unique point of view. Students learn to appreciate other students’ special skills and unique takes.
Individuality on the Inside and Outside
Speaking of special skills and unique takes, it is important for students to understand the importance of BEING THEMSELVES. I like to read aloud Ruby the Copycat in which Ruby finds a friend at school and begins copying everything the friend is doing. It irritates the friend and she changes who she is. Ruby gets sad, but then learns a lesson that we are all unique in our own ways, inside and out. We use this lesson to help us come up with ways that WE are unique and special both on the inside and on the outside.
Showing Off Talents
Another text about independence is Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. In this text, a little girl is picked on for things that she typically loves about herself. She learns to speak up for herself and be proud of who she is. One way we can celebrate students is by highlighting their talents in our classroom. I love to do this fun and quick craft in which students share their talents with their classmates. This allows students to learn unique facts about one another while also being able to be proud of their own talents.
Our Giving Trees
Finally, we wrap up our character building back to school activities by reading aloud a classic, The Giving Tree. Every single person has at least one thing that they can share with the world. We make our trees and write the things we want to share with others. Once again, this can make a great bulletin board or can be a great project to display in a portfolio.
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What are your favorite back to school activities that help build character? Drop it in the comments below!