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A Lesson in Character: Connect with Yourself

EducationWorld is pleased to feature this K-6 language arts and communication lesson adapted from School Volunteer Handbook: A Simple Guide for K-6 Teachers and Parents, by Yael Calhoun and Elizabeth Q. Finlinson (Lila Press, 2011).

The lesson plan, shared with the permission of the authors, is a great example of a short activity with simple instructions that appeals to a diverse group of parent interests and teacher needs. The activity is an ideal one for implementation by classroom volunteers.

See other School Volunteer Handbook activities:
Be the Boss: A Lesson Plan On Managing Feelings
Lesson to Celebrate Diversity: The Unity Necklace
Just Add Water: Science Experiments With H2O

About the authors

Yael Calhoun, MA, MS, RYT, is an author and educator who has taught preschool through college. She also has worked as an environmental planner and has written over a dozen books. Currently, she is a cofounder and the Executive Director of GreenTREE Yoga, a nonprofit committed to bringing the benefits of yoga to diverse populations.

Elizabeth Q. Finlinson, LCSW,is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked as a school therapist, volunteer coordinator, and as a private practitioner specializing in children and families. She teaches character education and physical education and is an active school volunteer.


  • Language Arts
  • Art
  • Health/Character Development


Brief Description
Students learn about the importance of good character and express desired character traits through a personalized art activity.


Students will

  • Explore the qualities of good character within a supportive, safe environment
  • Identify qualities of good character they would like to strengthen in themselves

Choose either the full body cut-out or the heart cut-out.

  • Two 40-minute sessions for full body cut-out
  • One 45-minute session for heart cut-out

Materials Needed

  • Butcher block paper (enough for a body tracing for each student) OR 12- to 18-inch heart shape drawn on a piece of construction paper (one for each student)
  • Colored pencils, crayons, markers (include shimmery gold, silver, or bronze)
  • Chalk or white board
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Optional: Book that introduces the idea of positive character (see suggestions under Extend the Lesson below)
  • Optional: A copy of the “All About Me” worksheet for each student (see suggestions under Extend the Lesson below)


Decide whether the full-body tracing or the heart cut-out is appropriate for the class. If needed, identify the space in which the full body tracing will be done. Ideas:

  • Have a volunteer take three students at a time to the gym, library, or hallway.
  • Use the classroom if pushing furniture to the side is an option.
  • Have an older class help a younger class do the tracing and cutting.

Lesson Plan

Part 1: Discussion Points (10 minutes)

Note: An easy way to ensure success in a discussion is to have everyone write things down to share.

1. Qualities of good character. “Let’s make a list on the board (e.g. honest, caring, responsible, loyal, fair, kind, generous, courageous).”

2. My qualities. “Everyone write down one thing that you have done this week that demonstrates one of these good qualities. I won’t collect your papers; it’s just for you to think about.”

3. Qualities of good character in others. “Everyone write down one thing you have observed another person doing that shows a certain quality. How does it make you feel when you see someone behaving this way?”

4. It’s easy! “Which qualities are easy to practice? Which ones are a bit more challenging? Do you think it is the same for everyone?”

5. The good news. “The good news is that we each have these qualities deep within us, and they can, like muscles, be strengthened. Raise your hand if you have one of these that you would like to see grow in yourself.”

Part 2: Written Activity (5 minutes)

1. Make a list.

“Write down four qualities you feel you do well. Now write three qualities of good character that you would like to strengthen or grow.”

2. Save your list. Save this paper to refer to after the cut-outs are done.

Part 3: The cut-out options:

Option 1: Full body cut-out (25 minutes)

a. Working in groups of two or three, students trace and cut out an outline of their entire bodies. Each student will then add: an outline of a large heart, eyes, mouth, hair, and ears.

b. Referring back to the paper with their chosen qualities, students will write one of their strong qualities on each limb of the cut-out.

Option 2: Heart cut-out (5 minutes)

Each student will cut out a large (12- to 18-inch) heart. In the heart, use the shimmery gold, silver, or bronze markers to write the words on their lists: “ I AM a compassionate, honest, generous, kind person!” or “I AM a happy, assertive, thoughtful, courageous person!” Invite students to then shade the hearts in their favorite colors.

Extend the Lesson

  • Read. See EducationWorld’s suggestions for books that explore positive character traits.
  • Create a display. Students can post their cut-outs in the school hallway outside the classroom. Or, let students create flowers with their names on the stem and their chosen qualities on the petals.
  • Discuss. Ask students what they know about the emotional/mental/physical benefits of exercise. How might this affect developing strong qualities of character?
  • Make a book. Make a special “I AM…” book. Create a cover with fabric, felt, or pictures from magazines.
  • All about me. Have each student complete an All About Me worksheet, incorporating positive character traits into the “What I do best” and “I wish” sections.
  • Write and illustrate. Have each student choose a quality and illustrate it, or create a comic strip or story board showing the qualities. Older students can write a short paragraph explaining each quality. Or, have students choose their top three qualities and write a poem including them.
  • Partner and practice. Have an older class practice kindness and patience by working with a younger class to complete the pictures and the paragraphs for their class bulletin board.

Related resources

Teaching Good Citizenship’s Five Themes
Celebrate Character Counts Week in October

Activities for Building Student Character and School Community


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