Your browser does not support JavaScript!
Skip to main content

Character Education

​Welcome to the Character Education English-Language Arts Project

The Character Education English-Language Arts Project is a set of sample classroom lesson plans that infuse character education and social-emotional learning into the English-Language Arts curriculum. The lessons in this database are free for educational use and searchable by character trait (respect, responsibility, integrity and related traits), grade level, literature title, and California English-Language Arts Standards Tool. Currently these lessons span first grade through eleventh grade levels and are designed for classroom use. Lessons can be viewed on the website, or downloaded as a PDF version, containing accompanying lesson materials such as worksheets and readings. Looking for lessons for an after-school program? Also available at this site are character-infused English-Language Arts lesson plans designed by providers of the Anaheim Family YMCA Anaheim Achieves After-school Program.

Teacher-developed Lessons

Public and private elementary, middle, and high school teachers, called Character Education Fellows, participated for one or two years in an Institute for Character Education (ICE) Professional Development Program. One element of the program included learning strategies for integrating character education into English-Language Arts lessons based on teachers’ most frequently used classroom reading materials, such as the Houghton Mifflin series Reading: A Legacy of Literacy, short stories, or novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird. The lessons posted on this website have been carefully selected and edited as stand-alone model lesson plans. These lessons are not a comprehensive curriculum. However, we hope these sample lessons illustrate the process of how to infuse the learning of core ethical values and social-emotional competencies into your curriculum as well as inspire you to create your own character-infused lessons, whether in English-Language Arts or other academic curriculum. The feedback from our ICE Character Education Fellows has shown that the process of thinking and creating these lesson plans has influenced their own understanding of character education, their teaching practices, and their awareness of being a character educator.

Support Materials

The Character Education English-Language Arts Project focuses on three core character traits:respectresponsibility, and integrity. The lessons on this website focus on one or more of these and other related character traits which have been defined for student understanding. The definitions of the traits addressed are included in the lesson plan as well as in a separate list of character trait definitions under the "Support Materials" section. Each lesson addresses California English-Language Arts Content Standards and a California English-Language Arts Content Standards Tool is available to identify a lesson by the content standards addressed. Lessons contain both academic and character education learning objectives and include prompts for reflective writing and suggestions for academic and character education assessments. Additionally, to support the use of these lessons, there is information on teaching models that promote social-emotional-character competence such as cooperative learningpeer discussions, and reflective thinking.

Growing Positive Character

Character competence grows over time in non-linear and often unpredictable ways through the guidance, influence, and modeling of parents, family members, teachers, and peers. Character competence is actualized through the development of the social and emotional intelligences and involves thinking, feeling, and behavior. Dr. Thomas Lickona refers to these three spheres as “knowing the good, desiring the good, and doing the good” (Lickona 1991, p.51). These character-infused academic lessons focus on these three spheres. Students explore the meaning of character traits, such as responsibility, and have the opportunity to develop the desire, emotion, and inspiration to care about being a responsible person, as well as practice the social and emotional skills that actualize responsibility such as working cooperatively, assessing their own behaviors, solving problems, being self-disciplined, and controlling impulses. 

Lesson Plan Format

The lesson format used is designed for use by both novice and experienced teachers and can be adapted to fit the needs of your students. Each lesson contains elements of focused instruction to engage students in thinking about the learning as well as reflecting on how the learning connects to their own lives and behavior. Assessment is built into each lesson and is most effective when used for learning and not just for grading purposes.

The Character Education Infused
 Academic Lesson Plan Format

Lesson Title and Grade LevelSome lesson titles contain the title of the literature used. Some lessons' academic content can span two grade levels. Lessons can be adapted to fit your students.
Character Education FocusOne or two character traits may be the focus of a lesson. The lesson database is searchable by character trait.
SummaryFor easy review, a brief description of the academic and character education learning is shown at the top of the lesson. A time estimate is also included. Some lessons can be done in a 45 minute time block; others may take several time blocks to complete.
Materials NeededAll student materials for the lesson can be found in the PDF version of the lesson. If a story is from the Houghton Mifflin reading series, the page numbers are included. Most trade books used are easily accessible and commonly used in schools. Some lessons require paper, pens, and other common classroom materials.
Academic-Character Education ObjectivesLesson objectives have a dual focus delineating the English-Language Arts learning as well as the learning related to the character trait focus.
California English-Language Arts (E-LA) Standards AddressedEach lesson addresses the California E-LA content for a specific grade level and can stand alone as an academic lesson appropriate for student learning. The “California E-LA Content Standards Tool” shows available lessons according to the California E-LA Content Standards addressed.
Lesson ProceduresLesson procedures are detailed and may include discussion questions, specific presentation ideas, cooperative task structures, graphic organizers, and other strategies to engage learners. The learning starts with a focus or anticipatory set. Specific educational terms that may need further explanation are linked to the glossary of terms. Student-friendly character trait definitions are also included in the lesson plans procedures.
Academic-Character Education AssessmentSuggestions for assessing both the academic and character education learning are included in each lesson plan. As appropriate, assessment rubrics for use by teacher and student have been included. In addition, the reflective journaling prompts can be used to assess the understanding of academic, social, and emotional learning.
Reflective Journaling Prompts Reflection is the key to self-understanding and learning related to ethical values. This section provides a selection of prompts that can be used for writing, discussion, drawing, or quiet self-reflection. If cooperative structures are used, prompts are included for student processing of these collaborative, social experiences. These reflective exercises promote a bridge from the academic to the personal learning.
Extensions and VariationsIdeas for modifying and extending the learning are included as appropriate. Links to useful internet websites can also be found in this section.
Teacher Notes or ReferencesAny background information that may be needed to implement the lesson is in this section including information on the literature, useful website resources, and tips on specific education strategies.


Character Education Fellows

The Institute for Character Education wants to acknowledge and thank all of the following teachers for participating in the lesson development project.

Anaheim Union High School District

7th - 12th Grades
Diane Erickson
Bill Kellogg
Daniel Klatzker
Jennifer Lutz
Chris Milord
Karen Pollack
Brian Seguin
Tony Torres
Chris Wright

Anaheim Family YMCA
Anaheim Achieves After-School Program

Kindergarten - 6th Grades
Stanley Anjan
Ana Romero Ayala
Erica Chappell
Donna Frey
Katie Kolles
Brenda Larson
Karina Ortiz
Mandy Paterson

Fountain Valley School District

3rd - 4th Grades
Ron Masterson
Betty Sarvis

Magnolia School District

3rd - 5th Grades
Stephanie Caldwell
Michael Montrief
Kristine Olquin
Kristin Shepherd
Eddeane Sims
Jenny Watson

Orange Crescent School
Islamic Society of Orange County

Elementary - Middle School
Carmen Jaber
Saema Khwaja
Michael L. Martin

Orange County Department of Education

Alternative Education
Alternative, Community and Correctional Education Schools and Services
6th - 12th Grades
Wendell Brooks
Becky Cooper
David Delmastro
John Harrington
Kristi Hofstetter
Susan Keathley
Tom Kostic
Peggy McIntosh
Michele Moran
Alice Rochverger
Rebecca Turner
Connie Verhulst

Orange Unified School District

7th - 10th Grades
Steve Babnick
Jennifer Gardner
Raegan Hanson
Lisa Hedspeth
Arnold Hyun
Jeff Lake
Leanna Shibata
Laurie Wielenga

Santa Margarita Catholic High School

9th - 12th Grades
Annie Pierini
Daniel Trotter

St. John's Episcopal School

Middle School, Before-School and After-School Programs
Janet Garwin
Amy Hemphill
Yvonne Maselli
Barbara Trigillo

Project Editors

Linda Apple, NBCTOrange Unified School District
Rachel DombOrange County Department of Education
Janet Ewell, NBCTGarden Grove Unified School District
Cheryl JensenAnaheim Union High School District
Mary Wilson, NBCTCapistrano Unified School District

Project Coordinator

Lucy Vezzuto Anderson, Ph.D., Orange County Department of Education