Building Character and Social Skills Through Mentor Texts: Part One

More and more, teachers are experiencing challenges as they try to create a community of well managed, kind and respectful learners within their classroom. Without that community, it is so hard to effectively teach all of the academic skills that we are required to!

Why should we be teaching character education?

Character education is so important – children spend most of their waking hours at school, so it is our job to model good character, to teach them right from wrong and kind from unkind. What may come as “natural” to us does not always come natural to our students. They need to be explicitly taught norms of being a person with character.

No really… why should we be teaching character education?

Ok, so the real reason for us classroom teachers is that it makes our jobs easier.   Yup, that’s right!  Think about it:  if you build in character education as part of your classroom culture, and you explicitly teach social skills… your classroom management will improve.  Creating a family and community in your class is so incredibly powerful… there is a camaraderie that takes over and it’s so special to watch!  Teaching character and social skills will no doubt make your teaching EASIER.

Imrpoving classroom management using character and social skill education

Isn’t that [insert someone else’s name]’s job?

I don’t know about you… but I feel like this generation of kiddos is way different than our generation – I don’t have to go into details because I know that you know what I mean.  Placing blame on why that is true won’t get us anywhere, so we need to just accept that character and social skills education is something we are going to have to address, because our school social workers and psychologists are busier than ever, too.

So… what does mentor texts have anything to do with this?

Mentor texts are simply books that you read to your students with the intent that they will eventually be generalizing something from that book to another part of their education or lives… so basically, a read-aloud that has a hidden agenda.

Here are #1-10 of my 40 favorite character education/social skills mentor texts that enhance classroom management:

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

Hidden agenda: Having the courage to be who you are and celebrating differences.



What if Everybody Did That?

Hidden agenda: Respect.



Personal Space Camp

Hidden agenda: Respecting everyone’s personal space.



The Invisible Boy

Hidden agenda: Kindness and including others.



The Most Magnificent Thing

Hidden agenda: Perseverance and creativity.



We Are All Wonders

Hidden agenda: Being proud of who you are and empathy.



The Recess Queen

Hidden agenda: Conflict resolution.



Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal

Hidden agenda: Determining difference between tattling and letting an adult know about an emergency.



My Mouth is a Volcano

Hidden agenda: Talking when it is your turn and not interrupting others.



The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

Hidden agenda: Earning from mistakes.


Clearly, I love books with hidden agendas.  They provide a great frame of reference when redirecting a student because the characters from these books stick with them.


If you’re on board with improving classroom management and you have 15 minutes per day to change the culture in your classroom but you need some guidance to make it happen, check out the year-long character education/social skills integrated curriculum for elementary school teachers: Readers With Character.  All of the books listed above come with activities, reinforcing video links, home connections, and plenty of guiding questions to generalize this concept within your classroom!


What are your fave books that have a hidden agenda??  Leave it in the comments so I can check it out – I LOVE finding new books!!!


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