Character Counts

IMG_0269Does your school honor students monthly? Do you host assemblies to recognize exemplary behavior but then  wonder if you are truly encouraging character development or just checking off a box? Like many schools, ours has a monthly assembly for one student who stands out as an example for others. And, like many teachers, I have always thought of the process as a series of checking off boxes. I’d look for that child who behaved well, check, did their homework, check,  and demonstrated exemplary effort. Check, check, check.

But then I wondered, what character traits do students admire? So I decided to ask them, “Who do you think the student of the month should be?” Almost every child recommended a good athlete or his/her best friend giving way us too many nominees. Okay, that didn’t work so back to the drawing board. I was pretty frustrated and ready to just go back to the way I’d always done it. But then I was talking with another teacher who suggested the class write an essay giving reasons why their candidate was the best. The kids liked the idea so we gave it a try.

Reading these papers really opened my eyes. Kids saw things in each other that astounded and me. Things I never did. At the same time, the way they revered friendship and loyalty made me proud to be their teacher.

If you’d like to get some unique insight into how your kids value character while teaching about persuasive writing, here’s my lesson.  Let me know how it goes!


Objective: The learner will practice persuasive essay writing by creating a paragraph about why one of his/her classmates should be nominated as student of the month.

Materials: Paper, pencils, white board or electronic whiteboard. Sample of persuasive essay format.


  1. Go over the parts of a paragraph:
    1. Topic Sentence: Tells what the entire paragraph is about.
    2. Supporting Details: Sentences that support/prove the topic.
    3. Conclusion: a creative sentence at the end that sums  up all ideas.
  2. Tell the students that they are going to write a special kind of paragraph, called Persuasive. Write: Persuasive on board and ask students what they think it means. Take responses, then explain that these type of essay seek to influence opinions.
  3. Ask students to give examples of who they think is a hero. List responses on the board. Ask for reasons why. List them.
  4.  The teacher models proving that an individual was a hero by stating something like, “Martin Luther King is my hero for numerous reasons, First, he stood up for civil rights, Second, he used peaceful methods to change our country..”
  5. Using the teacher’s statement as a model, have a few volunteers share why a certain individual is their favorite hero.
  6. Tell the students that they are going to write their own persuasive paragraph to nominate a student of the month. If desired the following sentence frame could be used:

            _________should be Student of the Month for a variety of reasons. First he/she is________. In addition _________does ___________Furthermore, he/she often_______._____ is a good citizen when he/she____________. Vote for _____. She/He is___!

  1. Students write essay, remembering to indent, capitalize and put in end punctuation.

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