Many schools nowadays have a strong focus on character development. Some of the schools I’ve worked in have had giant murals painted on a prominent wall on campus to remind students of the six pillars of good character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. At first I thought that these things should be taught at home. After all, a teacher’s lesson plans are already so crammed full of academic subjects with hardly a moment to spare, that it’s hard to find time to address bullying or appropriate social interaction until there’s a problem that disrupts learning in the classroom. But kids need to learn these important life skills! Sure, some kids do learn these qualities at home or at church, but some kids don’t. So why not take a few minutes out of every day to share joys and air grievances? Why not take thirty minutes a week to talk about how to get along well as human beings? A classroom is a microscopic community, so how we teach our kids to interact now, will affect how they interact as adults in the real world.
Stepping Stones: The Comic Collection is a great tool for teaching character development. Diana R. Jenkins has created characters that are regular kids who make mistakes and have real life problems. They rely on each other, their parents, the school staff, and prayer to effectively find solutions to their problems. Because it is a comic book, it’s not really the kind of book you can read aloud to a class. It is meant for students to read independently. The lively illustrations by Chris Sabatino are so fun to look at, that it makes it hard to stop reading…but you must force your kids to stop periodically to reflect on what they’ve learned either through written response or discussion. I’ve proposed some reflection questions below to help guide your character development lessons and a writing activity that can help your students directly compare their own lives with the lives of the Stepping Stones kids. I’ve also included a drama activity that can be done in conjunction with reading Stepping Stones or as a completely separate character development activity.
For more information on character development visit the website for Character Counts!, a program that I have seen in action in many schools.
The First Collection
- Name-calling and bullying are a problem in every school. The bullies at Alberto’s school make fun of his weight. Why do you think people call other people names? How can we stop name-calling from happening? Alberto’s friends stand up for him when people are mean to him. Have you ever stood up to a bully? Has someone ever defended you from a bully?
- It’s hard to be the new kid at school. What are some ways to make a new student feel welcome?
The Second Collection
- Chantal had a hard time adjusting to being a big sister. Is there anything that she or her parents could have done differently to make the transition easier? What did you do when you had to adjust to a big change in your life?
- Suki was upset with Denver because of something his mom did. Have you ever been blamed for something that wasn’t your fault? How did that feel? What did you do about it?
- Denver loses his temper a lot. What does his anger have to do with his mom’s drinking problem? Have you ever yelled at someone when you were really mad about something else?
The Third Collection
- When Chantal first starts working in the church nursery she is not very good at it, but after a few weeks, she gets the hang of things. Have you ever not been very good at something at first but then, through practice, gotten better? What is perseverance? Why is it important to not give up right away?
- Sometimes we don’t feel like exercising and make up excuses like Alberto does. How does Alberto get active? Brainstorm some ways to stay motivated to exercise more often.
The Fourth Collection
- Gossip is hard to avoid. Why is it a bad idea? How would you feel if someone was talking about you behind your back? How would you feel if what they said was not even true? What should you do if you hear gossip about someone?
- What is the difference between tattling and telling a grown-up? If you feel like tattling, what should you do instead? How do you know when a grown-up needs to be told?
- When Amanda was sick and in the hospital it was hard for Chantal’s family. What are some ways that the other characters were able to help them? When someone you know is very sick or in the hospital what should you do for them?
The Fifth Collection
- How does Alberto deal with his disappointment of not making the soccer team, or the basketball team, or the track team? Have you ever been disappointed? How did you deal with it?
- It’s great to have a best friend, but it’s good to spend time with other friends too. Why do you think it’s a good idea to spend time with more than one person?
The Sixth Collection
- The kids all have to sign up for a service project. Which one would you sign up for and why?
- Chantal gets very competitive with Madison in the hospital playroom. What should they have done from the beginning to keep the focus on the kids?
- Why does Denver start smoking? Why does he lie about it to his friends? Have you ever done something that you knew was bad and then lied about it? How did that make you feel?
Divide the students into groups of three. Assign each group a problem that kids might face. It could be a problem from the book, or an issue that you’ve noticed among your students. Each group develops two skits: one to demonstrate how NOT to handle the situation, and another to show a positive way to handle the situation. After each performance have a brief discussion and talk about other ways the situation could have been dealt with in a positive way.
- Alyssa is always late to school because her little brother is too slow getting ready in the morning.
- The person who sits next to Owen is always talking during class. Owen missed some important instructions and got in trouble.
- There’s a new kid at school and no one is talking to him at recess.
- Chloe is trying to start a club for people who like to read mystery books but no one wants to join.
- David’s group is assigned to pick up all the cones after PE but only David does the work; the others just stand around talking.
Choose one of the Stepping Stones characters and write them a letter as if you were their friend. Ask them questions, give them encouragement and advice, tell them about things going on in your life that are similar to things going on in theirs.
To print this book guide click here