Character Education Writing Prompts

Using character education writing prompts throughout humane, environmental, and moral education lessons can help kids develop empathy toward people, animals, and the earth. Writing activities coupled with experiential learning delivers a powerful "one-two" punch within a character education education curriculum.

In an effort to answer the question,"Why are some people especially compassionate, more so than others?", research has studied empathetic responses and the role that education figures into the equation. A widely held belief among the general public is that empathy is broad-based: you're either an empathetic person or you're not. You respond with equal compassion to people, animals, and the environment, or you don't.

However, studies conducted through Stanford Univerity(USA), the University of New South Wales(Australia), and the University of Edinburgh(UK) discovered the link between experiential learning and the development of compassionate character. Empathy for people develops from our experiences with people. Empathy for animals develops from our experiences with animals. Empathy for nature develops from our experiences with the natural world.

In other words, if you want kids to be kind to people, teach them to be kind to people. If you want kids to be kind to animals and the earth, teach them to be kind to animals and the earth.

A high quality character education program provides hands-on learning activities followed by creative writing ideas that encourage deeper reflection upon what it means to be a compassionate human being. Carefully designed character education writing prompts take active experiences into the realm of contemplation. Kids get to "think it all out" on paper in a way that makes sense to them.

The most effective way to design character education writing prompts is to make use of the RAFTS technique, outlined step-by-step on this page. Use the following character education writing prompts as examples to guide your planning. When you're ready to create your own character education writing prompts, return to this page for guidelines on how to get started.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Trustworthiness

What Does It Mean?
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your documents
  • Format: essay
  • Topic: trustworthiness
  • Strong Verb: explain
You and your classmates are discussing what it means to be trustworthy. What do you think? Write an essay explaining your thoughts.

Open for Business
  • Role: you
  • Audience: potential customers
  • Format: advertising brochure
  • Topic: trustworthiness and the best business choice
  • Strong Verb: design
You are opening a pet sitting service. Design an advertising brochure which explains why you can be trusted to provide the very best pet care in the area.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Respect

Showing Respect Rules!
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your classmates
  • Format: classroom rules
  • Topic: establishing respect in the classroom
  • Strong Verb: write
It's the beginning of a new school year. Your teacher has asked your classmates to participate in designing rules to help the class function smoothly throughout the year. Write a list of rules that help establish respect for other people in and out of the classroom.

Something in Common
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your teacher
  • Format: short story
  • Topic: respect in friendship
  • Strong Verb: imagine and write
You have just received your weekly creative writing assignment: write a fictional short story in which the main characters learn to respect each others' differences, overcome misconceptions, and build a strong friendship. Write that story.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Responsibility

Going Shopping
  • Role: you as a future pet owner
  • Audience: your parents
  • Format: a budget
  • Topic: financial responsibility for a pet
  • Strong Verb: research and persuade
You want to get a new pet. You must prove to your parents that you can financially support the animal of your choice. Remember that a pet is for life! Research the costs of responsible pet ownership, from the initial adopting of the animal through its elderly years. Present your findings to your parents, persuading them that you can handle the financial responsibility and explain how you will do so.

Call Me Responsible
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your classmates
  • Format: essay
  • Topic: explain
You and your classmates are discussing waht it means to be responsible. What do you think? Write an essay explaining your thoughts. Use specific examples.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Fairness

Friends Find a Way
  • Role: playground supervisor
  • Audience: younger children
  • Format: problem-solving talk
  • Topic: fairness in a game among friends
  • Strong Verb: imagine and write
You are a playground supervisor. As sometimes happens with younger children, a squabble has broken out over the issue of fairness in a game. Imagine what you would say to the children involved, as you help them understand that friends find a way to treat each other fairly. Write down your thoughts.

Family Chores
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your parents
  • Format: a weekly schedule and persuasive letter
  • Topic: the fair assignment of household chores
  • Strong Verb: design and persuade
You want to help your family get more work done around the house, so that you might have more family fun time together. Design a weekly schedule of responsibilities for each family member. Consider everyone's school hours or workday, and assign chores based on a fair distribution of time and abilities. Write a persuasive letter to your parents, explaining why your schedule is a fair one and how it can help your family ultimately have more enjoyable times together.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Caring

Caring Marks the Spot
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your family and friends
  • Format: personalized bookmarks
  • Topic: caring and kindness
  • Strong Verb: create
You are creating personalized bookmarks as gifts for family members and friends. Write a unique message on each bookmark expressing your appreciation of each person's kindness and caring.

Kind Words
  • Role: you
  • Audience: yourself
  • Format: descriptive essay
  • Topic: the kindest words ever said to you
  • Strong Verb: describe
Speaking kindly to each other is one of the most important things we can do. Describe in detail one of the kindest things ever said to you. Remember to include who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Citizenship

Neighborly Ways
  • Role: you
  • Audience: yourself
  • Format: list
  • Topic: being neighborly
  • Strong Verb: write
You are concerned that certain people or families in your neighborhood may need an extra hand. Make a list of chores to be done and how you can assist your neighbors.

Enviro-Challenge
  • Role: you
  • Audience: your classmates
  • Format: essay
  • Topic: most pressing environmental challenge
  • Strong Verb: research and write
Good citizenship involves solving environmental challenges. What do you think is the most important environmental issue we face today? Research that issue and write about ways that ordinary citizens can alleviate that problem.

Character Education Writing Prompts: Humane Heroes

Challenge your students to examine the lives of these influential men and women. What moral qualities shaped their lives, as they in turn shaped our world into a better place for people, animals, and the environment:
  • Susan Brownwell Anthony
  • Lucretia Mott
  • Rosa Parks
  • Dian Fossey
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Mohandas Gandhi
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Henry Spira
  • Giovanni Francesco Bernardone (St. Francis of Assisi)
  • Henry Bergh
  • Rachel Carson
  • Albert Schweitzer
  • John Muir
For added punch, try creative informational reports and out-of-the-box biography presentations as you study these and other humane heroes.

Remember that the factors that shape kids' moral well-being include looking outward to the world around them and learning to relate to others, from adults to peers to animals and nature. Character education writing prompts make that happen!

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