"Character Matters" Second Grade Play

Nancy Ward
Clairbourn’s second grade is known for ramping-up opportunities for students to express themselves and to learn how to present ideas in a public setting.  In prior years, the second grade poetry unit allowed students to hone their presentation and memorization skills through learning the poems of Jack Prelutsky and other child-friendly authors.

Four students perform a “Three Little Pigs” skit containing a message of ‘do what is right instead of what is fast and easy’ as part of the “Character Matters” play.

But this year, our new second grade teacher Karen Roberts brought some additional ideas to the table.  The level of creativity of her students inspired her to look for a musical play that her students could perform.  She picked a play called “Character Matters” designed to use fairy tale characters and their famous storylines to reinforce good social and personal actions. Not only would that tie in with Clairbourn’s Code of Ethics, which cover the qualities of Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Spirituality, and Citizenship, but it would also teach students how to handle a variety of common interpersonal conflicts plus enhance their memorization skills and public-speaking ability.

The three fairy tale characters on the far left offer advice to their fellow friends for better interpersonal relationships in the “Character Matters” play.
Teacher Karen Roberts explains, “A class play is an opportunity for students to collaborate and develop teamwork skills. They must listen to and support each other to be successful. The students in my class proved themselves to be very respectful, helpful, and cooperative with each other throughout the process, and I am proud of how my class pulled together as a team. Additionally, the whole class has grown in confidence from the experience.”

The “Character Matters” play is the product of lyricist John Heath and composer Ron Fink. As their website explains, “Their shows are filled with facts (i.e. mandated curriculum) but the story and the humor combined with music and rhyme…help…kids understand and retain what they need to remember. It’s their patented formula: Entertaining Story + Music/Rhyme = Subject Mastery. Over and over again, teachers tell them that the songs are infectious, and once they get “stuck” in their students’ heads, the curriculum is successfully retained.”

Red Riding Hood and her friends teach the wolf to use The Golden Rule and think about how he would like to be treated and apply that to his treatment of others.

The play begins and ends with students singing a witty song that explains the intended message and purpose of the show:

“We’ve got a show, a story, that features fairy tale folk and fairy tale creatures trying to live and deal with each other. Like you and me, they soon will discover, character matters. You must care how you act! Character matters.  As a matter of fact, character matters because you are what your choose. Character matters because it’s one thing you can’t lose.”

Jack and the Giant become friends in this skit, and Jack learns that he should not mistreat others because they are different.

The song goes on to explain that fairy tales are often about people and animals with terrible character flaws.  Jack, from the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairytale, stole a goose from a giant, which he justified with thoughts that the giant was big and scary.  Goldilocks was breaking and entering into the bear family house, thus putting her needs before others.  The wolf, from “Little Red Riding Hood,” used deception and lies to trick Grandma so he could eat her. Two of the three little pigs wanted to take shortcuts with housebuilding out of laziness and left themselves vulnerable to wolf-attack.  

Students in the Magic Mirror skit share a lesson about telling the truth even if it stings.

Cinderella had an intolerable home life, which gave her good reason to be angry over maltreatment. But her anger towards her stepsisters and stepmother fails to get resolved in the fairytale.  Humpty Dumpty has no one but himself to blame for being on top of a wall which led to his fall and injury, but he fails to take any responsibility for the incident and leaves the mess for everyone else to try and fix.  The Magic Mirror from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” struggles with risking its own destruction by telling the the truth to the Evil Queen about Snow White usurping her title as “Fairest of them All.”   Finally the princess who is faced with kissing a frog, who might be a prince, struggles with doubt over helping someone she doesn’t know or trust.

Two princesses have to decide if they should kiss a frog they don’t know or trust who claims to be a prince as part of the “Character Matters” play.

As the students presented each storyline, they sang songs full of advice designed to help the fairy tale characters navigate their situations with better results. The wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood” was taught The Golden Rule which explains you must treat others the way you would want them to treat you.  Goldilocks was shown to admit her mistake of taking things that belonged to others, and the baby bear was encouraged to practice forgiveness.  The third pig from the “Three Little Pigs” showed his lazy friends that he could stand up to their peer pressure and do what was right, which meant building a brick house despite their protests. 

Cinderella and her mice learn to manage anger over the mistreatment they receive from her step-family members.

Cinderella was taught to manage her anger toward family with systematic steps she could follow like, “Count to ten, walk away, take a breath, and you’re okay.” Humpty Dumpty was show how to gain respect by taking responsibility in the face of misfortune.  The Magic Mirror learned you can’t put a price on honesty, and you must have courage to do the right thing, “…though sometimes it stings….”  Jack learned that personal differences should never be a basis for mistreating others “…don’t you go judging book by its cover, take the time to learn about one another.” Wrapping up the narrative, the princess was taught to be ready to help others, despite doubts, and “…show some kindness, such kindness is rare.  Show some kindness. Show him that you care.”

These Clairbourn second-graders put their full effort into delivering this funny, toe-tapping, and instructive musical play.  Not only did they achieve their goals of practicing their memorization and public speaking skills, but they also increased their knowledge of how to handle challenging situations with high-level character-based choices.  Overall, their student and parent audiences were captivated by their energy, and were charmed and inspired by the supportive and wise messages communicated by the second-grade class.

Watch this 30 minute video of the whole second grade play, “Character Matters.”
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