K-5 character education lesson: respecting differences

Respect means being tolerant and accepting of differences. To practice that skill, you need opportunities to learn about others and how they may be different than you. A great way to practice it and to learn about others is to play ice breaker games throughout the year. You’d be surprised how much you learn about even lifelong friends by doing some get-to-know-you activities.

Character Education Objectives:

  1. Students will learn about the similarities and differences of their classmates.
  2. Students will practice tolerance and acceptance of differences.
  3. Students will reflect on how differences positively impact relationships.


  • A balloon for each student
  • A slip of paper for each student


Large Group

  1. Give each student a balloon and slip of paper.
  2. Ask students to think about one question they would like to know about their classmates. You may need to give them some suggestions to help them start to think. They can ask things like “Do you have any pets?” “What holidays do you celebrate in your house?” or “What’s your favorite game?”.
  3. Students will put the piece of paper inside of the balloon.
  4. Depending on the age of your students, you may instruct them to blow up the balloons themselves or you may need to plan time for you to blow them all up.
  5. Put all the blown-up balloons in the center of your circle of students.
  6. Have students grab one balloon, avoiding their own balloon.
  7. One at a time, students will pop their balloon. Please note, you may also choose to have a teacher pinch the tie and cut a slit for the balloon to deflate if concerned about students and the loud pop. Have the students retrieve the question. The student will answer the question inside of their balloon. 
  8. Go around the circle until every student has had the opportunity to answer a question.


  • What are two new things you learned about your classmates? 
  • Did some of your classmates answer as you would? How about different than you?
  • Why is having differences from your friends a good thing?

6-12 character education lesson: respecting yourself

Overview: Respecting yourself and thinking positively about your body, mind, skills, and situation is important to build happiness in your heart. This lesson will focus on ways to show respect to yourself, others, and your surroundings by being grateful for who you are and what you have.

Character Education Objectives:

  • Students will journal about three things they are grateful for each day.
  • Students will discuss and practice respect for their brain and body by journaling and meditating.


  • Composition notebooks or online word document set up for journaling 

Lesson Plan:

Journal (5 mins) 

  • List three things you are grateful for.
    • What is the thing you are grateful for?
    • Why are you grateful for it?
    • How does it make you feel?

Whole Group (5 mins) 

  • Utilize the Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer app to do 10 minutes of meditation. 
    • Use guided meditation or videos with soft music (YouTube) .
  • Practice deep breathing techniques.
  • Stretch or do yoga for five minutes to clear their heads and body of tension and stress.

Think, Pair, Share (5 mins) 

  • Share something you are grateful for. 

Whole Group Discussion (5 mins) 

  • How does thinking positively show respect for your body and brain?

Individual (20 mins) 

  • Have students choose a relaxing activity.
    • Lego building
    • Play-doh 
    • Arts and crafts
    • Reading a book 

K-5 character education lesson plan: faces of emotions

character education lesson: emotion

Overview: Create an opportunity for students to practice caring by recognizing and showing compassion for emotion in others.

Character Education Objectives:

  • Students will sort and label the different emotions on the Faces of Emotion Handout.
  • Students will discuss how having compassion for another person’s emotions shows you care.
  • Students will illustrate emotion and share it with a friend.


Lesson Plan:

  • Students work in a group or individually to sort and label the Faces of Emotion Handouts (5 min)
    • Depending on skill levels students can write, trace, or use a drawing or emoticon to label.
  • Discussion Prompts (5-7 mins)
    • What emotion do you feel today?
      • Teacher: I feel happy because I get to teach you today.
    • What is hard about knowing how other people feel?
    • Why do some people cry, and some people yell when they are angry?
    • How can you show you care for someone when they are feeling (insert emotion)?
  • Complete the I Feel Handout (5-7 mins)
    • Choose an emotion you feel. 
    • Draw a picture of yourself when you feel that emotion. 
    • Write (depending on skill level) what emotion you are feeling and why.
  • Share your picture with a friend (1-2 mins)

Images are from: https://www.pexels.com/ are free and attribution not required. 

6-12 character education lesson: “The Hill We Climb”

A critical component of citizenship is doing what you can to engage with your community. Everyone has the power to use their interests and passions to positively impact their community, the country, and the world. In this lesson, participants will reflect on how their interests and passions can be used to make their community a better place to live, work, and go to school.

Character education objectives:

  • Study how Amanda Gorman’s passion for poetry allowed her to positively impact her country.
  • Students will explore how their own interests and passions can make a difference in their community.
  • Put the citizenship Pillar into action by crafting a plan to use their interests and passions to positively impact their school or community.


Lesson Plan: 

Discussion PromptWith a partner, share your interests and passions. Examples could include: music, animals, sports, video games, reading, and so on.

Activity: At the conclusion of the partner discussion, introduce students to Amanda Gorman, the young woman who wrote and delivered the poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony.

Watch Amanda Gorman’s speech at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration (5:47)

Optional – have students read the written text of her poem.  

At the conclusion of the video, ask students to discuss the following questions in pairs, small groups, or as a full group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Which of the Six Pillars of Character does this poem/speech align with? Explain your answer.
  • Why do you think Amanda wrote this poem?
  • How did Amanda use her passion for poetry to positively impact her community and country?
  • How could you use your passions and interests to make a positive difference in your community?

Ask students to write down how they could use one of their passions or interests to make a positive impact in their community. Then, direct them to use the Goal Map tool to create a plan to put their passion to work.

For example, if a student is passionate about caring for animals, they could use that passion to volunteer at the Animal Rescue League. Action steps to put that plan into action could be:

  1. Locate an animal shelter in need of volunteers
  2. Fulfill any requirements necessary for being a volunteer at their facility
    • Fill out application
    • Ensure my availability and skill set matches their needs
  3. Schedule time to volunteer
    • Make sure I have transportation to and from the facility

Follow-Up: Several weeks after the completion of this lesson, ask students to share whether they have put their plan into action. If so, how much progress have they made on their plan? How are they positively impacting their community? If not, why?

Think T.E.A.M.

CHARACTER COUNTS! is designed to work in partnership with students, parents, and faculty to make your school a great place to learn. The acronym T.E.A.M (T-Teach, E-Enforce, A- Advocate, M- Model) is a process for you to use in the implementation of CHARACTER COUNTS!

When you think TEAM, my guess is your first thought is drawn to an athletic team or any group of individuals that work collaboratively for a common goal. In some ways CHARACTER COUNTS!, does provide a framework to work in partnership with students, parents, and faculty to make your school a great place to learn.

This  lesson will  use the acronym T.E.A.M  as a process for you to use in the implementation of CHARACTER COUNTS!


  • The values that we want young people to learn.
  • Direct and intentional teaching of values through lecture or large group discussion.
  • Utilizing experiential activities that allow for students to self-discover what values mean and how they apply to their life.
  • Teach values by engaging students in vicarious experiences employing stories told, stories read or stories watched.


  • Consistently prohibit gossip and, when appropriate, addressing/discussing its damaging consequences.
  • Enforce a zero-tolerance policy on swearing. Prohibit vulgar and obscene language in your classroom, in hallways, and at school-sponsored activities.
  • Not allowing unkindness of any manner in your classroom; no “put-downs.”
  • Create a code of behavior for your classroom to which students and you agree related to the pillars.
  • Make expectations clear and holding students accountable for them.


  • Hang posters or quotations in your class. Refer to the Six Pillars of Character throughout the day as appropriate.
  • Discuss campus “issues of character” on a regular basis (vandalism, good deeds, etc.).
  • Remind students – and yourself – that building our character is not an easy or one-time project. Fashioning our character is the work of a lifetime.
  • Emphasize the importance of working hard and striving for certain standards of achievement.


  • Model the Six Pillars of Character; let students observe that you strive to be a teacher who is trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring, and a good citizen. 
  • Follow through. Do what you say you will do.
  • Strive to be consistent in dealings with students; avoid allowing personal feelings to interfere with fairness.

K-5 character education lesson: honesty

Character education curriculum, lessons, and activities

One of the most basic behaviors of trustworthiness is honesty. Honesty is not always easy, but lying effects more than just your character. The cost of lying is much greater than you think when you are in the moment where a lie may be the easiest answer. This lesson allows students to explore how telling a lie impacts both their relationships and themselves and the decision to be honest, even when it’s the hard path, is the best long-term decision. 

Character Education Objectives:
Students will:

  • describe the negative impacts of a lie.
  • reflect on their own honesty.
  • explore opportunities to grow in their own Pillar of trustworthiness.



Large Group

  1. Watch the TEDx Talk from Georgia Haukom. The Effects of Lying https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbftlDzIALA
  2. Break students up into pairs or in small groups.

Partners/Small Group

  1. Have students answer the following questions in their pair/group. Encourage students to brainstorm as many ideas as possible.
    • Georgia shared about a study where the adults telling lies had negative things happen to their health. What other things do you think happen to you when you tell a lie?
    • Thinking about how someone else will feel is always good to consider when making a decision. Think about how a lie might make someone else feel?
  2. Bring students back to the large group to have a discussion. Be sure to share your own life examples of how you may have been negatively impacted by a lie you have told or been told. Ask students to share their own experiences if they are comfortable.

Personal Reflection/Journal

  1. After the large group discussion, encourage students to do a self-reflection of their own honesty.
  2. Ask students to privately rate themselves 1-3 on their own honesty. 1 is that “I always tell a lie”, 3 is that “I always tell the truth), and 2 is that “Sometimes I have lied.”
  3. We often say we don’t have to be sick to get better, so this self-reflection is designed to allow all students, no matter where they scored themselves, to think about how they can grow. Ask students to think about the following prompts:
    • When was one time I told the truth when it was hard?
    • Why did I choose the truth, even though a lie would have been easier?
    • Where is one place I could work on being more honest? Encourage students to think about their honesty at home, school, with friends, in their community, etc. Remind them that sometimes not giving all the details is also dishonest, so it helps them think of a specific example.

6-12 character education lesson: resilience

 Students need opportunities to see success and triumph in the midst of struggle. This lesson provides a video that discusses resilience from a young man who faced a lot of trials in his life. The discussion will provide an opportunity for the classroom to share ideas about trust, growth, and overcoming obstacles while building resilience for all the changes that life throws at you. 

Character Education Objectives:
Students will:

  • watch a video about why adversity can build resilience.
  • discuss resilience and trust through the lens of overcoming obstacles.
  • hare ideas for building resilience. 


  • Markers 
  • Post-it pads (large stick posters or paper) 
  • Access to stream YouTube video 

Lesson Plan Day 1

Journal: (5 mins)

  • What is something that has been challenging in your life to overcome?
  • Who have you trusted in your life to help you overcome challenges?

Whole Group (35 mins)

  • Watch the video: (15 mins)
  • Discussion (20 mins)
    • What does this quote mean to you? “The worst of life could not take out the best of me.”
    • Why do people still succeed and flourish despite pain and trauma?
    • What is resilience?
    • Why does change cause adversity?
    • How do your belief systems impact whether you succumb or surmount challenges? 
    • How is your mind the most crucial resource to building resilience?
    • What does trauma teach us about resilience?
      • Tell your mind what to think- how do we do this?
      • Life is easier when you are prepared – how do you prepare for the unknown?
      • Perspective requires partnership
        • Why do we need others to help us overcome adversity?
  • Exit Ticket: (5 mins) 
    • Who can you trust to help you overcome adversity when you need it?

Lesson Plan Day 2

Journal (5 mins) 

  • What is important about learning to trust yourself in tough situations?

Whole Group Discussion (5 mins)

  • What did you learn about building trust and resilience yesterday?

Small Group Discussion (10 mins)

  • Everything happens for a reason- How can you use your trauma/struggle for a purpose?
  • Who can you trust to support you amid trauma or challenges?
  • What does it mean to trust resiliency to help you overcome adversity? 

 Productive Group Work (10 mins)

  • On poster paper: What are some ways you can build resilience?
    • Have students use a Post It Poster page to record ideas.

Gallery Walk: (10 mins) 

  • What are some ways you can build resilience?
    • Put a star next to an idea you want to remember.
    • Put a tally mark next to an idea you have used in the past to help you overcome an obstacle. 

Exit Ticket (5 mins)

  • What is the most important thing you learned about resilience today?

Hunt, C. (2020). What Trauma Taught Me About Resilience | Charles Hunt | TEDxCharlotte. Retrieved 1 April 2020, from https://youtu.be/3qELiw_1Ddg

6-12 character education lesson: resilience

character education resilience lesson

Students need to embrace resilience as they care for one another during conflict. This lesson focuses on the caring Pillar while supplying a resource to problem-solve and build resilience.

Character education objectives:

  • Students will discuss problems and solutions 
  • Students will brainstorm solutions to a problem
  • Students will use the Problem Solving Essentials tool and compose a caring response /solution for a problem


Duration: 2 days

Lesson Plan Day 1 

Journal: (5 mins)

  • What is a problem you have had to solve at home or school?
  • What was challenging about solving it?

Whole Group Instruction: (10 mins)

  • You are going to compose an advice column to help people solve problems in their lives. 
  • You will work in groups of 4-5 to problem solve solutions to real-life issues.
  • You will compose a caring response to help the sender tackle their problem.
  • I want you to utilize the Problem Solving Essentials  tool.
  • For each problem scenario you will…
    • Define the problem and solution goals  
    • Brainstorm all possible solutions
      • Write down everyone’s suggestions 
      • Encourage everyone to participate and give ideas 
      • No idea is a bad idea they can all lead to great ideas 
    • Adapt, expand, innovate, and eliminate possibilities
      • Determine the best route with the list of ideas you came up with during the brainstorming
    • Test solution and revise as needed 
      • Compose a response and edit / wordsmith until you feel it is ready to submit 
      • Share with the classroom

Whole Group Model with the classroom the following scenario: (15 mins)
DEAR ABBY: I’m a freshman in high school, and it’s great. I’ve made a lot of new friends, but most of them are guys. For some reason, they think I’m this girly-girl type who doesn’t like to get my hands dirty. When it’s time to do something that involves lifting, they think they have to take over. If they ever saw me at home, they’d think I was a whole different person. How can I show them I’m not a girly-girl while still being friends with them? — NO GIRLY-GIRL-14

Small Group Discussion: (10 mins)

  • How does our response show we care? 
  • Review what resilience means
  • How do you build resilience?
  • Why is it important to seek advice from people who care about you?
  • How does seeking advice from someone you care about help build resilience?

Lesson Plan Day 2: 

Journal: (5 minutes)

  • Write a Dear Abby Response to the problem you listed in your journal (see lesson plan day one)

Small Group Productive Group work: (25 mins)

  • Students can use the Problem-Solving Handout to gather their thoughts 
  • Students will go through the scenarios listed on the Scenario Handout (Allow them to choose one they would like to work on together)
  • Students will use the Problem Solving Essentials tool and compose a solution for the problem 

Whole Group: (10 mins) 

  • Share aloud the advice your group offered for the teen 

Exit Ticket: (5 mins) 

  • How does advice from someone who cares about you help build resilience?


If students are unfamiliar with advice columns you can send them to the sites below to review and read some of the responses from Abby.

Dear Abby. 2020. Uexpress. [online] Available at: <https://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/2020/2/9/2/teen-resents-being-treated-like-a> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

Dr. M., 2020. Ask Dr. M — Advice For Teens Advice Column. Advice For Teens, Advice For Kids, Advice For Children, Advice For Young Adults, Advice For Parents, Advice For Parents Of Kids, Advice For Parents Of Teens, Advice For Parents Of Young Adults. [online] Askdrm.org. Available at: <http://www.askdrm.org/col_teens.html> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

K-5 character education lesson: caring

Reflecting on your own character is important to grow and stay accountable. This lesson is designed for students to reflect on the character trait of caring and the ways they display it to others. It also allows students time to discuss how they can continue to show care towards others and how they can make changes to become even more caring.

Character Education Objectives:

  1. Students will reflect their own character.
  2. Students will share their character traits with a partner and discuss similarities.



Large Group

  1. Discuss the character trait of caring with students. Ask them what caring looks like and what caring sounds like. Encourage them to think about people who they know that are caring and what they say and do.
  2. You may want to write those traits down on chart paper.

Small Group/Partners

  1. Give each student a body outline.
  2. Encourage students to think about their own character of caring. Give them a few minutes to brainstorm how they are caring. Remind them with some of the examples they thought of in the large group.
  3. Have each student describe the things that make them caring in the body outline by either writing or drawing. Encourage students to fill their entire body because it’s important not only to self-reflect, but also to compliment yourself and the work you do.
  4. Students will share their character body outline with a partner or small group.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you and your partner/group members show caring the same way?
  • How do you and your partner/group show caring in different ways?
  • When is it hard to be caring? 
  • What do you do when 
  • How can you show caring more often or in a better way?


Encourage students to journal one thing they will commit to in order to become more caring. Have students be specific with their commitment, not something general like “I will be nicer” or “I will care more.” 

Learn more about character education.

Tips for educators: an introduction to caring

Teachers care about the relational aspect of teaching. They take time to establish a trusting and caring connection with students, who in turn become more receptive to what’s being taught. Caring is at the heart of our character and will help in creating a positive school climate.

Questions to ask:

  • What are your thoughts on teaching caring, kindness and empathy in the classroom? 
  • In what way are our students already upholding the Pillar of caring? 
  • Are there examples of where we could improve in words or actions on the part of students toward the Pillar of caring?  How about as a staff? 
  • What can we do to teach students to be more caring and kind to others?  

Activities to do:

  1. Write 3 classroom key beliefs around the Pillar of caring that you would like to instill in your students.
  2. Write 2 key beliefs you would like to instill in students throughout the school, hallways, lunchroom, etc.
  3. What instructional strategies or classroom management techniques could you use to be intentional and explicit in instilling these beliefs?
    • Positive Sticky Notes – Leave sticky notes with positive messages
    • Thank You Letter – Write (and send!) an anonymous letter to someone you respect in your school, workplace, or other community space.
    • Caring Bulletin Board – Create a bulletin board in your school and provide plenty of paper in fun shapes or designs where adults and students can write down the acts of kindness they have received or benefitted from.

Project to explore:

One of the effective ways to implement CHARACTER COUNTS! in a school is the creation of a school-wide project. As this lesson is on the Pillar of caring, a school could consider as a project a Campaign of Kindness. As a staff, brainstorm the following:

  • Slogan for the campaign
  • Agree upon at least four action items that would help to implement the Culture of Kindness campaign
  • Assign responsibilities for staff, students and parents
  • Establish a timeline with a specific target date for the Kindness project

For additional ideas, a great resource is Random Acts of Kindness – https://www.randomactsofkindness.org

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