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.

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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K-5 character education lesson: digital citizenship

Character education - digital citizenship


Our citizenship does not stop at the physical space we occupy. Citizenship has expanded to the communities we have created online. Being a digital citizen is important for students as they complete school work and socialize in the digital space. This lesson is designed to give students tips on being a safe digital citizen. 

Character Education Objectives:

  • Students will discuss their own digital citizenship.
  • Students will brainstorm ways to be a safe digital citizen.



Discussion Questions

  • Where are you a digital citizen? YouTube? SnapChat? TikTok? Google?
  • What do you do the most on the internet?
  • How do you know it is to talk to someone on the internet?

Large Group

  1. Explain to students that just like their neighborhood, school and family, the internet is a community as well. As a community member, they a responsibility to be a safe digital citizen. 
  2. Watch “5 Internet Safety Tips” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9Htg8V3eik

Small Group

  1. Break the students into five groups. Each group will be assigned a different Internet safety tip. The tips are:
    1. Don’t give out personal information.
    2. Never send pictures to strangers.
    3. Keep passwords private.
    4. Don’t download anything without permission.
    5. Tell an adult if you receive a mean or strange message.
  2. Have the groups develop a slogan, song, rhyme or short skit for their rule. The goal is to find a way to create something catchy so students are able to retain the rules.
  3. Have groups present their ideas to the large group.

Remind students that there are a lot of restrictions put on internet access at school, but in some settings (home, friend’s houses) there are few restrictions. What are some other things you can do to make safe internet decisions?

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Six Pillar coloring pages

Download these PDFs and get started coloring!







Six Pillar animal coloring pages

Download these PDFs and get started coloring!

Trustworthiness – Camel

Respect – Lion

Responsibility – Elephant

Fairness – Giraffe

Caring – Kangaroo

Citizenship – Bear

K-5 character education lesson plan: building trust

Students recognize the central role honesty plays in generating trust and they demonstrate their honesty in their communications in three ways:

  1. Truthfulness. Students are truthful; everything they say is true to the best of their knowledge (i.e., they do not lie);
  2. Sincerity. Students are sincere. This means they always convey the truth as best they can by avoiding all forms of accidental or intentional deception, distortion or trickery (e.g., it is dishonest to tell only part of the truth in an effort to create a false impression or deliberately omit important facts with the intent to create a false impression); and
  3. Candor. Students know that certain relationships (e.g., parent-child, teacher-student, best friends) create a very high expectation of trust. In these relationships, honesty requires them to be candid and forthright by volunteering information to assure that they are conveying the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. (e.g., a student who accidentally spills soda on a school computer must voluntarily tell the teacher without being asked; a student who breaks her mother’s favorite vase must tell her mother voluntarily).

Character Education Objectives:

  • Students will reflect on how trust is built and broken in a friendship.

Content Goal

  •  Students will define trustworthy behaviors and demonstrate the impact of broken trust.

Language Goal:

  • Students will write about things they can do to build their own trustworthy behaviors.


Trust in a relationship is not built overnight. It takes a series of trustworthy actions and behaviors to build it up. Unfortunately, one untrustworthy action can break trust instantly. This lesson is designed to demonstrate how our actions impact trust in a friendship and allow students to explore the concepts of truthfulness, sincerity and candor. 


Discussion (5 min)
Have a large or small group discussion about what does being trustworthy mean? Talk about what it looks like and what is does not look like. Ask students to share examples of trustworthiness they have seen.

Activity (10 min)
Build a trust tower. 

  1. Give each child a few blocks. You can use Jenga blocks, building blocks or anything you have in the classroom. You want the students to be able to successfully build the tower, so be sure to plan with the right number of blocks. The best plan is to build the tower with layers of three blocks each, alternating direction on each layer. See the game Jenga for an example.
  2. Ask the students one by one to come up and build a tower of trust. Each block represents something they can do to build trust. Ask students to say out loud what they can do to build trust as they place the block. Give all students an opportunity to add one or multiple blocks until you have your tower.
  3. Explain to students that you have built this wonderful tower of trust. It’s much like a friendship and it takes work to build by consistently being trustworthy. Sometimes we choose actions that are not trustworthy and that will start to break down that tower.
  4. Have prepared statements of untrustworthy actions from your discussion ready. Read a statement and ask one student pull one block for each statement. The student can choose any block. Continue until the tower falls.

Discussion (10 min)
Talk with students about how trust in friendships is built just like they built the tower. One by one your actions show the other person you are trustworthy. When you choose a behavior or action that is untrustworthy it starts to break down that tower. The first untrustworthy action may not knock the tower down, but it may. Could it be the second time? The third? You never know when that tower will fall and that trust will break.

Ask the students to discuss the following questions:

  • Is it easier to build trust or to break it down?
  • How do you rebuild trust with a friend once it has been broken?
  • Are there any times it is ok to be dishonest?

Journal (5 min)
What can I do to be more trustworthy?

Family Connection:

Ask families to replicate the activity you did in class, but think about how they build trust in their family.

  1. Draw a line down a piece of paper. On one side write/draw examples of how they show trustworthiness in the family. On the other side write/draw examples of what untrustworthy behaviors could be in the family.
  2. You are going to build a trust tower. You will need blocks. Fifteen blocks are great, as you can lay them in 5 layers with 3 blocks in each layer while alternating directions. The game Jenga is a great reference point for this.
  3. Ask each family member to place one block at a time. As they place the block, ask them to share something they can do personally to help build trust in the family. Repeating answers is ok because it is all about what that individual can do. Continue until you have a tower of trustworthy behavior.
  4. Now, look at your list you made. Read your untrustworthy behaviors one at a time. As you read them, have someone pull any block from the tower. As you start to pull blocks, talk about how sometimes you choose behaviors that are untrustworthy. One time probably will not knock down the tower, but it might. Could it be two behaviors? Three? You never know when that tower of trust that you worked so hard to build in your family may fall.
  5. Have a discussion with your family around the following questions:
    • How do we rebuild trust in our family once it has been broken?
    • Is it easier to build trust or destroy trust? Why?

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K-5 character education lesson plan: gratitude

@TheRayCenterCharacter Education Objective: This lesson exposes students to the research illustrating the benefits of gratitude, and suggests activities to help students develop a habit of expressing gratitude.

Core Alignment:


  • Practice leadership skills, and demonstrate integrity, ethical behavior, and social responsibility in all activities.
  • Obtain, interpret, understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health.
  • Utilize interactive literacy and social skills to establish personal family, and community health goals.
  • Demonstrate behaviors that foster healthy, active lifestyles for individuals and the benefit of society.


  • Learn leadership skills and demonstrate integrity, ethical behavior, and social responsibility.
  • Understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health.
  • Understand and use interactive literacy and social skills to enhance personal, family, and community health.
  • Identify influences that affect personal health and the health of others.


Expressing gratitude is one of the simplest ways to demonstrate caring to other individuals. Moreover, research shows that expressing gratitude has the added benefit of raising our happiness levels, making us more productive and healthier, especially if we make gratitude a habit.

Start the lesson by showing students the following video.

After watching the video, review the benefits of expressing gratitude with students. Remind students that the long-term benefits of expressing gratitude are only felt if we make expressing gratitude a habit.  Invite students to participate in one (or several) gratitude habits.  (You can also assign one or more of these activities).

  • Gratitude Journal:  Each day, students journal (art or text) about what they are grateful for over the previous 24 hours, and why they are grateful for that event, person, object, etc. (You can also create a shared Google Document where students write their gratitudes each day for others to see, if desired and developmentally appropriate).
  • 3 Gratitudes:  Ask students to share three things they are grateful for each day.  Students can do this in groups, in a journal, as homework with their parents, etc.
  • Random Act of Kindness:  Each day students should spend two minutes writing an e-mail, or making a phone call praising or thanking someone for something they have done. Students may choose a friend, family member, teacher – anyone deserving of praise or thanks.
    (You can also do this in-class.  Each day, have students draw the name of another student in the class.  Students then have a week to write down three things they appreciate about the person they drew.  Students should be encouraged to look beyond, “I like your shoes,” or “your notebook is pretty.”  Instead, they should notice when their person has contributed to the class, or helped a classmate, or something more substantive.  At the end of the week, collect the three things and distribute them to the class.  Students should not know who wrote about them.)

Students should complete each activity daily for a minimum of 21 days in order to form a habit.  You can also combine any of these activities with the Thanksgiving Facebook challenge of expressing gratitude for something each day leading up to Thanksgiving.

This is also an excellent opportunity to help students develop a growth mindset. Encourage students to express gratitude for mistakes they have made, and the lessons they have learned from those mistakes.

Parent Connection:

Send parents the video link viewed in class.  Encourage parents to participate in the gratitude challenge (journaling, 3 gratitudes, random act of kindness) you have assigned your students.  Or, ask parents to participate in the gratitude challenge seen in the video – write a letter to someone they are grateful for, and ask them to read the letter.

You may also choose to encourage parents to use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to share 3 gratitudes around the dinner table.  Or, share their gratitude letter at Thanksgiving.

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Books to teach fairness

The Red Hen by Rebecca Amberley and illustrated by Ed Emberley

In this version of a classic tale, Red Hen finds a recipe for a Simply Splendid Cake and asks her friends the cat, the rat, and the frog to help with the preparations. But it seems as though her friends want no part in the cake until it’s ready to eat. Will they decide to pitch in, or let Red Hen do all of the hard work?

Grade Level: PreK – 2
ISBN-10: 1596434929

Big Red Lollipop 
by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can’t convince Ami that you just don’t bring your younger sister to your friend’s party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What’s a fed-up big sister to do?

Grade Level: PreK – 3
ISBN-10: 0670062871

Each Kindness
 by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Grade Level: K – 3
ISBN-10: 0399246525

Freedom Summer
by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue

Friendship defies racism for two boys in this story of the “Freedom Summer” that followed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black, and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is.

Grade Level: PreK – 3
ISBN-10: 1481422987

The Little Hummingbird
 by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

This children’s book is based on a South American indigenous story about a courageous hummingbird who defies fear and expectations in her attempt to save the forest from fire. The illustrated story is supplemented by a natural and cultural history of hummingbirds, as well as an inspiring message from Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Grade Level: K – 5
ISBN-10: 1553655338

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Preschool books to help teach love

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Best for: PreK – 2
ISBN-13: 978-0763642648

Little Nutbrown Hare shows his daddy how much he loves him: as wide as he can reach and as far as he can hop. But Big Nutbrown Hare, who can reach farther and hop higher, loves him back just as much. Well then Little Nutbrown Hare loves him right up to the moon, but that’s just halfway to Big Nutbrown Hare’s love for him.

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Books to help teach about love

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Best for: PreK – 3
ISBN-13: 978-1933718002

School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary.

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Olivia and the Perfect Valentine by Natalie Shaw

Best for: PreK – 2

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and Olivia is determined to make the very best possible valentines for all of her friends and family. Each valentine
is made with extra special care and is personalized just for its recipient.

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Llama Llama I Love You by Anna DewdneyBooks to help teach about love
Best for: PreK – 2

In Llama Llama I Love You, little llama shows his friends and family how much he loves them with heart-shaped cards and lots of hugs. What could be sweeter than Llama Llama on Valentine’s Day?

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How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen

Best for: PreK – 3

Parents and children can never have enough ways to say “I love you”–and now, America’s favorite dinosaurs are giving families a funny book, perfect for bedtime, storytime, anytime. Even when little dinosaurs are naughty, it’s important to remind them that no matter what they do, they are always loved.

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I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
Best for: PreK – 3
ISBN-13: 978-0439634694Books to help teach about love

The imaginative son turns himself into a meat-eating dinosaur, a swamp creature and much, much more before being satisfied with the fact that no
matter how stinky he is or how slimy of a creature he could possibly be, he is loved and nothing will change that.

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Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse
Best for:
PreK – 4

This beloved story of a child testing the limits of her independence, and a mother who reassuringly proves that a parents love is unconditional and everlasting is a perfect first book for toddlers.

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Never Too Little for Love by Jeanne Willis 
Best for: PreK – 2 
ISBN-13: 978-0763666569

Tiny Too-Little loves someone who’s very, very tall, and Tiny wants a kiss. What if he stands on his tiptoes on top of a thimble? What if he stands on his tiptoes on top of a matchbox on top of a thimble?

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The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring
Best for: PreK – 1
ISBN-13: 978-1599909622

From sun up to sun down, from our hands and our feet, to animals, cars, food, and teddy bears, the world is alive with endless shapes to identify. With its gently reassuring text and vivid illustrations, The Shape of My Heart invites readers to look beyond the obvious, and explore the world in a whole new way.

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Books to help teach friendship

With a variety of books to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find books to help teach character. Here’s a list of a few book suggestions to start conversations about creating friendships and the value of them.

The Loudest Roar by Thomas Taylor theloudestroar
Best for: 
ISBN-10: 043950130X
ISBN-13: 978-0439501309
Clovis loves roaring and making a lot of noise! But the other animals are sick of being roared out of their peace and so they devise a strategy to show Clovis that it takes more than being the best to get along with others.

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A Bargain for Frances by Russel & Lillian Hoban
Best for:
Grades K – 2
ISBN-10: 006444001X
Thelma always seems to get Frances into trouble. When she tricks Frances into buying her tea set, it’s the last straw. Can Frances show her that it’s better to lose a bargain than lose a friend? Follow Frances through the trials of friendship in A Bargain for Frances.

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Steadasickdayforamosmcgee
Best for: Grades K – 2
ISBN-10: 1596434023
ISBN-13: 978-1596434028
Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they paid him a visit!

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Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Best for: Grades 3 – 7
ISBN-10: 0064400557
ISBN-13: 978-0064400558
E. B. White’s Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, family, and adventure that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.

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Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane DeGroutroses-are-pink-your-feet-really-stink-image
Best for: 
Grades 3 – 5
ISBN-10: 0688152201
ISBN-13: 978-0688152208
Gilbert has 15 blank Valentine cards just waiting for him to fill with nice Valentine poems for his classmates. But how can he write a nice poem for the boy who tweaked his nose or the girl who made fun of his glasses?

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Stuart’s Cape by Sara Pennypacker
Best for: Grades 3 – 5
ISBN-10: 0439301807
ISBN-13: 978-0439301800
Stuart’s got problems. It’s raining. He’s bored. And worst of all, he’s new in town, so he’s got a lot to worry about. But what does a kid like Stuart need in order to have an adventure…and to stop worrying? A cape, of course!

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The Pigman by Paul Zindelthepigman
Best for:
Grades 7 – 12
ISBN-10: 0060757353
ISBN-13: 9780060757359
Meet Mr. Pignati, a lonely old man with a beer belly and an awful secret. He’s the Pigman, and he’s got a great big twinkling smile. When John and Lorraine, two high school sophomores, meet Mr. Pignati, they learn his whole sad, zany story.

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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Best for: Grades 9 – 12
ISBN- 10: 1442413344
ISBN-13: 9781442413344
This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.

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