K-5 character education lesson: teamwork

character and teamwork lesson

An important part of building your skills as a team member is to be reflective. When you have successes or failures, always make time to reflect on what you did well and what you could do better or differently as a team. Thinking about the skills you need to build as a team will help strengthen your team and give individuals opportunities to grow their own teamwork skills.

Character Education Objectives:

  • Students will work as a team to complete a task.
  • Students will reflect on the performance of their team.
  • Students will practice adapting and modifying a plan for success as a team.


  • Rope or yarn in a large circle tied together (large enough for all students to be able to stand and hold a piece of it)
  • Bandanas or fabric
  • Large open space


Large Group

  1. Place the rope/yarn in a circle on the ground and have students find a spot around it. Have students place their blindfolds on themselves and then pick up their piece of the yarn.
  2. Students will now need to work together to turn this circle into a square. They can do anything to make the square except take off their blindfolds. 
  3. Give the students five minutes to complete the task. When five minutes is up, ask students to drop the rope/yarn and step back to see how close they were to making a square.
  4. Ask students to reflect on the activity with a “Praise and Polish” conversation. Instruct students to think about this reflection through the lens of teamwork.
  5. First, talk about things they did well as a team. Guide the conversation by asking questions about their communication and collaboration. Then, ask students to reflect on what they could better or differently next time. This conversation may need assistance, as they may start talking strategy. Keep them on track by encouraging them to make a plan around how they will work as a team.
  6. Put the rope/yarn back in the circle on the ground. Have the students find a space and put their blindfolds on. 
  7. Students will have the same instructions as the first time, but this time encourage them to think about their praise and polish as they work together. 
  8. Give the students five minutes to complete the task. When five minutes is up, ask students to drop the rope/yarn and step back to see how close they were to making a square.


Encourage students to journal or discuss the following prompts:

  1. Was there a difference between the first time and the second time you made the square? What were some of those differences?
  2. Think about the things your team chose as things they could do better or differently for the second time. Did those changes help you be successful?
  3. Praise and polish your team’s second attempt at the square.


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How not to raise a quitter

From guest contributor Dr. Michele Borba

Teach your children to hang in there when the going gets tough, but know when to let them throw in the towel.  

Perseverance often makes the critical distinction between whether kids succeed or fail. Will they have the inner strength to keep on or be plagued by self-defeat, be unwilling to give it their best shot? Children who learn to bounce back and not let setbacksget them down have gained a valuable skill for life. If our children are to succeed in this competitive world, they must learn to hang in there and not quit.

The good news? Research shows parents can build “stick-to-it-ness” by adopting simple, proven strategies.

Tips for Nurturing Stick-to-itness

1. Find the right activity that fascinates your kid

Tune into your child and find his natural interests, passions or talents. If he loves drawing consider art lessons; if he enjoys listening to music, try piano or violin. Ask teachers or other adults for their input. The trick is to gauge your child’s interest in the sport, lesson, or activity – before you start.

Remember, the sport that fit your oldest kid may not be the right fit for your middle kid. What turns your kid on? Find the right match and you’ll ignite his passion!

2. Start with the right expectations

Parents who want their kids to stick with a task set the right expectations. Here are five factors to consider:

  • Kid factor. Is what I’m expecting something my child is interested in or shows a talent for, or is it something I want more for myself? Who is pushing whom?
  • Time factor. Does my child have enough time to devote to practicing? Don’t overload! Beware, many tweens want to quit if there isn’t enough time for friends. A University of Maryland study found that over the past 20 years the amount of time children ages nine to 12 spend participating in structured sports has increased by 35 percent.
  • Challenge factor. Is my child developmentally ready for the tasks I’m expecting, or am I pushing him beyond his internal timetable? The best expectations are realistic but also gently stretch your child “one step more.”
  • Teacher or coach factor. Is the coach or teacher skilled and tuned in to kids? Benjamin Bloom’s study of 120 immensely talented (and successful) individuals (in such fields as science, swimming, art and music) found that the first teacher was critical.

Worth it factor. Is this activity commitment worth the time, finances and energy for both my child and our family?

3. Be a good role model

Show your kids how you don’t give up on a task even when things get difficult. Before starting a new task, make sure your child overhears you say, “I’m going to persevere, until I am successful.” Modeling the trait is always the No. 1 teaching method, so consciously tune up perseverance in your behavior.

Create a family motto when it comes to perseverance such as: “Winners never quit, quitters never win”, “We finish what we start,” or “The Smith’s don’t give up!” When you live by a family motto of commitment, your children will be more likely to use it when facing a challenge and less likely to quit.

4. Set a “No Quit Rule” 

In all fairness to your kid, be clear from the beginning about the level of commitment you expect. Make sure she knows what she’s getting into, for how long (for the season, year) and understands that once she commits (to the team, instrument, project, class), there is no quitting barring exceptions like a broken bone or an abusive coach.

Many parents have their older kids sign a “Commitment Pledge,” and then hang it on the refrigerator so she understands that throwing in the towel to those activities you’ve designated as “non-negotiaables” are not an option

5. Instill a “Growth Mindset”

Research shows that kids who persist and excel recognize that success comes from hard work and practice, not luck or money or genetics. In fact, if kids believe that performance is due to effort, they will be less likely to give up and will work harder when the going gets tough.

Use real examples — folks such as Jerry Rice, Pele, Vanessa and Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong — who reached the top because of hours and hours of practice.

Teach your kid the 10,000-Hour Rule: “Did you know that studies found that the best artists, musicians, swimmers and skaters practiced at least 10,000 hours, or ten years, to reach their success? Success is all a matter of how hard you work.”

6. Praise effort

Praising effort stretches perseverance; praising ability squelches

Carol Dweck’sresearch from Columbia University finds that the kind of words we say can stretch or snap our children’s perseverance. The key is to emphasize your child’s effort and work and not the end product (like their grade, score or their abilities).

Praise when your child earns the recognition, but focus on their effort when he or she experiences success.

  • Instead of: “What was your grade?” Say:“You’re working so hard!”
  • Instead of: “You’re so smart!” Say: You’re improving because you’re putting in so much effort.”
  • Instead of: “How many goals did you get?” Say: “Keep at it! All that practice, is going to pay off!”

If Your Child Wants to Quit 

An estimated 83 percent of kids aged six to 17 are involved in some kind of extracurricular activity, so sooner or later most parents will be faced with a child wanting to quit something. And do know that little kids need to experiment with different activities so they can figure out what they like (so don’t call that quitting.. reframe it as “You’re trying…”)  Here’s how to decide:

1. Don’t give in too quickly 

While letting your kid quit may seem easier, beware. It may teach him it’s OK to quit or take the easy way out. If you let your child quit too quickly, he’ll never have the chance to experience success. (And weathering a bit of disappointment can actually help kids.) Here are some techniques to try depending on the child’s age and situation.

  • Try to postpone quitting: Encourage your kid to keep at it (at least a bit longer).
  • Negotiate: “Stick with the cello until the end of the year, and you can be on soccer team this summer.”
  • Put it on her shoulders: “You go talk to the coach and ask what you can do to get more playing time.” “Set up an appointment with the orchestra director and ask what why you didn’t get first chair and what you can do to improve.”
  • Refuse without guilt: “Sorry, that was your commitment, you’re stuck with it.”

2. Hear your kid out 

If your child’s “quitting behavior” is brand new or is escalating, then ask your child what’s really going on. Try to understand his quitting motive: “You were really jazzed when you signed up. What changed?” “What do you need to make it work?” “Would you like to continue, but with a different teacher or team?”

3. Look for a solution 

Might there be a simple way to get him over the slump?Talk to the teacher or coach to get their take. Watch from the sidelines to see if your kid’s complaints of unfair treatment are legit. Your goal is to figure out what’s really going on, and whether there is something you can do to help your child hang in there and get over the slump. Here are four common problems, and solutions:

  • Task or placement too advanced is too difficult; too much pressure to perform. Solution: Take your expectations down a notch; switch the class or team to one that is not quite as accelerated.
  • Overscheduled. no down time or time to relax or be with friends. Solution: Free up time, drop one thing in that schedule. The top reason tweens want to quit is because the practice is taking up time away from friends. If that’s the issue, find ways to schedule in “friend time” and even have your tween practice with the other kids.
  • Environment or teacher isn’t supportive; too harsh or punitive. Solution: Change the teacher or mentor; switch the team if needed. Research on talented kids (who remained talented) found that the early teacher was essential. She was usually the “Aunt Bee” type – warm, patient and ignited in the child “You can do it!” Find that teacher!
  • Hasn’t experienced success yet, but it’s only been a short while. Solution: Get some help.  Get a tutor to help him with the math class. Hire a high school student to throw him extra pitches. The key to success is practice, practice, practice…but that also means your child needs to be doing the “right kind of purposeful practice” so he sees improvement.

How to Decide Whether to Quit

You’ll need to weigh which lesson is more important: Helping your child learn to stick it out, or the realization that some activities just aren’t the right match. And you’ll need to decide on a case-by-case situation. Here are five factors to help you decide:

  • Stress. Is it stressful enough to cause concerning behavioral changes in your child?
  • Joylessness. Is it mostly cheerless for the child? Has he stuck with the task for the required amount of time and just lost interest? Then it’s time to move on.
  • Beyond abilities. Despite his efforts, the activity is too difficult for his current abilities.
  • Poor coach or mentor. Not a good match for your child, yells too much, far too competitive, turns your kid off to the task, pushes “win at any cost,” unfair, not knowledgeable or offers poor advice, overall more harmful than helpful.
  • Gave it his best shot. Your child tried his hardest but things aren’t improving.

Then it’s time to MOVE ON! Don’t dwell, just move on! And let that be a lesson for your child as well, “Some things just aren’t the right match.”

Worry If There’s a Quitting Pattern 

Every kid wants to give up now and then. Especially from ages 3 to 6, it may not mean much. Be concerned when bailing out becomes a pattern with your older kid. Watch for these signs which could mean something else is going on and you should dig deeper:

  • Unwilling to try a task or stick with it, fearing failure or making a mistake
  • Easily discouraged, upset or quick to anger when facing setbacks
  • Needs encouragement or the promise of a reward to complete a task
  • Relies on someone else to complete a task
  • Defensive or blames errors on others
  • Cheats, cuts corners, or makes excuses to not do the task
  • Gives up as the easy way out instead of really confronting the problem

Learn more about character education.

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is an internationally renowned consultant, educational psychologist and recipient of the National Educator Award who has presented workshops to over a million participants worldwide. She is a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 22 books including UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World, The 6Rs of Bullying Prevention: Best Proven Practices to Combat Cruelty and Build Respect,The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, and Building Moral Intelligence. She has appeared over 130 times on the TODAY show and is a frequent expert on national media including Dateline, The View, Dr. Oz, Anderson Cooper, CNN, Dr. Drew, and Dr. Phil. To book her for speaking or media even refer to her website: www.micheleborba.com. Follow her on twitter @MicheleBorba.

6-12 character education lesson plan: problem solving

Character Education Objective:

  • Students will discuss the role each individual play in solving his or her own problem.

Content Objective:

  •  Students will take responsibility to solve the problems they face. 

Language Objective:

  • Students will tackle a problem in their own life so they can #GetUnstuck 


Taking responsibility for our own actions and problems in life is a skill we need to build. There will always be escalators breaking down in our lives, so we must take ownership over what we can control to keep moving up the stairs. This lesson highlights the importance of recognizing the things you can take responsibility for to #GetUnstuck and keep moving forward. 


Independent (2 min)

  • What is a problem you are facing?

Watch the video as a class Stuck on an Escalatorhttps://youtu.be/Kq65aAYCHOw (3 min)

Small Group Discussion (8 min):

  • What is the problem for these people in the video?
  • What is the solution?
  • Whose responsibility is it to solve their problem?
  • What keeps us from taking responsibility and just getting off the escalator when we have a problem?

Whole group share out (4 min):

  • When faced with a problem, what are some ways we can take responsibility and get off the escalator?

Reflection Journal (Independent task) (3 min):

  • Go back to the problem you listed in your journal and write some responsible solutions or ideas that you can take to #GetUnstuck on the escalator or get it moving again. 

Family Connection 

  • Tech Support 
    • Anydo is an app that helps organize and prioritize tasks when you are overwhelmed and stuck with too many things to do
    • Sam App is an app to help you take ownership over your own health and manage the anxiety of dealing with the stress of the day to day.
  • Pillar Time 
    • Play a game of chess to determine strategic ways to stay out of checkmate
    • Write a 100-word poem about being thankful for problems 
    • Use an object from your home and try to come up with as many ways to use it as possible 
      • A spoon
        • Dig a hole (slowly)
        • A party trick for your nose
        • To carry an egg 
  • Dinner Discussion 
    • Describe an experience when you had to solve a problem in your life?
    • Discuss how responsibility plays a role in finding solutions to everyday problems.
    • Share why you feel it is important to take responsibility for your own actions and problems.


Radclev, Bob. “Stuck On An Escalator – Release Your Trapped Emotions!”. Getanswers.Com, 2013, https://youtu.be/Kq65aAYCHOw.

Common decision-making mistakes to avoid


We make a lot of decisions every day. They have a huge impact on our happiness and success. Yet most of us never question whether our decision-making process is flawed. It stands to reason that the only way to avoid the land mines is to know where they’re located. Here are 28 mistakes to avoid:

  1. Shoot from the hip. Failing to consider relevant information.
  2. Yesterday’s news. Basing decisions on outdated information.
  3. Define the problem. Losing sight of the key objectives.
  4. Learn your lesson. Failing to apply lessons learned from previous experiences.
  5. To-do versus must-do. Addressing low-priority activities just to check off items.
  6. Emotions get the better of you. Making important decisions in a poor frame of mind.
  7. False assumptions. Failing to consider personal bias or inexperience.
  8. Frame of reference. Making decisions in a vacuum.
  9. Analysis paralysis. Expecting everypiece of information before making a decision.
  10. Garbage in. Relying on sources with poor credibility.
  11. Fear the worst. Avoiding a decision out of fear of making a mistake.
  12. Band-aid solutions. Making a quick fix rather than addressing the root cause.
  13. Ego. Failing to request or consider input from people in the know.
  14. Take the good with the bad. Failing to view the downside as well as the upside.
  15. Jump the gun. Selecting the first option rather than exploring alternatives.
  16. Plunging in. Rushing to judgment without understanding the ramifications.
  17. Piecemeal. Optimizing a single component at the expense of the whole.
  18. Fixed focus. Failing to account for a changing landscape.
  19. It’s all in the details. Giving inadequate thought to implementation.
  20. Silver bullet. Doing what’s easy rather than what’s best.
  21. Overly complex. Making implementation overly complicated.
  22. Out of sight. Failing to consider opportunity costs.
  23. Deer in headlights. Postponing decisionsuntil tomorrow.
  24. Cover your behind. Making decisions merely to justify previous actions.
  25. Neglecting your values. Selling your soul rather than doing what’s right.
  26. Bury your head in the sand. Avoiding reality.
  27. Forest and trees. Getting caught up in the details while missing the big picture.
  28. Looking over your shoulder. Spending more time second-guessing decisions than moving forward.

This is adapted from BOOKSMART: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happinessby Frank Sonnenberg


Frank SonnenbergFrank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author. He has written seven books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world.

Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnlinewas named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs”; among the “Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs”; and one of the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.” Frank’s newest book, Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, was released November 2018 (© 2018 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.)

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The simple

@TheRayCenter #CharacterCounts

The astrologer


The astrologer
An Aesop fable

A man who lived a long time ago believed that he could read the future in the stars. He called himself an Astrologer, and spent his time at night gazing at the sky.

One evening he was walking along the open road outside the village. His eyes were fixed on the stars. He thought he saw there that the end of the world was at hand, when all at once, down he went into a hole full of mud and water.

There he stood up to his ears, in the muddy water, and madly clawing at the slippery sides of the hole in his effort to climb out.

His cries for help soon brought the villagers running. As they pulled him out of the mud, one of them said:

“You pretend to read the future in the stars, and yet you fail to see what is at your feet! This may teach you to pay more attention to what is right in front of you, and let the future take care of itself.”

“What use is it,” said another, “to read the stars, when you can’t see what’s right here on the earth?”

Moral: Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.

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The wind and the sun

@TheRayCenter #CharacterCounts

The wind and the sun
An Aesop fable

The wind and the sun argued one day over which one was the stronger. Spotting a man man traveling on the road, they sported a challenge to see which one could remove the coat from the man’s back the quickest.

The wind began. He blew strong gusts of air, so strong that the man could barely walk against them. But the man clutched his coat tight against him. The wind blew harder and longer, and the harder the wind blew, the tighter the man held his coat against him. The wind blew until he was exhausted, but he could not remove the coat from the man’s back.

It was now the sun’s turn. He gently sent his beams upon the traveler. The sun did very little, but quietly shone upon his head and back until the man became so warm that he took off his coat and headed for the nearest shade tree.

Moral: Gentle persuasion is stronger than force.

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Think about

@TheRayCenter #CharacterCounts


@TheRayCenter #CharacterCounts

Learn more about character education.