6-12 character education lesson plan: trust and safety

Trust and safety lesson


Opening Reflection

  • How do you keep yourself safe in today’s world?
    • Utilize chart paper and markers or a polling/word cloud online tool to record responses. 

Small Groups:

  • Read two different essays (above) by teens about trust and safety.
  • Highlight ways these teens suggest you must learn to trust yourself for your own safety.

Whole Group

  • Why do you need to trust yourself?
    • Who is to blame when you make a mistake?
    • Why is it challenging to keep yourself safe in this world?
    • How can teens learn to trust themselves to be safe physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? (Consider online and physical location)

Reflection (5 mins): 

  • Reflect on your own ability to trust yourself to keep you safe. 
    • What are some ways you already protect yourself?
    • Where or how could you improve?

K-5 character education lesson: trustworthiness

Trustworthiness lesson

Materials needed: Blindfolds


  1. Put students in pairs. (This lesson may also work in groups of three or four.)
  2. One partner puts on a blindfold with their partner or group members standing at least 10-15 feet away.
  3. When the blindfolded person gets the blindfold in place, the others begin to walk toward the blindfolded person slowly until the blindfolded person holds up their hands and says, “Stop.”
  4. (Optional variation) Allow the sighted player to approach their partners from any direction, trying to sneak up on them without them knowing where they are.
  5. Trade places until all have had a couple of chances to be the sightless participant.

Discussion Prompts:

  • Ask participants how it felt when they were blindfolded—could they “feel” when the other person was getting close? Relate this to our issues of personal space.
  • Ask participants how it felt when they were sighted? Did they feel superior? If so, discuss how that sense of “control” or “power” can be used well, or how it is sometimes used poorly (like with teasing and bullying).
  • Pick up on any comments you heard and process them out. Ask them how it felt to be the one at risk. Relate to caring and standing up for someone if they are being bullied.

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.

Seven ways to build strong character and integrity in children

From guest contributor Dr. Michele Borba

Wondering what can you do to help your kids counter negative influences and stand up for what they know is right? The answer is to nurture a solid moral core that will guide them to stand up for their beliefs and act right without us. And the best news is that we can teach kids the core virtues and skills of strong character and moral courage and can begin when they are toddlers.

Here are seven parenting tips from my book, Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing, you can use to help your kids stand up for their beliefs, buck negative peer pressure, and live their lives guided by integrity. Just remember: it’s never too late—or early—to start.

1. Know What You Stand for So Your Kid Knows
Parents with clearly identified moral convictions are more likely to raise good kids. Because their kids know what their parents stand for and why they do, their kids are more likely to adopt their parents’ beliefs. So begin by asking yourself what virtues and moral beliefs matter most to you. Make a list, then narrow them to your top three. These will become your personal moral code and guide you in how you will raise your child. It’s also the best way to help your child develop his own moral beliefs. Here are five quick questions to gauge how well you’re parenting solid moral beliefs in your child:

  • You can quickly name the 3-5 virtues you want most for your child to acquire.
  • Your child could name the virtues you believe in most without prompting.
  • You reinforce your child whenever he shows your selected virtues in his behavior.
  • Your child can clearly see your chosen virtues in your daily behavior.
  • You use those virtues as your day to day code of ethical behavior and family living.

2. Walk Your Talk
One great question to ask yourself each day is: “If I were the only example my child had to learn moral habits, what did she learn today from watching me?” The answer can be quite revealing. By watching your choices and hearing your casual comments, kids learn our moral standards. Make sure the moral behaviors your kids are picking up on are ones that you want your kids to copy. How many of these messages apply to you? Do you…

  • Eat a “sample” from a store’s candy bin in front of your child without paying?
  • Buy a ticket for a “child under twelve” even though your child is older?
  • Drive faster than the speed limit with your child as a passenger?
  • Tell your child to say you’re not there when your boss calls?
  • Do the majority of your child’s work on a school project, but have him sign his name?

3. Share Your Moral Beliefs and Take Stands
Speaking frequently to your child about values  is called direct moral teaching. Parents who raise ethical kids do it a lot. So look for moral issues and talk about them as they come up: from TV shows and news events to situations at home, school, and friends. Tell your kids how you feel about the issue and why.

Share examples of morally courageous heroes such as Rosa Parks, Pee Wee Reece, Harriet Tubman, Abe Lincoln. There are wonderful books and videos in your local library that you can share with your child.

Most important: Stand up for your own beliefs whenever you feel a major value is jeopardized. Your kid needs to see and hear about moral courage so he has an example to copy.

4. Ask Moral Questions to Stretch Moral Development
Questioning is an important parenting tool for enhancing children’s consciences and strengthening moral beliefs. The right kind of questions can help kids expand their ability to take another perspective and ask themselves: “Is this the right thing to do?” Both are critical precursors to taking any moral stand. Here are a few questions parents can ask that stretch your kid’s moral thinking:

“How would you feel if someone treated you that way?” “If you don’t follow through on your word, what do you think would happen?” “If everybody acted that way (i.e. cheated, shoplifted) what would happen?”

5. Boost Empathy
Kids who stick up for others are kids who feel for others. Empathy is what motivates that feeling, halts cruel behavior and urges kids to take a stand. Here are two powerful ways to nurture empathy:

  • Ask: How would you feel? Ask kids to ponder how another person feels using situations in books, TV, and movies as well as real life. It forces them to think about other peoples’ concerns.
  • Use role playing. It helps kids imagine others’ feelings so ask your child to think how the other person would feel if roles were reversed. “Switch sides: what would the other person say and do?” Young kids can use puppets or toy figures to act out the problem from both sides.

6. Reinforce Assertiveness Not Compliance
If you want to raise a child who can stand up for his beliefs, then reinforce assertiveness—not compliance. Encourage him to share his opinions and stand up for what is right. And do so from early age so he can weather the storm of negative peer influence. Parents who raise morally courageous kids expect their kids to act morally—even demand that they do.

7. Teach Assertive Skills
The truth is that it takes real moral strength to go against peer pressure and to stick up for your beliefs. So teach your child assertive skills so he can take the right kind of stand whenever he’s confronted with a moral dilemma. Here are three ways to boost moral courage:

  • Teach assertive posture. Teach your kid to stand up for his beliefs by using confident, assertive posture: stand tall with feet slightly apart, head held high, and look the person straight in the eye.
  • Say no firmly. Stress that he must say his beliefs using a friendly, but determined voice. Then don’t give in. His job is not to try changing the other person’s mind, but to follow his beliefs.
  • Tell reasons why. Ask your child to give the person the reason for his stand. It helps strengthen his conviction: “Stop bullying him; it’s cruel.” Or “No, it’s illegal and wrong.” Repeating the belief several times boosts assertiveness and helps your child not back down from his stand.

 Keep in mind that your child’s moral growth is an ongoing process that will span the course of her lifetime. The moral knowledge, beliefs, and habits you instill in her now will become the foundation she’ll use forever.

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.

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When the Six Pillars conflict

Six Pillars of Character

At CHARACTER COUNTS!, we often refer to the Six Pillars of Character as universal values. In other words, they are values that transcend race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and even time. Put another way, nearly everyone can agree that more trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship would be good and even necessary for our individual, community, and societal growth.

Though the Six Pillars are universal, they are not absolutes. Like anything else in society, what the Pillars look like, sound like, and feel like can change due to context or circumstance. What is considered perfectly respectful behavior at a football game would not be considered respectful in a boardroom, for example. How we define what each pillar looks like and sounds like in unique circumstances is particularly important when Pillars appear to be in conflict. One definition of citizenship may include following the rules, respecting the law, and so on. And yet, Rosa Parks is often highlighted as an example of fairness, for her protest on the bus in which she technically broke the law – an unjust, unfair, and racist law, but a law nonetheless. Does that mean she’s a bad citizen? Or, a student may argue that she was showing caring by letting her friend copy homework so her friend wouldn’t get in trouble, while a teacher might argue that the student was being irresponsible and untrustworthy by letting her friend cheat.

The tendency in these moments is to ask, “which Pillar is more important?” but that’s the wrong question. The right question is, “in this time, given these circumstances, what does it mean to put the Six Pillars into action?” When one asks this question, Rosa Park’s action is not only a demonstration of fighting for fairness, but citizenship, as she tries to make her community a better place for everyone, regardless of race.

Of course, some may view the constant need to negotiate what the Six Pillars look like in different circumstances as soft or unprincipled, but maybe it’s the opposite. The intentional, deliberate conversation about what the Six Pillars look like for us, in this situation, is exactly the kind of conversation, sometimes hard conversation, we must have if we’re going to work together successfully. Yes, the Pillars are universal, but what we want them to look like for our students, school, community, family, and society is ultimately up to us.

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Six Pillar animal coloring pages

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Trustworthiness – Camel

Respect – Lion

Responsibility – Elephant

Fairness – Giraffe

Caring – Kangaroo

Citizenship – Bear

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Image isn’t you character

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