Character Education Activities for the Classroom or School

By Keren Perles

How can you teach your students the importance of honesty, integrity, and kindness? Try some of these character education activities to get your kids thinking about how they can become better people.

No matter what grade or subject you teach, you want your students to walk away from class as better, more thoughtful people. You can encourage students to think about their own moral choices by using these character education activities. These activities may teach traits such as honesty, responsibility, integrity, kindness, acceptance of others, and proactivity.

A Morality Role Model

Although all of these character education activities can help children learn about how to react correctly in various situations, finding a morality role model is probably the most helpful one of all. After all, children learn best by imitating those around them. To give them someone of character to motivate them, encourage them to find a person - either someone they know or a historical figure - who has shown high levels of morality. This would include a person who has exhibited character traits such as care for others, respect for mankind, responsibility towards the rest of the world, or trustworthiness. If they choose a historical figure, they should research as much as they can about the person's life and moral struggles and give a short written or oral report about what character traits they most admire in the person. If they choose a person who they know, they should conduct an interview and use the information to create a similar report.

Solving a Problem

One of the important character traits to discuss with students is that of taking responsibility for helping other people and the rest of the world. Children often find innovative ways that they can solve the problems of the world around them, and enabling them to put those problem-solving ideas into effect can help them feel that they can make a difference in the world. As a character education activity, have children brainstorm a list of problems that they see around them. These problems might be related to the environment, to social issues (e.g., friendships, family relationships), to diversity, or to various other issues that have been bothering them. Circulate among students during this activity and help them choose problems that are appropriate and possible to solve through taking responsibility or being proactive. Children should then choose one of the remaining issues on the list that they think they can help solve, even if it just does so on a small level. For example, a child who is upset about the waste of recyclable objects can create a program to help kids in school recycle more. Explain to them that by doing so, they are taking responsibility for helping those around them.

The Other Side of the Story

It's often easy to judge other people, especially when you don't know their side of the story. For a period of a few weeks, write down several situations in which either you did not know the other side of the story, or in which someone else didn't know your side of the story. (Children can do this as well.) For example, you might write down that your friend put you on hold and then hung up on you, that the repairman didn't come when he said he would, or that you double-parked someone else's car in because of an emergency. Then take turns telling the situations to each other and encouraging each other to figure out a possible way to explain the "other side of the story." They may come up with ideas such as a friend who says something insensitive, a sibling who won't share a secret, or a teammate who never shows up on time to practice. Character education activities like this one encourage kids to think about other people's points of view and to keep their tempers even in difficult situations.

No matter which character education activity you use, make it fun and engaging. That way, students will gain from the activity and be encouraged to think about how to become better people.