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How to Build Character in School

How to Build Character in School
To help your class gain all sorts of positive traits, you'll want to know how to build character in school. These lessons can help improve classroom behavior and your students' relationships in and out of the classroom. You just need some tips for building school character. Many students' first experience with socializing is in the classroom, making it a perfect opportunity for character-building exercises that teach them positive behaviors and traits to have. Check out our suggestions for how to build character in schools along with character-building games and activities.

5 Ways to Build School Character

Good character includes countless qualities, so you have plenty to teach your students. These skills and traits will go a long way in your students' lives, both in and out of the classroom and long after graduation. Here are five ways to build school character by encouraging various traits:

1. Teach Listening Skills

Learning how to listen will improve your students' characters and can also help them do better in school. Having positive listening skills helps develop other good character traits, making it a useful first lesson. Older students will be able to understand the term "active listening" — concentrating on what's said to understand everything fully. For younger students, you may have to teach listening skills more directly. Giving a verbal list of instructions then having the class follow them is a great way to practice listening skills since students won't have anything written to refer to, only what they heard. Expand the lesson to listening to peers as well as to you and others in authority. Let students take turns giving a few verbal instructions to the class so they can see that listening to everyone is important. Once your students add listening skills to their character, they could have an easier time:
  • Following instructions
  • Developing empathy
  • Focusing in class
  • Focusing in conversations
Teaching listening skills to your students will also help make efficient use of class time as you won't have to repeat directions as often.

2. Encourage Kindness and Consideration

Encouraging consideration among students helps make a classroom more peaceful and friendly along with building everyone's character. Discuss what kindness is and how it can build school character when students practice it, and this discussion could encourage your students to engage in:
  • Volunteering
  • Supporting others
  • Making new friends
  • Understanding the golden rule
  • Learning etiquette for in and out of the classroom
Tie lessons about kindness into others about empathy, honesty, gratefulness and doing the right thing. For younger students, use the concept of walking in another's shoes to help them understand what kindness and empathy are. Use this opportunity to teach even younger students about emotions and how to recognize those in others to treat them with consideration.

3. Discuss Respect

Being respectful is an integral part of building character, but if your students are young, they may not be as familiar with the concept. Describe respect as a form of consideration that takes the feelings of others into account as well as etiquette. With a lesson in being respectful, your students will understand how to be respectful towards:
  • Teachers
  • Fellow students
  • Parents and family members
  • Their surroundings
  • The environment

Remember that we show respect to each other, as well as for objects and property, which also ties into lessons of kindness and consideration. Encourage students to keep their desks and common workspaces clean, explaining that it shows they have respect for you, their peers, the cleaning staff and the school as a whole.

4. Promote Self-Esteem

While building character improves how your students interact with others, promoting self-esteem helps how your students see and treat themselves. Having a positive view of themselves will help make them more kind to others and share their skills. Incorporate these ideas into a lesson on self-esteem:
  • Striving for self-advocacy: Students of any age benefit from knowing how to voice their needs. This could be anything from a young student needing help with a craft project to an older student requiring learning or mental health services. Foster an environment where students can voice their questions, needs and concerns to advocate for themselves and develop self-esteem.
  • Understanding and accepting failure: With the mindset some students have, they may see failure as a negative character trait, and that impacts their self-esteem. Explore those fears in a supportive way, explaining that small mistakes and larger failures aren't a character flaw.
  • Receiving positive feedback: Encouraging children of any age when they succeed is just as essential to developing self-esteem as coping with mistakes. Discuss why encouragement is important, both to give and receive, and have students practice giving and receiving positive feedback. Sometimes, it's challenging for us to develop our own self-esteem, so positive words from others can help us understand our talents.
With improved self-esteem, students can better evaluate their skills and other positive traits, which may contribute to making better choices in the future for their careers or furthering their education. It can also help them become more empathetic and considerate as they see that other students have similar needs and skills. They'll see what they have in common with others and how they can help others who need and advocate for it.

5. Instill Motivation

Having motivation is essential to building character in school and out of it. Motivated students will want to learn more about building good character and strive to have good character. When motivated, your students may also be more eager to:
  • Try harder and always improve
  • Work through mistakes and failure
  • Get work done
  • Learn new skills
  • Be respectful and kind
For younger students, providing incentives like a longer recess or prizes helps instill motivation. When you offer these rewards, tie them into lessons about getting and staying motivated. Older students can also enjoy these lessons, just with different rewards, and you can include information about time management and how they can motivate themselves.

Activities to Build School Character

Building character in school can be a hands-on experience paired with lessons about the classroom and the world outside of school. Real-world examples will help students of any age grasp these concepts better and be ready to practice them at home and at school. Consider some of these activities to build school character:

Learning About Character

Before diving into any of these character-building exercises, start with a lesson about character. Describe what makes good character and how to build it. Be sure to discuss why learning how to build character in school is essential. That explanation will help to motivate everyone to participate in character-building activities. One way you can incorporate a game into the lesson is to come up with a list of qualities that contribute towards good character. Develop a list with your class that has the same number of traits as your class has students. You can then have the class nominate a student for each quality based on who exemplifies the trait. Have little awards or star stickers to give to every student after they're chosen for each trait. Some possibilities for traits that contribute towards good character include:
  • Good listening
  • Kindness
  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Tolerance
  • Self-esteem
  • Courage
  • Motivation
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
For similar character-building exercises, give your students some examples of good character traits and have the class define them in their own words. Defining the traits rather than assigning them to students takes the pressure off the exercise and can be easier for students of any age.

Listening Games

Use some games as a fun way to help improve listening skills and understand why listening is important. These character-building games are especially great for younger students:

  • Simon says: This classic game combines movement with developing listening skills as students can only do what you proceed with, "Simon says." Make a productive version of this game that keeps everyone at their desks by instructing students to color or draw a specific picture with certain colors. Students will see that listening and following instructions is rewarding, which helps them understand the importance of this character trait.
  • Telephone: You won't need any supplies for this fun game. Have students line up, and you whisper a secret phrase to the first student in line. That student must whisper what they heard to the next in line and so on. The last student in line then says what they heard to everyone in class. Use this game to teach students the importance of focusing when listening to others in conversation or as they give instructions.
  • Group story: Play this with variations depending on the age group of your students. For a younger class, have everyone sit in a circle. Begin a story with one sentence and have the next student continue the story with one sentence. Older students can play the same game but one word at a time instead. Encourage the class to make a story that is logical so they have to listen actively, but it can still be silly or fun. This game encourages students to listen actively to you and their classmates as a story develops and allows them to make decisions and think critically.
Preface these games with a quick lesson about the importance of listening then debrief and ask your students why listening is important for the games, in the classroom and at home.

Kindness Activities

Create a homework assignment for anywhere from one night to a weekend or week where students track acts of kindness. Give them suggestions for what they can do at home — making their bed, helping to set the table — and at school — holding the door for someone, complimenting a friend. To help them understand the benefit of this assignment, have students:
  • Do something kind for someone else, whether it be for a friend, fellow student or family member.
  • Write down what they did, who they did it for and why.
  • Write down the person's reaction.
  • Write down how doing something kind for someone else made them feel.
You can then have everyone discuss what they did, ending the lesson with a discussion of why kindness is important. For quicker character-building activities that take place all in the classroom, have students:
  • Write thank-you notes to each other.
  • Go around the room and say what they like about each other.
  • Track what they're grateful for in a week, whether it be people, belongings or opportunities.
  • Practice conflict resolution by going over scenarios and how to solve problems with others.
  • Recognize emotions with facial expressions and discuss how to respond to those emotions.
For older students, conduct a kindness lesson that explores both how to build school character and business character, focusing on ethics to help prepare them for the future.

Self-Esteem Building Activities

While parents and family members play a large role in developing a child's self-esteem, you can help students build character and positive self-esteem with some activities in the classroom. Encourage students to feel good about themselves with activities that include:

  • Evaluating their qualities: Have students write down things they're good at and what they like about themselves at the start of the week. After lessons about self-esteem and other activities, have them create a list again and see if it grows. They'll think critically about themselves and develop self-esteem as they do so, and hopefully, their list grows after learning more about self-esteem and how others view them.
  • Lessons about value: For many children, even adults, success is parallel with value, but this isn't the only way to define value. Teach students that failure is an option as long as they grow from it. Encourage success but also encourage the potential for growth when success doesn't happen right away. Let them know that they may not be experts at everything, but practice and mistakes can help them improve. Discuss other qualities that create value other than success.
  • Learning new skills: Participating in new hobbies or skills helps kids develop a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. They'll feel progress as they strive to meet new goals or learn something new. They may even discover a new talent that boosts their self-esteem. Put this into practice by having students try something new, like playing an instrument they don't know how to play.
  • Empowering children in other ways: One way to empower anyone, especially younger children, is to give them choice. To incorporate choice into the classroom, consider having many activity options during a particular lesson. Let students choose whether they write, draw, read or create something with their hands that still corresponds to the core lesson so they have a say in what they do.
Developing self-esteem at a young age can set students up for developing good character and finding their path in life. Your students will feel more confident, which will help them reach out when they need help, feel more courageous and develop better character.

Shop Character-Building Planners With Success By Design

One of the best ways to help your students build character and track their progress is with character-building planners. At Success by Design, we have character-themed planners and Character Trait Inserts for every grade level. These planners and inserts are excellent tools that can be used in your lessons and character-building activities. Our planners teach students to plan and get organized, which can improve their grades and prepare them for adulthood and building their character.

Shop our character-building planners today or call our friendly customer service team for help finding the perfect planner for your students. Motivate your students to improve their character and become their best with fun and engaging planners from Success By Design.

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