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How to Build Character in School

How to Build Character in School

Building character in school can present students with an ideal growth and learning environment. Teachers can encourage students through various activities and techniques to promote character growth and building across the grades. 

What Is Character Building for Students?

Character building is imparting essential values and virtues on individuals, so they can grow into actionable and helpful members of society. Character traits can include:

  • Curiosity
  • Reflection
  • Resourcefulness
  • Autonomy
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Neighborliness
  • Collaboration
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience
  • Confidence
  • Motivation

Teachers and educators play a crucial role in character building by supporting emotional growth and developing healthy habits and behaviors from kindergarten through graduation. 

The Importance of Character Development in the Classroom

african american boy in classroom

School is an excellent environment for students to work on building their character for several reasons. While parents, family members and their surrounding communities can also contribute to character development, teachers and schools can create ideal environments for students in many ways, including: 

  • Making mistakes in a safe environment: Classrooms are safe spaces where students can take risks and make mistakes with minimal consequences. Students often learn through trial and error, and the classroom can offer various social and moral situations where they can practice and implement different good character traits. If they do make a mistake, teachers and school staff can treat it as a learning opportunity, so they can continue to grow and develop. 
  • Relating to their peers: Classrooms can better serve character development than other environments for students because students are all developing their characters together. When students are all so close in age, they are typically around the same development level, so teachers can guide their classes together and students can practice skills together. 
  • Asking for help when needed: While students have many opportunities to develop their characters independently in schools and classrooms, students also have comprehensive resources and assistance available to them when needed. Teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and other mentors can guide students through challenges to continue their character development. 

5 Tips for Building Character in the Classroom 

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 

woman teacher high fiving girl student

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 character flaws.
  • 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.

Character Building Activities Across Education 

two boys in classroom

Teachers can integrate character-building into the classroom through planned activities that teach students about character traits and their importance. Educators can also highlight habits and actions that students can implement into their daily lives to practice and grow. If you want to support your students, knowing some engaging and educational activities can help boost character development and awareness.

Character Building Activities for Kindergarten Students 

Kindergarten is the launching point for much of elementary education, where students learn the essential foundations they'll need to succeed as they progress. Kindergarten is also often where students learn essential social skills and begin to develop character traits. With increased time spent with their peers, they must learn how to share, collaborate, communicate and ask for help. Teachers can also take this opportunity to engage students with their character development with fun activities, including: 

  • Show and tell: Show and tell is a classic elementary school activity, encouraging students to practice their descriptive and communication skills by bringing something from their personal lives and sharing it with their peers. Further, this activity can also highlight the diversity and each student's unique background. Students can learn something new about their classmates and show interest in their lives by asking questions and actively listening. 
  • Puppet or doll role play: Role playing is an excellent way for students to encounter complex emotional and moral problems with minimal impact on their personal lives and consequences. Teachers can set up scenarios for students, like a doll that is being excluded by the others, and have students come up with a solution with their dolls. This system gets students involved while showing their progress with their emotional and moral character traits. 

Character Building Activities for Elementary Students 

Elementary school students can participate in slightly more advanced character-building activities because they might already have some basics covered. As they approach more complex subjects and topics, they can also begin to delve deeper into their character development. Some character education activities for this age group include: 

  • Character recipes: With a better understanding of what good characters look like, individual students or classes can outline what makes a good character. Students can use a recipe format to build the ideal character, outlining the mix of traits they believe will make the person successful and kind. For example, someone might have two cups of respect and three tablespoons of curiosity. 
  • Character trait descriptions: Students in elementary school begin to understand language better. With these new skills, teachers can encourage students to describe good character traits in their own words. Teachers can use these activities to gauge language skills and understanding while promoting creativity and autonomy. 
  • Toothpaste replacements: Teachers can teach specific lessons with their character-building activities for students. In this exercise, teachers will ask students to squeeze toothpaste onto a paper plate. Then, students must try to put it back in the tube. As students struggle with this part, teachers can connect the toothpaste with their words and actions, reminding them that many things often have permanent effects. 

As elementary school students develop more independence, teachers can lead these activities or make them independent exercises that inspire reflection. 

Character Building Activities for Middle School Students 

asian girl sitting at desk smiling

Middle school students often greatly benefit from integrating character development into their classroom. They are often exploring their personality and priorities, learning what is important to them through new independence and autonomy. Additionally, they might have more freedom when it comes to media or face more peer pressure, making them more vulnerable. Some activities you can present them include: 

  • Helpful versus hurtful: More students engage with social media, increasing opportunities for cyberbullying and its negative impacts. Teachers can present students with various posts and have them decide if the content and its message are helpful or hurtful. Students can learn how to protect themselves online and respect others also using the Internet. 
  • Judge people by their cover: Teachers can also engage students with other aspects of social media and pop culture by assessing how perceptions of individuals can change. They might pull up different examples for the same celebrity, showing how various biases interpret people differently. This lesson can teach students to avoid gossip and rumors and instead make their own judgments about individuals. 
  • Strength identifiers: Student confidence can also get very low in middle school as students mature and grow at different rates. Integrating activities that aim to identify each student's strengths can show that each individual offers something valuable and unique to situations to celebrate diversity and their differences. 

Character Building Activities for High School Students 

High school students might already know who they are and what is important to them, but they can still learn and develop. Character development in the classroom in high school can highlight how students continually grow and change, even as their personalities and interests solidify. Some activities for high schoolers include: 

  • Show and tell: As a callback to an elementary school favorite, high schoolers can also benefit from show and tell. This activity can continue to highlight how students are different, while also pointing out where students are also similar. Students might realize they are more alike than they think while practicing empathy. 
  • TED talks: High school students are often very passionate. They might have special interests, hobbies or skills that go unnoticed in their daily education. Presentations inspired by TED talks hosted by your school give students the opportunity to flex their skills, building their confidence. Like show and tell, others can learn more about their peers and show their appreciation. 
  • Personality quizzes: While students might already know their strengths and weaknesses, they can always use reminders or take opportunities to learn more about themselves. Personality quizzes can provide comprehensive insight into behaviors and preferences, highlighting how and why students do well in certain situations and environments to build their confidence and strengths. 

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, character-focused bulletin boards 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 and bulletin board kits 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.

success by design character building planners

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