As a high school teacher, you have the opportunity to promote CHARACTER COUNTS! by:

<        Hanging character education posters or quotations in your class. Refer to the pillars throughout the day as appropriate.

<        Consistently prohibiting gossip and, when appropriate, addressing/discussing its damaging consequences.

<        Enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on swearing. Prohibit vulgar and obscene language in your classroom, in hallways, and at school-sponsored activities.

<        Not allowing unkindness of any manner in your classroom; no “put-downs.”

<        Helping students to see that the “good” in others is more than academic success.

<        Creating a code of behavior for your classroom or school to which students and you agree related to the pillars.

<        Discussing campus “issues of character” on a regular basis (vandalism, good deeds, etc.).

<        Making classroom expectations clear and holding students accountable for them.

<        Striving to be consistent in dealings with students; avoid allowing personal feelings to interfere with fairness.

<        Talking with your students about why you’re a teacher. Explain how you understand the responsibility and integrity of your profession.

<        Letting students know about your community service. Tell them about volunteering in a food bank, coaching Little League or teaching at your temple or church.

<        Emphasizing from the first day of class the importance of working hard and striving for certain standards of achievement.

<        Modeling integrity; let students observe that you live the expectations of hard work, responsibility, gratitude and perseverance that you place upon them.

<        Following through. Do what you say you will do.

<        Teaching justice and compassion by helping students separate the doer from the deed.

<        Reminding students – and yourself – that building good citizenship through character education is not an easy or one-time project. Fashioning our character is the work of a lifetime.


                                                Have students:


<        Keep a character journal on the choices made

<        Write about a special event in their life and who it affected their character

<        Write a poem using a pillar

<        Imagine they have been given a time machine are on their deathbed. What do they want people to say about them? What pillars do they want to have been evident in their life? What motto to they want do be remembered by?

<        Write an essay about persons of character and the actions they might exhibit

<        Use story starters: “When I look in the mirror…” “I make a difference…”

<        Write a commercial with a character message

<        Provide “what if…” scenarios for creative writing or discussion

<        Research and write a short biography of the person who said their favorite quote


<        Take the first part of a quote and have them think of different endings. For example, “Most folks are about as happy as ... _________.”

<        Select a quote that relates to a news story and explain why it is relevant to that current event

<        Discuss the fairness or unfairness in the plot of a story

<        Interview someone they think displays ethical actions

<        Find and explain a quote that uses a simile and one that uses a metaphor

<        Discuss the actions of characters in stories, e.g. “What would be the honest thing to do?”

<        Identify a charity, collect donations and help administer the distribution of goods or funds

<        Share stories of ethical conflict from literature, current subjects, in the news or movies/TV shows.

<        Bring in articles about moral issues.

<        Read and discuss biographies of accomplished individuals, encouraging them to be discerning, seeing that an individual may have flaws but still be capable of much admirable action.

Social Studies

<        Participate in a class discussion with a recent graduate about his/her transition to college, work or the military, asking how good moral habits helped in the adjustment.

<        Become more active in their community by performing service or attending city council or school board meetings.

<        Analyze newspaper articles for moral issues. Use the articles to discuss world and national problems and how to solve them.

<        Have students use the newspaper to write their own moral dilemmas.

<        During elections, encourage students to research candidates’ positions

<        Examine the responsibilities of the citizen. Help students identify what they can do right now to build the habits of responsible citizenship.

<        Study the founding documents of our country for pillar connections: the U.S. Constitution, the Mayflower Compact, the Bill of Rights.

<        Study the speeches of famous Americans, Presidential Addresses to determine ethical issues that were presented. Analyze, paraphrase and summarize.

<        Identify moral themes and dilemmas throughout history: prejudice versus civil rights, treatment of ethnic groups, greed versus giving, attitudes toward slavery, the family and its changing role.

<        Role play and dramatize periods of history. What character qualities did people of those times display? What pillars were most valued? How were they displayed? Compare life styles then and now.


<        Find a project that contributes positively to the school or community

<        Address when appropriate the ethical considerations of the field of study

<        Start or expand a class or school recycling program. Talk about the general principles of carefully using what you have and not wasting as part of our obligation as citizens of the world and caretakers of the environment

<        Study the interaction between people and their environment. How does this create conflict? How do they work together?

<        Study famous scientists and determine what role character played in how they lived their life. What choices did they make? Was there a conflict between upholding core values and pragmatic values?


<        Compose word problems in which the pillars are incorporated

<        Study famous mathematicians. Many were humanitarians.

<        Conduct surveys on moral issues and record the results. For example, “Would you cheat on a test if you knew you would not get caught?” “Have you cheated within the past month?” Graph the results.

<        Keep frequency counts of “good deeds” and do statistical analyses using graphs and tally sheets.


The following are activities that can be done at the High School level based upon the Six Pillars of Character



As a teacher, you can:














Students can:

1.      Many people complain that political leaders cannot be trusted. Develop a checklist for evaluating the trustworthiness of political leaders. Test out your checklist by listening to a politician speaking on TV. You can see entire speeches on C-SPAN.

2.      Divide the class into small groups. Have each group develop a list of do’s and don’ts for being a trustworthy person. Have them make oral reports to the class addressing the following questions: What happens when people live in accordance with these guidelines? What happens when they don’t? In what ways does trustworthy and untrustworthy behavior affect our community and society? In what ways can/do young people demonstrate trustworthiness?

3.      Have the students watch a movie, TV drama or sitcom, paying particular attention to the behavior of the main characters with regard to trustworthiness. How much trustworthy behavior did they find? How much untrustworthy behavior? Have a class discussion about these issues.

4.      Most people consider loyalty to be an important part of trustworthiness. What, exactly, is loyalty? Who should be loyal to whom or what, and under what circumstances? When is loyalty appropriate, and when might it be a bad thing? Give some specific examples. Break the class into small groups to ponder these issues and have each group give an oral report to the class.

1.      Are you a trustworthy person? In what ways are you trustworthy? In what ways are you, perhaps, not so trustworthy? What could you do to improve?

2.      Write an essay describing what this society might be like if nobody were trustworthy, if suspicion, dishonesty, and betrayal were the norm, if nobody could be counted on to keep commitments.

3.      Write about someone you trust. Why do you trust that person? How important is that trust to you? How do you reciprocate?

4.      Keep a journal for a month that focuses on your relationships with your friends and family in the area of trustworthiness. If there are things that displease you, develop some ideas for improving the situation.

5.      Write about a time you lost somebody’s trust or somebody lost your trust. Was this trust ever regained? How? What did you learn from the experience?


As a Teacher, you can:








Students can:

1.      Divide the class into small groups. Have each group develop a list of do’s and don’ts for being a respectful person. Have them make oral reports to the class addressing the following questions: What happens when people live in accordance with these guidelines. What happens when they don’t. In what ways does respectful and disrespectful behavior affect our community and society?

2.      Bring in articles from newspapers and magazines describing situations in which respect or disrespect are issues. Talk about who is acting respectfully, and who is acting disrespectfully in these situations. Using the articles as evidence, tell the class about the consequences of disrespectful and respectful behaviors.

3.      Role play some typical situations in which disrespectful behavior leads to hostility and maybe even violence. Then, change one of the disrespectful actions into one of respect and see how the outcome changes.

1.      How does government "of, by, and for the people" depend on respect? Write an essay connecting the concepts of democracy and respect. How is listening to different points of view a sign of respect and a cornerstone of democracy? What is it about the concept of democracy that relies upon mutual respect among people? How is the very concept of democracy related to respect for the individual?

2.      Watch a sitcom on television, and then write about how the actions of the characters demonstrated either respectful or disrespectful behavior.

3.      Bullies are often trying to make people "respect" them. Is this really respect, or is it fear? What is the difference? How is bullying and violent behavior an act of disrespect?

4.      Write about a time when you were disrespectful to someone. Why did it happen? Was it the right thing to do? What were the consequences? How did it make the other person feel? What did you learn from the experience?

5.      Describe three things you could do to be a more respectful person. How would that affect your relationships with others? How does it benefit you to be a respectful person?

6.      Conduct a survey in your school or community, asking questions like these. Do you think people are respectful enough? What are some disrespectful acts that really annoy you? What are some respectful acts that you especially appreciate? Compile the results into a report.

7.      Brainstorm ways to make your school environment more respectful. Create a list of recommendations and place them in your school newspaper or on a poster.


As a Teacher you can:












Students can:

1.      Divide the class into small groups. Have each group develop a list of do's and don'ts for being a responsible person. Have them make oral reports to the class addressing the following questions: What happens when people live in accordance with these guidelines. What happens when they don't. In what ways does irresponsible behavior affect our community and society? In what ways can/do young people demonstrate personal responsibility?

2.      Role play: You've made a commitment to spend the weekend working on your part of a class project that's due Monday. Then, friends invite you to go to an all day baseball tournament. You can't do both, so you decide to go to the baseball game. Try to explain your decision to the other people working on the class project. After the role play, have the class analyze what each person did to accomplish his/her objective. What general principles or guidelines can be drawn from this incident about responsibility?

3.      Have students search for the word "responsibility" on the Internet. Make a list of resources. Then create a Responsibility Web Page with links to these resources. E-mail this list to several of the websites recommending that they link to these resources.

1.      What responsibilities do you believe you personally have for: 1) yourself, 2) your family, 3) your community, 4) the world?

2.      Think of an instance when you were impressed by the way a teenager took responsibility for something. Write a news story (or letter to the editor) about this person.

3.      Write a letter to someone in the news who did something that you think was irresponsible. Be specific about why you don't think it was right and why you think this action sets a bad example. Mail the letter.

4.      Write an essay about the relationship between your age and level of responsibility. How do responsibilities differ for people your age and for older adults? How has your sense of responsibility changed as you have gotten older? At what age should we become totally responsible and accountable for our actions?

5.      Write at least five things you could say to yourself when you are tempted to act irresponsibly. Explain the meaning and significance of each.

6.      Describe something you've done that was really irresponsible. How did you feel afterward? What did you learn from it?

7.      Describe what this society might be like if nobody was accountable for their actions, if nobody kept their commitments.


As a Teacher, you can:







Students can:

1.      As a class, make the following two lists: a list of things we sometimes do in our personal lives that are unfair, and a list of things we do as a society that are unfair. What could be done to rectify these injustices so we can cross them off the list? Whose responsibility is it to correct the injustices in our society? How could you contribute to the effort? How could we do better in our personal lives?

2.      Invite a judge to come and talk to your class about how he/she makes a fair decision in the courtroom.

3.      Bring in articles from newspapers and magazines describing situations in which fairness and justice is an issue. Decide who is acting fairly, and who is acting unfairly in these situations.

1.      Research and write about how the legal system in a democracy attempts to administer fairness or justice. What are the elements of the legal system that are designed to make justice work?

2.      One aspect of fairness is equal opportunity. Do a research study in your school to see if students feel that they have equal opportunities. Are there groups of students who don't think they do? Consider race, class, and sex in your study. Is there a group of "outcasts" in your school who feel that they're being treated unfairly? What could be done to address these complaints. Share the results of the study with the staff and other students.


As a Teacher, you can:











Students can:

1.      Divide the class into small groups. Have each group develop a list of do's and don'ts for caring behavior. Have them make oral reports to the class addressing the following questions: What happens when people live in accordance with these guidelines. What happens when they don't? In what ways do caring and uncaring behavior affect our community and society?

2.      Service Project: Have the class or groups plan a service project. Consider having them help younger children learn something valuable, or going and visiting senior citizens.

3.      Brainstorm ways to make your school environment more caring. Create a list of recommendations, and place them in your school newspaper or on a poster. Find a way to deal with the cynics who will sneer at the whole idea.

4.      Write two headings on the blackboard: Caring and Uncaring. Take turns listing things under these headings. Then discuss what it would kinds of efforts it would take to move all of the items from the uncaring column into the caring column.

1.      Write a thank you note to someone in your community who did something very caring. Or, write a thank you note to a historic figure, for instance, Florence Nightingale, to thank her for what she did.

2.      Watch a movie or TV program, and then write about how the actions of the characters demonstrated either caring or uncaring. Write a critique of an uncaring character, suggesting how he or she could have been a more caring person.

3.      Write about a real or an imagined experience in which you performed a random act of caring, and the results it produced.

4.      Imagine that you have just inherited $20,000, and you want to spend it all to help other people. What would you do with it, and why? What effect would it have on the people you would be helping.


As a Teacher, you can:








Students can:

1.      Identify some individuals or organizations who are making a positive difference in your community. Work in groups to interview these people and then give class reports on how they got started, why they do what they do, how they have accomplished what they have.

2.      Service Project: Have the class (as a whole, or in groups) evaluate real needs in the school or community and plan a service project to meet those needs. Then, implement the plan and document its activities.

3.      Have a brainstorming session about ways to improve your school. Then, develop a comprehensive plan for carrying out these changes. Be sure this plan considers the students, teachers, administrators, and everyone else who has a stake in the school.

1.      Identify a good citizen in your community. Write an essay describing why he or she deserves that title.

2.      Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper about a problem in the community that needs to be addressed. Lay out a plan for rectifying the problem.

3.      From a newspaper, magazine, TV show, or movie, identify an act of poor citizenship displayed by an adult who should know better. Write a letter of criticism to this person with the intention of trying to convince him or her to shape up. Provide specific ways in which this person can improve his/her behavior.

4.      Write a speech describing the essential balance of rights and responsibilities in our democracy. Try to convince your fellow classmates that in a democracy the preservation of our rights depends on our exercise of responsibility.

5.      In ancient Greece, people felt that it was important for all people to try to leave Athens better than they found it. Write an essay in which you apply this principle to your own community.



sm CHARACTER COUNTS! and the “Six Pillars of Character” are service marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Insitute of Ethics.