Traffic Jam

Learning Objective: To experience and reflect on the necessary skills to successfully complete a difficult problem-solving exercise within a small group of peers.


Time Needed – 25 minutes

Intended Age – Secondary


Preparation and Set-up

1.      Divide into small groups of 8-10.

2.      Each small group needs to have places marked on the floor.  Depending on your facility you might do this outside and use chalk, or inside you can use masking tape, pieces of paper, to mark the places for them to stand facing the empty mark in the center. 

3.      Number each of the places 1-9 as shown below (this will assist in helping them find the solution)



0.      Ask the participants to stand on their markers facing the center marker that is empty.







2.      Explain to them that their “side” members are the ones facing in the same direction.

3.      The goal of the activity is for the two sides to exchange places—to get everyone from one side to the other side while remaining in the order (and facing the direction) their side is currently in.

4.      This is not a competition between the two sides, they are working as one group together to complete the activity.

5.      Tell them the rules allow these kind of moves:

·         A player must move only to an unoccupied space in front of them.

·         You may move past a player facing the opposite direction to get to the empty space behind him/her.

·        You may not move past more than 1 player and remember they must be the ones facing the opposite direction

·        You do not necessarily have to alternate turns with the people moving from the other side—you are working as one group to complete the activity.

6.      Moves that are not allowed:

·         Players may not move backwards, nor turn around

·         You may not move around anyone facing the same direction that you are facing.

7.      If you attempt a solution and get stuck, your group must return to the starting position and begin again.

8.      Two suggestions for assisting them after they have grappled with finding the solution a little: That when they start over they mix up the positioning of the people to allow those on the ends more engagement

·         Encourage them when they start over to mix up the order of the folks standing there so the ones on the end do not disengage from the process

·         Provide them with paper and pencil so they can work together to diagram a solution

(If some groups are being successful and others are not, after several attempts allow the groups that haven’t gotten it yet to decide if they want assistance from the successful groups.  Try not to allow any groups to quit without being successful.  Suggestion: have a successful group line up parallel and walk them through the solution.)


Processing and Reflection (Provide an opportunity for the groups to discuss some of these questions among themselves, then ask for some shared comments with the entire group.

What? (What were you asked to do?)  to exchange places with the people on the other side


So What? (How did it feel? What did you observe, etc.)

·         How successful was your group?

·         What strategies did your group use to figure out the solution? (include the option of watching others—did they consider that “cheating” or “using their resources”?  What is the difference—is it different in different circumstances? Why or why not?)

·         What happened with the leadership within your group?  Did one person pretty much run the show or did leadership give and take as people had ideas?

·         How did your group handle themselves?  Were they respectful and caring of people and their ideas?

·         What could you have done differently to have a better outcome?

·         Did anyone want to give up?  Did you?  If not, why not?  What kept you personally trying even when you were having problems finding the solution?

·         How many groups persevered until they found the solution?

·         Did any of you have to ask for help?


Now what? (Apply to their everyday lives)

·         How does this activity reflect things that happen in your everyday life?

·         What are some examples of times when it is important for you to persevere until you find the solution?  Why is it sometimes hard?

·         What do you do when you want to give up?

·         How do you help others when they want to give up?

·         Why do we hesitate sometimes to ask for help?



Solution to Traffic Jam Activity



The solution involves using the numbers under the squares above.  You may want to try this on paper with pennies and dimes or some other objects to represent the players.  Keep in mind that the player on the square described, can only move in one direction.  The arrows on the squares only show the direction of the player starting on that square.  After the game starts. players can only move the direction they were facing at the beginning of the game.


square 4

square 6, square 7,

square 5, square 3, square 2, 

square 4, square 6, square 8, square 9, 

square 7, square 5, square 3, square 1, 

square 2, square 4, square 6, square 8, 

square 7, square 5. square 3,

Square 4, square 6,

square 5   

Notice the pattern  L side- 1 move , R side-2 moves, L side-3 moves, R side 4 moves, L side 4 moves, R side 4 moves, L side 3 moves, R side 2 moves, L side 1 move.


Say It and Do It

Learning Objective: Understand importance of modeling


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary and Secondary



Have the entire group stand up and face you. Explain that you’re going to point your arms in one direction and they’re to copy you by pointing their arms in the same direction, calling out the direction they’re pointing.


·         You can only do four directions. You can point your arms up, down, left, or right. Demonstrate this and have the participants copy you, calling out each direction. Be sure they understand that the directions they move and call out are how they see them, not how you see them. That means while you’re pointing your arms left, they’ll be pointing right.

·         Move your arms to one of the four positions and wait for them to move and call out the direction. Repeat this several times.

·         Stop and explain that you’re now changing the assignment. This time you want them to move their arms the same direction as you but to call out the opposite direction. For example, as you move your arms down, they must move their arms down but call out “Up.”

·         For the third round, they’re to call out the direction your arms move, but they’re to move their arms in the opposite direction. For example as you put your arms up, they should say “Up” but move their arms down.

·         Finally, start from the beginning again, but this time if they make a mistake, they have to sit down. See how may remain after each round. The additional pressure of having a consequence for making a mistake closely relates to the pressure of how our character affects our choices.


Process and Reflection

What? (What did you do?) Mimicked and called out leader’s movements, which became progressively harder.

·         How hard was it to move your arms and call out the same direction I was pointing?

·         How hard was it to say the correct direction and move your arms in the opposite direction?

·         How hard was it to say the opposite direction and move your arms in the correct direction?

·         Why was this hard to do?


So What? (How did it feel, what did you observe, etc.?)

·         How did the change make you feel when we added the rule about being out if you made a mistake? Did you feel any added pressure?

·         How hard is it for you to say one thing but think another?

·         How hard is to act one way when you feel another?

·         What does this have to do with one’s character?

·         How does this apply to making decisions?


Now What? (How does the activity apply to your everyday life?)

·         Can we act differently from what we believe? Explain.

·         How do our values dictate our behavior?

·         How does having conflicting thoughts or messages affect our ability to make good decisions?


Dollar Bill or 100 Pennies

Learning Objective: To demonstrate what is meant the value of respect.


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary and Secondary

Materials: A dollar bill and 100 pennies



Show a dollar bill and 40 100 pennies. Divide chart paper in half, using the heading of “Differences” on one side and “Similarities” on the other. Ask the class to brainstorm ways in which the dollar and 100 pennies are different and ways they are the same.



·         Even though they are different in many ways, what is true of the dollar bill and 100 pennies? (They are equal in value. Make the comparison to people. Even though we are different in many ways, we are all of equal value or worth.)

·         Are there more differences or similarities in the people we meet?

·         What does this activity say as to how we should treat others we associate with or come in contact with on a daily basis?

·         Why is it hard to treat everyone as if they have the same worth?

·         Why is it important that we do?


Learning Objective: To demonstrate the importance of being intentional in our teaching of character


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary and Secondary


Material: Everyone needs a sheet of paper



After the paper is distributed, explain the following rules of the activity.

·         Eyes must be closed, there is to be no talking and the participants cannot ask any questions.

·         With an understanding of these rules, the following directions are given:

1.      Fold the paper in half

2.      Tear off the upper right corner of the paper

3.      Fold the paper in half again

4.      Tear off the lower left corner of the paper

5.      Fold the paper in half again

6.      Tear off the lower right corner of the paper


·         Have the participants unfold the paper. They may now open up their eyes. Have each individual hold their paper above their head and compare.  If the leader has done the activity as well, he/she should hold up their paper.



So What?

·         Why are not the papers all the same?

·         Did we not all hear the same instructions?


Now What?

·         What could have been done differently?

·         How does this apply to what many teachers do related to teaching specific character traits to students?

·         What should teachers do?

·         How can we be intentional in teaching values?


Quotations to Teach Character


“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the true goal of education.” - Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” -Theodore Roosevelt

"Live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip." -- Will Rogers

Talk does not cook rice –

Chinese proverb

“The greatest power that a person possesses is the power to choose.”  - J. Martin Kohe


“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”  - John Homer Miller

"What you are thunders so loudly that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” – Charles Swindoll

“Those who fight fire with fire burn their houses down twice as fast.”

 – Vietnamese proverb





“If each person sweeps in front of his or her own door, the whole street is clean.”
– Yiddish proverb

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, But still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” – Edward Hale

“For the young to become moral, they must be in the presence of people who take morality seriously.” – Mary Warnock

“To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by only one bee.”

– Unknown

“The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.”

– Hada Bejar

“The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

– Unknown

“Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.”

– Don Wilder and Bill Rechin,


“One unable to dance blames the unevenness of the floor.”

– Malay proverb


“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”

– Oprah Winfrey

“If you haven’t got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?”

– Jeffrey Mayer


“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is not a path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


1.      What do you think this quotation means?

2.      What are the most important ideas and values embedded in the quote?

3.      Give a “real life” example of what this quote is about.

4.      Is there something you can learn from this quote about how you should live your life?


QUOTATIONS Discussion Guide

Have a discussion about quotes in general or about a few specific quotes. Ask questions like the following:

1.      What do you think this quotation means?

2.      What are the most important ideas and values embedded in the quote?

3.      How would you rewrite this quotation if you had to use synonyms of the original words?

4.      Give a “real life” example of what this quote is about.

5.      What circumstances do you think prompted the speaker to say this?

6.      Why do you suppose this quotation is famous or at least notable?

7.      If this quote doesn’t apply to you directly, what kind of person or situation would it apply to?

8.      Is there something you can learn from this quote about how you should live your life?

9.      How would the world be different if everyone lived by this quotation?

10.  How would the world be different if no one lived by this quotation?

11.  Is this quote realistic or idealistic?


QUOTATIONS Activity Ideas

1.      Have students find five quotes about one topic, such as honesty or success.

2.      Have students research and write a biography of the person who said their favorite quote

3.      Have students rewrite five quotes using language a 10-year-old could understand.

4.      Use a quotation as a journal prompt at the beginning (or end) of class. Students can then pick out their favorite journal entry to expand into a full essay.

5.      Have students find and explain one quote that uses a simile and one that uses a metaphor.

6.      Give students the first part of a quote and have them think of different endings. For example, “Most folks are about as happy as ... _________.” (The original quote, from American president Abraham Lincoln, ends with “they make up their minds to be.”)

7.      List 10 quotes for students and have them rank the quotes in order of how meaningful they would be to a child, a teenager, a parent, or an old person.

8.      Select a quotation and write it on the board. Have students copy it, write what it means in their own words, and give an example from their own lives.

9.      As a twist on the traditional “current events” assignment, have students select a quote that relates to the news story and explain why it is relevant to that current event.

10.  Have students organize a list of quotes by character trait. Ask them to explain how each quote relates to the category in which they placed it.

11.  Assign a group of three or four students a particular maxim and have them prepare a one- to two-minute skit to illustrate the essential message of the quotation..

12.  Cut the quotes into strips of paper and have students draw a quote from a box. For homework, express the message of the quote in a poster, poem, essay, or song.


Adapted from “Foundations for Life” Teacher’s Resource Guide, published by the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Materials available at


Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

Learning Objective:  Learn the importance of telling the truth


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary


Materials: Ball of yarn



·         Arrange ahead of time to have a student help you with this demonstration. Secretly ask the child to give false answers to each question that you ask. This will begin after he/she has taken a seat in a chair front of the class.

·         Ask your seated child a simple question such as, "Why didn't you get your homework done for today?" As she answers with a lie, such as the dog ate my homework, wrap a long string of yarn around her once.

·         Then ask a follow-up question based on her reply, such as "How did the dog get your homework?” As she makes up another answer, wrap the yarn around her again.

·         Continue to ask follow-up questions until she is entangled in a web of yarn. After the class has observed the situation, explain that you asked this person to make up answers to all your questions (to lie).


Process and Reflection

So What?

·         Ask them if they can see what telling lies can do to someone. Emphasize how one lie usually leads to another and how quickly we can become trapped and embarrassed by lie

·         Ask them what will be experienced by the person who always tells the truth (not having to what your last lie was or how to cover it up, peace of mind, and feeling good about oneself.)


Now What?

·         Ask the students to tell about a time when they were caught in a lie and had to tell another lie in order to cover it up.

·         Ask why it is important for us to always tell the truth (trust, respect, because it's the right thing to do.)



The Cover Up

Learning Objective: To understand that it is hard to keep a lie under cover.


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary


Materials: Bucket or large cooking pot (about 8 inches across), one quarter, and enough pennies for each student to have one.



Fill the bucket with 6 – 8 inches of water and put the quarter at the bottom in the center. Begin by saying that telling a lie may seem like a simple way out of a problem. However, usually when we tell a lie we end up telling even more lies in order to cover up the first lie. (Give an example, either made up or from your own personal experience.) Explain to the students that their challenge is to cover up the quarter by using a penny. Have students come up one at a time and try to drop their penny (from at least 2 inches above the water) into the bucket and try to cover up the quarter.


Process and Reflection

·         How well did the penny cover the quarter?

·         How many actually landed on the quarter?

·         How does this activity compare to trying to cover up a lie that we told?

·         Does someone have to tell more lies to cover up the first lie?

·         What happens when you are caught lying?

·         How easy is it for others to trust you again?

·         Why is telling the truth easier than lying even if the truth may get you in trouble?



Human Knot

Learning Objective: Everyone must work together to accomplish an identified goal.


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary and Secondary



Ask a group of about 6 to 10 people to face each other in a tight circle. Each person holds out his right hand and grasps the right hand of someone else as if shaking hands. Each person then extends her left hand and grasps the hand of someone else so that each person is holding hands with two different people.  The result should be a confusing configuration of arms and bodies – a human knot. The group must untangle the web of arms into a hand -in-hand circle. People may not let go of hands as they work together as a group to untangle themselves.


Process and Reflection

·         What did it take to get yourselves to work together?

·         What were the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

·         How many options did your group consider to get yourselves untangled?

·         Did your group discuss the options before making an attempt?

·         What are examples of how well you work together?

·         Does this activity represent something we do when working with others on a team or in a group situation?


Gift of Happiness

Learning Objective: To help see the good in others and to express caring uplifting words to someone else.


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary


Materials: A large envelope for each, index cards and a piece of masking tape.



Each student receives a legal-size envelope and a piece of masking tape. Students write their names on the backs of the envelopes and decorate them any way they wish.  Students are to write positive messages to the members in their group expressing a specific appreciation to each person.  When all have finished writing their messages, they wait to deliver them until instructed to do so. Students tape their envelopes to their backs with the name showing outward. After all have finished writing message to each student in their group and all have taped envelopes to their backs, students walk around the room depositing the messages in the envelopes taped to others’ backs.  When all have received their messages, allow them to read their messages.



Rule Cards (From Connect With Character)

Learning Objective:  Learn the importance of respecting others and themselves


Materials: 3 different colored sticks or pencils (1 set of 3 for each group) 3 different color index cards (2 sets for each group); rule cards



·         Divide the class into groups of four. Ask all of the ones to gather together in an area, all of the twos in another, and so on.

·         Before distributing the rules, explain that each number has a different rule. They are not allowed to share their rule with anyone from any other number group, but they may talk about it to people of the same number if they need to. The game depends on the rules being kept secret.

·         Distribute the rules to each of the number groups. Allow some time to familiarize themselves with their rule. When they all understand their rule, create teams with one representative from each of the numbers.

·         Remind everyone that they must follow their individual rule at all times.

·         Allow 10 minutes for the first round.

·         Count the items. Have the second highest group explain what happened. Next have the lower end group (but not the last one) explain how their team worked. Finally, have the winning team explain what they did to collect their items.


So What?

·         How did the team collect the items needed and show respect for the members who had different rules?

·         What was difficult about it?


Now What?

·         How could the game be done differently?

·         What does this game tell us about how we work with others who have different opinions and backgrounds?

·         How can we solve problems when working with others and still be respectful of what others say and do?



Rule Card One

Rule Card Two

1.      Your group has to collect one green stick, one red stick and one yellow stick

2.      Your group has to collect two cards of each of the following colors: blue, red, green

3.      You cannot touch any stick, but you can touch cards

4.      You can only say yes or no.

1.      Your group has to collect one green stick, one red stick and one yellow stick

2.      Your group has to collect two cards of each of the following colors: blue, red, green

3.      You cannot touch any cards, but you can touch sticks.

4.      You can ask questions to people with Rule Card One, but you can’t answer questions.




Rule Card Three

Rule Card Four

1.      Your group has to collect one green stick, one red stick and one yellow stick

2.      Your group has to collect two cards of each of the following colors: blue, red, green

3.      You can touch sticks and cards

4.      You can’t speak at all


1.      Your group has to collect one green stick, one red stick and one yellow stick

2.      Your group has to collect two cards of each of the following colors: blue, red, green

3.      You cannot touch any sticks or cards

4.      You can ask questions to anyone in your group and you can answer questions.





·         he person who always tells the truth (not having to what your last lie was or how to cover it up, peace of mind, and feeling good about oneself.)


Now What?

·         Ask the students to tell about a time when they were caught in a lie and had to tell another lie in order to cover it up.

·         Ask why it is important for us to always tell the truth (trust, respect, because it's the right thing to do.)



The Honest Mouth

Materials: Black licorice


Time Needed – 10 minutes

Intended Age – Elementary



Ask the students if anyone knows what happens when you eat black licorice? (Put a piece in

your mouth. You may want to put extra black food coloring on your piece before visiting the classroom; this will enhance the effect.) A mouth that has eaten black licorice turns black. (After chewing, open your mouth to show the result.) Yuck! Not only does your tongue look horrible, but soon your teeth and even your lips get black. It takes a long time before your mouth returns to its normal color. Dishonesty has a lasting effect on you, just like the black licorice. Like licorice that leaves our mouths black for a long time, we can see the results of telling lies long after we've told them. Others will lose their trust in us, privileges will be taken away, and friendships will be lost. Telling lies will leave a black ugly mark on you--just like the black licorice. Remember: It's always best to be honest and true, don't let the stain of dishonesty leave its mark on you.


Process and Reflection

·         What does our mouth look like after eating the black licorice?

·         Finish the sentence, “It will take a long time before …

·         What dies this say about being dishonest?

·         What do others think of us when a lie is discovered

·         How many times can one lie to you before you would consider them a liar?


Finish the Story

Learning Objective – Determining best possible result


Time Needed – 20 minutes

Intended Age – Secondary


Below are two fictitious stories that might sound familiar. Read each story, and creatively finish them in two different ways. Have the characters respond in the most irresponsible way and then in a responsible way.


Story #1: “Cheating”

After graduation, Jamie found herself at a big university. Her parents were so proud. She was looking forward to four years of undergrad in the pre-med program, followed by med school, and then a career as a doctor. The first classes were brutally tough. Then came her first mid-term exam! She read the first question of the exam, and her mind went blank. She looked at the second question. She didn’t know the answer. As she wiped the tears from her eyes, she tried to concentrate. She looked up, and there it was: an answer sheet in plain view, right on the desk in front of her... (You finish the story from here)


When you’re done writing the endings to the story, answer these questions:

1.             What were the consequences for those who made irresponsible decisions?

2.             What were the benefits to the characters that made the responsible decisions?

3.             Why is it that we often know what it takes to be responsible, and yet we don’t always make the right decisions?

4.             What is the best way to teach responsibility?

5.             Does someone always have to experience the negatives of a situation in order to learn responsibility?

6.             What five things need to happen for you to be more responsible in your own life?

7.             Why would cheating never prosper someone (list at least five reasons)?

8.             How is cheating related to personal integrity?


Story #2: “Who Is To Blame?”

Jenny doesn’t come from a family that anyone would call “ideal.” Her mom is an alcoholic, her father beats her mother, and the family never has any money. Jenny’s never done very well in school; she feels there’s nothing to motivate her to do a good job. No one at home cares what grades she gets, except when they are embarrassed by getting more than one call from the same teacher. So it wasn’t a big deal when Jenny started partying, forging absence notes, and ditching. Her GPA dropped below a 1.0. For a while, no one seemed to notice that things were going down hill. Then Jenny’s counselor called her in and informed her that she wasn’t going to graduate. “What’s the problem, Jenny?” asked the counselor. “I can’t believe it,” said Jenny...


(You finish the story from here)

When you’re done writing the endings to the story, answer questions #1-5 from the answer these questions:

1.             At what point in your life are you willing to take the blame for your actions?

2.             How is personal responsibility related to integrity?

3.             When are you old enough to take control and determine your own direction?

4.             At what point in life are you able to overcome the influences around you?