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All About Character Education

Janelle Cox


Character education is a program that many schools implement into their curriculum to help students learn and address important and tough issues while developing a positive school environment.

Students learn “character traits” from everyone that they come into contact with. Character education includes a broad range of traits educators want students to learn. In order to be effective in schools it must involve everyone and be a part of school every day. Research shows that schools that infuse character education will have more parental involvement, less behavior issues, and improved academic performance. If your school is looking to implement a character education program into their curriculum, the following programs are worth considering.

Second Step Program

The Character Education Partnership (CEP), a nonprofit coalition committee committed to modeling positive character traits in schools, developed the Second Step Program. It’s based on 11 principles of character. These principles, which are touched upon below, serve as the foundation that schools use to plan an effective character education program.

The school:

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  1. Promotes core ethical values as the basis of good character. Students study and discuss ethical values, such as honesty, respect, and responsibility.
  2. Defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing. This principle helps students learn empathy, communication, and problem-solving skills.
  3. Uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development. The Second Step Program provides schools with the tools to promote core ethical values.
  4. Creates a caring community. Through adult modeling, schools create a positive classroom climate.
  5. Provides students with opportunities for moral action. Students use problem-solving skills to brainstorm solutions on safety, fairness, workability, etc.
  6. Offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed. This principle engages teaching and learning strategies that encourage children’s opinions and value their feelings.
  7. Fosters students’ self-motivation. Children learn to manage anger and develop empathy. They learn to regulate their behavior and focus their attention in a positive way.
  8. The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students. This principle helps establish a school policy where all adults create a positive school community. 
  9. Fosters shared leadership and long-range support of the character education initiative. A support team assumes leadership in managing and providing resources.
  10. Engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort. Program kits, take-home letters and family videos provide an overview for parents to learn the same skills their children are learning at school.
  11. Regularly assesses its culture and climate, the functioning of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students manifest good character. This includes ongoing assessment and progress and report students’ growth in character.

Visit for a more detailed version of each principle.

Character Counts –The Six Pillars of Character

The Character Counts approach to character education is based on six ethical values which are not culturally, politically or ethically biased. These six pillars of character are the foundation of the Character Counts program. Each word is a particular color to help students remember the Pillars.


Think “true blue.” Be honest, reliable, considerate of others, loyal, don’t deceive, cheat or steal, and build a good reputation.


Think the Golden Rule. Follow the Golden Rule and treat others with respect. Use good manners, be tolerant and accepts of others differences, don’t threaten or hurt anyone, and deal peacefully with anger.


Think being responsible for a garden or money. Always do your best, keep trying, use self-control, be self-disciplined, be accountable for your actions, think before you act, and set a good example for others.


Think of dividing an orange to share equally with others. Play by the rules, take turns, treat all people fairly, listen to others, be open-minded, and don’t take advantage of others.


Think of a heart. Be kind and compassionate, express gratitude, think of others, forgive, and think of those in need.


Think of purple as representing the state. Do what it takes to make your school and community better, stay informed, get involved, cooperate, vote, be a good neighbor, obey the laws, respect authority, volunteer, and protect the environment.

Visit for more detailed information about the program.

Implementing a character education program is an important part of the school curriculum. Despite the idea that you may think it is the parent’s job to teach such character traits at home, what about the childrens’ parents that do not exemplify these traits, or the parents who don’t know how to teach them? How would these students learn these important traits? Regardless of how you may feel, character education is easy and can literally take minutes to instill lifelong traits than can help a child succeed in life. Our students are the ones who will shape what our world will be like in the future. Isn’t that in itself worth a few minutes of your teaching time?

Which character education program do you have in your school? Please leave your comment in the section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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