Character Education - Grades I to IV

General Statement

The ultimate goal of all education is character. Every detail of school experience makes a contribution, for good or ill, to the character and personality of each pupil. Since the development of character is an integral part of all education it should be the first consideration of teachers. Moral education cannot be fully successful if it is thought of as a subject to be taught within specified periods of the time-table. It should rather be a pervading emphasis throughout all the life and work of the school. Even though not always expressed to the pupils, the character aim must be constantly present in the teacher’s mind.

Character education finds its goal in the realization of the two great ideals, social welfare and individual development. These are complementary. Conduct which contributes to the good of others affords the only real means for personal growth, and, conversely, the realization of the innate capacities of the individual contributes, in the long run, to the total quality of the life of the group. To be an effective guide in the development of character the teacher must, therefore, have not only a broad social view-point, but a sensitiveness to the latent possibilities of children.

The development of sound moral character involves:

  1. Knowledge of what is right; awareness of moral principles, and, so far as possible, the reasons for them. This is the intellectual foundation.
  2. Right attitudes and desires; an appreciation of the qualities of good character in the self and others. In this the emotions play a large part.
  3. Habits of right conduct.

Character is reflected in habitual action. What one is is indicated by what one does. Nevertheless, true character has its roots deeper than habit. Right attitudes and ideals furnish the motive force for right action and the centre around which the habits of life are integrated. Ideals, in turn, depend on knowledge and reason if they are to be flexible and adapted to a changing world. Knowledge alone is not sufficient, nor is a pious wish or intention, if it is not accompanied by right action. On the other hand, mere habituation can never result in ethical character. In short, children should have the opportunity to understand why some actions are good and others bad; they should be helped to develop favourable emotional attitudes toward the right doing; and they should be given abundant opportunity to practise good conduct in a wide variety of situations.

Each of the above phrases of character education should receive due attention. Studies in this field reveal that in the great majority of problems of behaviour children do not understand why certain things should be done and others not. There is great need in every school grade for full discussion of the problems of conduct that arise in the course of the pupils’ own experience in order to assist then to a clear understanding of the moral issues. The term discussion implies that the teacher will not dictate opinions, but will attempt to stimulate thinking and lead the pupils to independent decisions on rational grounds. Continued reflection on problems of conduct serves to quicken moral judgment as well as to correct particular false notions and unwholesome attitudes. Children are, in fact, intensely interested in their own problems, and there is no difficulty in arousing valuable discussion if care is taken to keep it at the level of the pupils’ experience. It need hardly be repeated that the social point of view should be emphasized at all times.

Worthy ideals and attitudes develop partly from an understanding of moral problems and partly as the result of satisfactions that accompany right conduct. The teacher’s task in this connection is to ensure that these satisfactions occur. Those which arise naturally from the action itself are of much greater value than those which come from purely extrinsic rewards. Indeed, the less use made of the latter the better. The teacher should realize that incentives such as marks, stars, and prizes are at best temporary expedients to tide over periods of special difficulty, and if the desire for the reward remains as the dominating motive it will be a hindrance rather than a help to right attitudes and sound character. The appreciation of fine character in others, past and present, is indispensable in developing high ideals and right attitudes.

Every school and every class provides countless opportunities for the exercise of desirable traits. There is no substitute for consistent right conduct in the development oc character. When actions fail to measure up to knowledge and intention, the very foundation of morality is destroyed. It is the teacher’s duty to regulate the standard of conduct within the school and not to be satisfied until desirable habits become well established, In working toward this end the teacher must exercise good judgment when to use the pressure of authority and when to rely on group sentiment. Usually, when a class clearly shows the right attitude and is striving to measure up to the desired standard, it is better to be satisfied with small gains which represent a growth in inner control than to achieve more nearly perfect results by arbitrary means. In any case a consistent policy is indispensable. As good habits are established, the principles involved should be mad as clear as the age of the pupils will permit. At the same time the pupils should be led to see the application of these principles in related situations. In this way the greatest possible amount of transfer will be achieved.

Objectives of Character Education,
Grades I to VI

It is not assumed that the objectives of character education can be stated with any finality, or that any proposed list can be all-inclusive. At best the following statement is intended to suggest a point of view and to emphasize certain aims of special importance. While necessarily expressed in general terms, it is hoped that these objectives will be sufficiently definite to guide the teacher’s thinking in this field, and form a basis for judging the actual results of education.

  1. The Development of Knowledge and Understanding.
    1. An understanding of the social nature of moral character and conduct.
      1. A realization of what others do for us and how we depend on them. This sense of dependence will extend by degrees to parents, elder brothers and sisters, servants, and governments. It will form a gradual introduction to the meaning of social groups, beginning with the smallest unit, the home, and working, as the child’s experience will permit, toward an understanding of the interdependence of nations.
      2. An understanding of the necessity for co-operation toward the common good.
      3. An appreciation of the fact that our present material advantages, our cultural possessions, such as music, stories, pictures, and also our customs and ideas, are the result of the self-sacrificing effort of those who have lived before us. The stories of pioneer life and of great discoverers, artists, and scientists contribute to this understanding.
      4. A realization of our responsibility toward those who are to follow us, in the protection of property, the perpetuation of fine customs and ideals, and also in contributing our share to human progress. Even the youngest pupil can be made to realize that another class will soon occupy their room and school and that they should leave everything in the best possible condition for their successors. This is the beginning of sound attitudes toward conservation of our natural resources and of our cultural possessions.
      5. An understanding of the fact that good acts are those which result in the greatest satisfaction to the largest number of people over the longest period of time.
      6. An understanding of the value of good health and its relation to wholesome living.
    2. The development of sound moral judgment.
      1. Knowledge of what is right or wrong in particular situations frequently recurring in every-day life.
      2. Understanding, in so far as the immaturity of the child will permit, of the reasons why certain acts are right and others wrong.
      3. The ability to picture vividly the good and evil consequences to self and others of any contemplated action.
      4. Generalized standards of moral judgment. Clearly understood principles growing out of specific instances.
  2. The Development of Right Attitudes, Desires, Purposes.
    1. Adherence in thought, word, and deed to high moral standards.
    2. Faith in every good cause and respect for all that is good.
    3. A feeling of obligation to render any possible services to other individuals as well as to social groups, such as the home, school, community, etc. A willing acceptance of personal responsibility.
    4. A disposition to recognize the merits of others and to tolerate their opinions and actions.
    5. An attitude of appreciation and gratitude toward others for benefits received, and of consideration for the comfort and happiness of all.
    6. A determination to achieve the best of which one is capable.
  3. The Formation of Desirable Patterns of Conduct.
    1. The direction of one’s life with a decreasing amount of supervision and an increasing amount of inner control based upon intelligent purpose.
    2. Habits of good workmanship and pride in successful achievement.
    3. A feeling of willing co-operation with others.
    4. Habitual acts of justice, fair play, honesty, truthfulness, etc., ennobled by moral thoughtfulness.
    5. Habitual acts of courtesy and good manners, cheerful service to others; appreciation of services received.
    6. The habit of acting courageously in defence of right, and of acting generously toward the younger and the weaker.
    7. Good health habits.
    8. Freedom from unnecessary emotional conflicts and disturbances.
    9. The habit of meeting temptation resolutely, directing energy into wholesome channels and inhibiting undesirable impulses.


Because of the importance of temperance as a factor in character, it should be given special attention. The term should be interpreted in its broad sense as implying moderation and self-control in all behaviour. A sound attitude toward temperance should be based on scientific knowledge. Pupils should be taught to take an interest in the findings of science and to interpret the facts intelligently without prejudice or emotion. True temperance implies that one’s personal attitudes and ideals are in harmony with (1) the established facts, and (2) an adequate philosophy of life, and that his actual conduct is in control and is governed these attitudes and ideals. The school will have made its best contribution not only to temperance in the use of alcohol, but also other equally important matters, if it succeeds in establishing these patterns of character.

Factors in School Affecting Character

The growth of character cannot be separated in practice from the process of education as a whole. Every factor in the entire school contributes in some measure to the character of every pupil. If the school is to reach its maximum effectiveness in the development of character, it must adopt a clear-cut policy to this end which will become the co-ordinating principle of its entire work. The following are some of the more important factors which should contribute definitely to worthy character:

  1. The principal
  2. The teacher
  3. School and class organization and management
  4. The curriculum
  5. Methods of teaching.
  6. Pupil activities
  7. Discipline
  8. Pupil guidance
  9. Relations with the homes and other social agencies
  10. School spirit

The Principal

The principal is the responsible leader of the school. His personality inevitably affects the whole institution and plays a large part in determining its moral as well as its intellectual atmosphere. By firm but kindly administration he is able to establish the conditions necessary for uninterrupted, conscientious endeavour. By wise democratic leadership he can guide his staff in working out a unified philosophy of education and in making it function in the life of the school. In this way he will be instrumental in drawing out all the personal resources of his teachers for the good of the pupils. The best possible development of character in each child will be his paramount aim at all times. He is the leading moral force in the school.

The Teacher

The teacher’s influence upon the character of his pupils is likewise far-reaching. It is not something which can be assumed or laid aside at will. It is exerted not only through the instruction he gives and the things the pupils do under his direction, but even more by the kind of person he is and the example he sets. His interests, hobbies, and appreciations may be the means of arousing in his pupils similar interests and ambitions which may become dominating forces in their lives. While it is not desirable that the teacher should pose to his pupils as a model, nevertheless in the fundamentals of character he should be all that he expects his pupils to become. Furthermore, he should have a social point of view, an attitude of respect toward child personality, and a genuine desire to assist in bringing the lives of his pupils to their fullest realization.

School and Class Organization and Management

The way a school is organized and conducted has also a profound effect on the character of the pupils. In a well-managed school the education of the children takes precedence over convenience of administration. The arrangement of the time-table, the assignment of duties to the teachers, and the school regulations should be such as to ensure the best possible contacts between teachers and pupils and the smallest amount of friction from mechanical routine. However large or small the school, it should be possible to develop a programme, well varied, businesslike, and interesting, wherein excessive pressure or stimulation are unnecessary and where clear thinking, quiet enjoyment, and deliberate, responsible action are the rule. The organization should ensure that teachers have the opportunity and the responsibility of knowing their pupils intimately both within the class-room and outside it.

The systems of examinations and marking should encourage the best possible achievement of each pupil without over-emphasis on the undesirable aspects of competition. This can be accomplished, not by discarding examinations, but by using them with discrimination and interpreting the results, in so far as possible, in terms of the growth of the child without undue stress on arbitrary standards and ranking.

The organization of the school and of each class should make provision for the greatest possible amount of management by the pupils themselves. This does not call for an elaborate scheme, but rather the gradual handing-over of responsibilities as the children prove ready for them. By the second or third grade the average class is ready to select its own leaders and by the end of the sixth grade it will be well accustomed to the fundamentals of democratic procedure.

The Curriculum

The subjects of the curriculum may influence character in at least three ways:

  1. By contributing directly to knowledge, attitudes, and ideals, as in health, citizenship, and literary and artistic appreciation.
  2. By arousing new interests which may become influential in later life.
  3. By yielding as by-products such qualities as thoroughness, persistence in the face of difficulty, and the satisfaction of mastery.

To realize these values the curriculum should include a judicious selection of subject-matter, appropriate to the present and future needs of the pupils, from the best that civilization has to offer. In the elementary school values for character indicated in (3) above result in part from the appeal of the subjects themselves, but more from the manner in which they are presented by the teacher and the standards of accomplishment reached.

As the aims affecting character appropriate to each subject are included in the section of the Programme of Studies devoted to it, it will be sufficient at this point to mention only a few of the most important by way of illustration.

Health Education

Character and conduct are closely linked with the physical and mental health. In most cases persistent behaviour problems can be traced to a disordered mental condition, which in turn may be due to physical disorders as well as to an accumulation of unfortunate experiences. It is difficult to maintain a healthful mental outlook in an unhealthy body. Every child has the right to grow up, in so far as possible, in normal, vigorous health both of the body and mind. Health education can play a part, in co-operation with the home and public health agencies, by ensuring a favourable school environment, cultivating proper habits and building up sound knowledge and attitudes. This is a task for every teacher. There is great need for constant study of health problems in order to become increasingly sensitive to pupil needs and skilful in meeting them. The Junior Red Cross contributes to the growth of ideals and habits of character related to health.

Language Arts

The language arts unlock the written treasures of the race and provide an outlet for self-expression. Through all the other subjects they contribute to the whole range of education objectives, character not the least. Literature selects from the best of recorded human experience extracts appropriate to the development of the pupils and reflecting the most worthy ideals. Properly directed, the study of this material cannot help broadening and deepening the child’s experience and contributing to the bent of his character. The reliving in imagination of the experiences of others is basic to moral learning.

The Social Studies

The social studies, as the name implies, are intended to give the pupils an understanding of the modern civilized life and desirable social attitudes. Problems arise in abundance within the pupil’s own experience to serve a starting-point for broader social conceptions. History, especially on the biographical side, is of great importance in implanting personal ideals. All of the social studies emphasize the interdependence of social groups and especially the dependence of one nation upon others.


We are apt to think of mathematics as having a very practical application with little relation to conduct and ideals in a general sense. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rightly taught, arithmetic gives the child his first conception of the exactness and inevitability of things. It is his first introduction to a view of the universe to be built up later through his studies of more advanced mathematics and the sciences.

Elementary Science

A rudimentary understanding of scientific law and a respect for the qualities of natural objects, both animate and inanimate, are character lessons of the greatest importance. The natural sciences teach the lesson of the interdependence of all living creatures.

Fine and Practical Arts

The influence of the arts upon character results in part from the cultivation of emotional responses of a high level, and in part from the arousal of interests that may lead on indefinitely to greater and greater satisfaction. In the art there is rich opportunity for creative activity, which is recognized as having a vital bearing on the development of character.

Teaching Methods

Methods of teaching are closely bound up with the administration of the class and indeed of the entire school. It is recognized that those methods which call for a large amount of initiative by the pupils and an abundance of varied activity not only produce the best learning results, but the greatest development of character along desirable lines. Such methods call for a more natural tmosphere (sic) in the class-room with a good deal of physical movement instead of unnecessary restraint. All of the approved present-day methods, such as socialization, individual self-help plans, the use of projects, should be carefully considered by the teacher in relation to their moral effect on the pupils both collectively and individually.

Pupil Activities

The activities of pupils, apart from actual class-room instruction, have a very important place in the elementary school, especially from the point of view of character education. Even the smallest rural school should have its celebrations to mark important occasions, such as Remembrance Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Empire Day. These events very properly involve the whole school and the community as well. Inasmuch as a small school cannot have a great variety of activities, it is justified in devoting a relatively large amount of time to these occasions. The time spent, for instance, in preparing for the Christmas concert brings a rich return in genuine education and growth of personality. It may also be the means of community interest in the work of the school. Care should be taken not to limit participation to a few of the best performers. With a little forethought the teacher can find some responsibility for every pupil.

The recreational activities of the school, especially organized games and sports, give the teacher the necessary contacts with pupils under natural circumstances and help to develop desirable attitudes and habits. No school is too small to do something of this kind regularly, and no school is too large to provide games for all. In the larger schools organization into "houses" makes it easier to include every one in the games and to foster a sense of loyalty to the group.

One of the most promising developments in the field of school activities is the assembly. It has an important function in the graded elementary school in unifying the school, establishing common ideals and attitudes, widening the interests of the pupils, and developing the habit of listening attentively and courteously to the contribution of others. The activities of the assembly period should be planned so as to have an educational value and to call for participation by as many pupils as possible. The auditorium period for each class should serve as a preparation for the united activities of the school assembly.

The small rural school can accomplish a similar result by having a regular club or literary period for the whole school. In this connection the Junior Red Cross in not only a most praiseworthy organization on its own account, but it often furnishes the centre of interest and the suggestion for appealing and worth-while activities that are greatly needed in the small school.

In planning all these activities the teacher should have definitely in mind their bearing on character. This does not mean that this aim should ordinarily be expressed to the pupils. It will, however, determine in large measure how the activities will be conducted and how individual pupils will be treated.


The way in which matters of discipline are handled has a very great influence upon the character of pupils. The first aim should be to prevent disciplinary cases from arising. When the work is interesting and adjusted to the ability of the pupils, and when the social atmosphere of the room is congenial, difficulties are not of frequent occurrence. Good discipline depends, too, on the encouraging and sympathetic attitude of the teacher and also on his good humour and self-control.

When disciplinary cases actually arise, the contribution to character will depend upon discovering the cause, placing responsibility on the child for the solution of the difficulty, and recognition of his attempt to improve. The judicious teacher will deal with the child individually and will think in terms of the charge to be brought about in him rather than in terms of punishment.

Pupil Guidance.

Every teacher shares the responsibility of guiding pupils individually in all matters of educational importance, with special emphasis in the development of character. Guidance is a continuous function and is as important when things go smoothly as when difficulties of personality and conduct arise. Pupils whose conduct is normal are none the less in need of intelligent understanding and direction if they are to make the maximum growth in desirable traits of character. Even among the maladjusted, guidance must not be regarded as synonymous with discipline. The tendency is for the aggressive pupil to attract most attention and absorb most of the teacher’s individual effort. In comparison with the aggressive type, pupils of withdrawing and recessive traits, while not directly disturbing to the school routine, are usually suffering more from social and emotional maladjustment and therefore more in need of help. While it is not to be expected that the average teacher will be equipped psychologically to deal adequately with the more difficult problem cases, at least his attention should be called to them and especially to the introversive type.

The teacher must never loose sight of the fact that education deals with individuals. It is necessary to study each child constantly and carefully and apply measures calculated to produce the best possible all-round development. Good teachers have always treated their pupils in this direct personal way. In the rural school it is fairly easy for the teacher to know the pupils well. In the large urban school, especially where teaching is departmentalized, it is much more difficult and requires special effort. In the elementary school there will not ordinarily be a specialist in pupil guidance other than the principal, though in the larger cities the services of a school psychologist and other experts may be available. The assistance which these provide does not diminish the teacher’s responsibility for understanding the pupils and guiding them intelligently, but rather increases it to the extent that technical knowledge makes more effective treatment possible.

Relations with the Home and Other Social Agencies

If education is to result in worthy character it is essential that the school and the home shall not work at cross purposes. This implies mutual knowledge and understanding. Parent-teacher organizations are a step in the right direction, but they cannot take the place of direct contacts established through the initiative of the school. While it is necessary that the staff work in harmony with the principal in this matter, it is also necessary for each teacher to accept his full share of the responsibility. In general this will mean that every teacher will undertake to know the homes of all the pupils of his own class. In cases of pupil difficulty it will then be easier to reach an understanding with the parents and, ordinarily, to secure their effective co-operation in an effort to correct the difficulty.

In a similar way it is essential for the school to make contacts with other agencies in the community, such as the Sunday School, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, clubs, etc., which have an important influence over the pupils. Here also it will usually be possible to teach an understanding and work in harmony.

School Spirit.

The "tone" of a school, on the long run, reflects the outlook and ideals of its staff. Whether it be a rural school of one teacher or a larger urban institution, the head sets the standard. Proper esprit de corps rests on mutual confidence and respect between teachers and principal and between pupils and teacher. The good school is marked not so much by perfect order as by a real desire to co-operate and an actual sharing of responsibility in its work and play. There is always room for a great deal of practical democracy without interfering with the responsibility of the teacher for proper direction and control. Within limits it is more productive of sound character for pupils to exercise self-direction, even at the risk of making mistakes, than it is to depend on an autocratic superior control. Every principal and every teacher has to find for himself by experience and study the best balance between teacher control and pupil self- direction. While it is the teacher’s duty to lead and inspire, and when necessary to command, the pupils should be given the greatest possible share in making the school a good one. In this way judgment, initiative, and leadership are developed.

Methods of Character Education

In spite of the importance of character education and the amount of study that has been devoted to it, there is little certainty as to the best methods to be used. In general there are two modes of approach:

  1. By beginning with a consideration of the ideal, virtue, or trait to be developed and then making applications to conduct.
  2. By beginning with the settings out of which the trait is supposed to emerge and working toward the generalized ideal or virtue.

For a long time the opinion prevailed that the former method is of little value, even though it has been constantly used by teachers and others. Recently, however, many plans for character education have made the abstract ideals their starting-point. After all, the two methods are closely interrelated and the wise teacher will probably make use of a combination of them. Whatever the point of departure, two things are essential: (1) that the instruction be related directly to the pupils’ conduct, and (2) that it involves conscious generalizations in the form of principles and ideals.

The danger in the discussion of abstract virtues is that it will be meaningless because unrelated to the child’s experience. This method lends itself to "preaching" rather than action and may easily degenerate into a series of formal lessons. If anything is retained, it is a verbal formula whose application is but vaguely understood. When care is taken to link up the quality of ideal with the pupils’ lives, much of the objection to this method disappears.

The latter approach has the advantage of being specific. It ensures a clear and practical understanding of the actual case and lends itself to immediate accomplishment. Educational theory in recent times has emphasized the specific nature of learning. As a foundation this is entirely legitimate. The danger lies in leaving particular instances in isolation, with the result that they are never consolidated into a scheme of values in the child’s mind. Conduct can only become intelligent to the extent that experience is organized. The incidental approach depends on the chance occurrence of situations requiring treatment. These may arise in an order that bears no relation to successful organization. Only by introducing imaginary cases can the teacher provide a suitable array of examples to build up a general conception. If this is done without destroying the feeling of reality, the method may be highly successful.

At all events, however the actual lessons are presented, a large part of training in character will occur incidentally as problems arise in connection with the life and work of the school. Realizing the supreme importance of this phase of education, teachers should not permit the demands of subject-matter to crowd out the necessary attention to problems of character. At times the discussion should take place when the problem arises; at others, it is wiser to postpone it until there has been time for reflection and for the emotions to subside.

It is very useful for the teacher to have a certain period in the day when the discussion of problems of conduct may conveniently find place. It is suggested that a few minutes following the opening exercises may be set aside for considering of the problems and activities of the class. Moral questions need not invariably occupy this period, yet the time should be available regularly for the discussion of problems of character and conduct when they arise. As a matter of fact, the teacher who has this aspect of education thoroughly at heart will have no lack of material for these occasions.

When the chance occurrence of problems does not ensure sufficient attention to a certain type of conduct, it is advisable to introduce additional issues which have a close bearing on the children’s own lives. These will be the kind of problem which might arise in the class, but did not on fact happen to do so. Some suggestions are given below as to type of problem suitable for pupils of different ages.

It is not the intention that there should be a formal or set programme of lessons in character, and certainly not that these discussions should be thought of as belonging in a separate compartment either of the school programme or of the life of the child. Fomal teaching of morals usually implies a false and limited understanding of the nature of moral behaviour. Morally desirable conduct is socially determined, not a set of categorical rules. We must seek to produce in children, not a rigid conformity dependant on a traditional set of notions about right and wrong, but a flexible and progressive social attitude dependent upon insight into the essence of the institutional problems which surround us. It should be emphasized that if children are to develop a rational basis for conduct, there must be time for deliberate individual and group thinking. Only thus can effective principles and ideals develop in their minds.

The following principles should guide the teacher in planning and carrying out education for character:

  1. It is necessary to realize the importance of moral training and to make a conscious effort to achieve it. A definite and consistent plan is essential.
  2. In connection with this plan the teacher should have in mind definite standards of conduct appropriate to the age of the pupils. Deviations from these standards should not be permitted without good reason.
  3. Consistent approval of good conduct and disapproval of bad is the most effective means of achieving the results desired. To the extent that this approval is a judgment of the group the situation is ideal for development of character. Disciplinary correction becomes necessary only when social disapproval is ineffective. One should constantly emphasize the good rather than the bad.
  4. There should be ample opportunity for the discussion of problems in order to clarify situations and develop an understanding of the principles of right and wrong. Care should be taken that each child does his own reasoning and has the opportunity to make his own decision. Conduct based on reason rather than authority is the goal.
  5. Wherever possible, activities should be undertaken with a view of habituating good conduct and making it satisfying. Self-expression should be encouraged and pupil initiative utilized to the utmost. Character education is no more than a passive process than any other form of learning. The function of the teacher is to act as a guide in this activity. The major emphasis should be on doing rather than being good.
  6. Success and achievement should be the key-note of all pupil activities. The teacher should take care to cultivate a feeling of success in his pupils. Every child can and should succeed in the greater part of his undertakings if they are assigned in the full realization of his powers.
  7. It is desirable that pupils should recognize their own success and progress in the development of approved traits of character. This should not be carried to the extent of undesirable introspection or self-satisfaction. Rewards and marks of credit should be used with great discrimination lest pupils adopt certain does of conduct merely to secure these advantages.
  8. The best method of developing responsibility in children is to give them responsibility. In short, moral qualities grow by practice.
  9. Teachers and administrators should respect the individuality of pupils, extending to them the same courtesy and thoughtfulness that is expected in return.
  10. The teacher should use all possible agencies for character education. Any form of moral training undertaken thoughtfully and sincerely will not be without good results. Only by experience will the teacher find the methods which best suit his personality and outlook. In the last analysis development of character is a highly personal matter.

Special Techniques

From the foregoing discussion it will be noted that certain particular techniques have an important place in character education. A few of the most effective deserve further emphasis. The following summary is intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.

1. Group Discussion.

There is no surer way of cultivating a social point of view than by encouraging discussion by a class of problems affecting the whole group. The stimulation and critical reaction of many minds directed toward one problem are highly productive of thought. When conclusions are reached by the entire group, or at least by the great majority, a strong sentiment is established which is a most effective control over conduct.

In managing discussion there are certain principles which the teacher should observe carefully. To be effective it requires a real problem which is felt to be important by the members of the group. Mere expressions of opinion do not necessarily constitute discussion. The ideas expressed must, first of all, bare upon the problem; and, secondly, they must be the result of real thought on the part of the pupil, rather then the repetition of something previously heard or thought to be pleasing to the teacher. It is necessary, therefore, for the teacher to be very judicious in the part he plays in the process. Without doing the thinking for the class, there are four functions, at least, that he should perform: (1) Help to clarify and define the problem, and hold the discussion to it; (2) Direct attention to or, where necessary, actually finish important data needed in order to reach a sound conclusion; (3) Expose thoughtless and insincere remarks, point out errors in reasoning, and guide thinking along logical lines; (4) Confirm and re-emphasize the conclusion which the pupils have reached through their own thinking.

It should be clear that individual problems should be made the subject of discussion by a group only when the principle involved is on which concerns the entire group. The personal element should not be emphasized and the discussion should be directed to all members of the class rather than the child whose behaviour gave the occasion for it. It is especially necessary with older children to avoid excessive self – consciousness and humiliation. Discussion should ordinarily have a positive turn, emphasizing what to do, rather then what not to do.

2. Case Study.

The principle involved in case study is that every action has its roots in the past. Good conduct as well as bad is an outgrowth of the physical condition, the environment of home and the neighbourhood, and the total past experience of the child both in school and out. When difficulties arise it is the underlying cause that should be discovered and treated rather then the outward symptoms. In other words, the treatment should fit the child and not his act alone. The same misdemeanour may have an entirely different significance when committed by two different children. That is why it is so futile to adopt fixed rules for dealing with specific faults. Successful treatment depends on thorough knowledge of the case. Teachers should derive a lesson from established clinical practice and make a thorough study of the pupil, his background and history, before deciding upon any course of treatment. In the more difficult cases this will mean studying the home conditions and consulting the parents and others in the school and outside it who have knowledge of the child which might prove important. Ordinarily it is the part of wisdom to postpone conference with the child until the case has been thoroughly studied. Certainly no corrective steps should be taken until there has been time for careful consideration of the available facts and a reasoned decision as to the most promising kind of treatment. Careful notes should be kept all of the data secured and also of the course of treatment and its results.

3. Individual Conference.

Perhaps this is too formal a term for what should be just a friendly conversation with the child by himself. Not only is this the important last step in the study of a problem case, but also a most necessary part of the treatment. Only by talking the matter over sympathetically can teacher and pupil understand each other’s point of view and co-operate in the effort to correct the fault.

Such conversations are very necessary for all children whether problem cases or not. The results and better understanding and more successful work more then repay the teacher for the time spent. With large classes it requires a definite effort and considerable sacrifice of time to hold these individual group meetings. If they are to be profitable they require forethought and genuine interest on the part of the teacher. They should not be formal occasions, nor should they be a matter of curiosity to the rest of the class. The thoughtful teacher will discover plenty of inconspicuous reasons, apart altogether from discipline, for asking to see particular pupils by themselves.

4. Activities and Enterprises.

This heading is intended to call attention to a wide variety of activities which have development of character either as an important subordinate aim of as their major purpose.

In the former category are the sports programme of the school, dramatics, assembly programmes, clubs, entertainments, etc.

There is no limit to the number and variety of enterprises that can be arranged and carried out with training in character as the chief objective. The following are intended merely as suggestions. They are roughly classified into two groups, those suited more to the primary grades, and those better adapted to the upper grades of the six – year elementary school.

Primary Grades
  1. The housekeeping duties of the class - room: care of blackboards, brushes, teaching materials, books, plants, and cut flowers.
  2. Preparatory displays of work, arranging pictures on the bulletin – board.
  3. Making, with the help of the teacher, a group poster of booklet illustrating some desirable type of conduct, such as politeness.
  4. Keeping the room free from paper and trash.
  5. Planning the best way to avoid confusion and waste of time in entering and leaving the room, hanging up wraps, passing to the blackboard, and distributing supplies.
  6. Planning ways of helping mother, and obtaining reports of such activities.
  7. Providing drinking – water for birds in the summer.
Upperr Grades
  1. Making and tending flower – beds; planting and caring for shrubs and trees.
  2. Building bird – houses and baths.
  3. Improving the playgrounds by building a volley – ball court.
  4. Taking charge of order in the lunch – room.
  5. Sending notes to or visiting absent class members.
  6. Planning and management, under the teacher’s direction, of class parties, exhibits, programmes, visiting – days for parents, etc.
  7. Collection and preparation of reading – matter, toys, etc., to send to hospitals, orphanages, frontier schools.
  8. Preparation of character booklets, by collection of examples of commendable action from literature, the daily papers, the experience of older persons and from the pupils’ own lives.
  9. Older children appointed to oversee the younger ones in crossing streets and in other places of danger.
  10. Organizing the pupils the keep their own streets, sidewalks, and boulevards clean of paper and rubbish.
  11. Selecting leaders to keep smaller children from playing on busy streets.
  12. Assigning a pupil to assist a newcomer in establishing friendly relations with the other pupils.
  13. Arranging groups of two or three neighbouring children for home–work study in order that backward ones may be assisted.
  14. Organizing a group to erase chalk-marks from fences and buildings.
  15. Surveying the district for cases where pupils could do errands for those who have no children.
  16. Arranging for those who have reading material to lend it to those without reading.
  17. Starting each Monday with a slogan written on the blackboard for special activity during the week.
  18. Class project: Decorating the school – room to make it more homelike.
  19. Neatness: Committee of three to inspect desks and judge which is kept neatest. Name to be recorded for week.

The Primary Grades.

The primary grades have a special responsibility for laying the foundations of good character. In Grade I. the child has the first experience of being one of a large group and not the centre of attention. This is an important step in the development of desirable social attitudes. The judicious teacher of beginners will make the transition gradually. In the new situation there will be countless opportunities for considering others and for the formation of habits of politeness. Good actions and misdemeanours should be discussed frankly so that the child may realize why they are good or bad. As he comes to regard himself as a member of a social group he will grasp more easily the significance of truthfulness, honesty, fairness, and other virtues.

Through the work of the school the child learns habits of attention. Beginning with activities that are constantly varied and which make an immediate appeal to interest, the teacher should gradually increase the demand for deliberate attention. By the time the child has mastered the tool subjects his interest should become increasing centred in the subject matter itself. In this way intellectual power is gradually brought under control. As the child pays attention he learns. As he learns he develops confidence in himself. This is a basic trait in sound character. If proper methods are used there will be a gradual growth in self – reliance and resourcefulness. Judicious praise, particularly of the weaker pupils, is a most effective aid in establishing this quality.


Involved with character education is the teaching of good manners. Manners have been described as minor morals. Whether or not, as some claim, there has been a decline in good manners in recent time, the development of manners has always been considered the function of the school. The prevalence of good or of bad manners in a school is a criterion of the character education which is in progress in it. The home cannot be counted upon to do all that is required in the establishment of good manners. The pupils from less fortunate homes are entitled to induction to more cultivated modes of behaviour. The pupils from good homes should deteriorate in manners under the influence of the school environment.

Pupils should understand that the foundation of good manners is kindness, sympathy, consideration for the feelings of others. Good manners spring from the inner character: they are not an affectation nor a veneer. By social tradition certain forms of behaviour have been established as good manners and pleasing to others; other forms of behaviour have been established as bad manners and displeasing to others. The pupil should know what these approved forms of behaviour are, so that his social contacts may be pleasing to himself and to others, and that he may avoid the humiliation which springs from the display of ignorance.

The following tabulation may assist the teacher and may serve as a check – list of specific matters which may need attention. No list, however, can provide for all situations, and teachers will find further opportunity for training their pupils through the incidents which occur in the school. In manners and in character education generally, the old dictum applies: Be what you would have your pupils become.


  1. Refrain from loud, boisterous talk or play.
  2. Refrain from loitering.
  3. Boys, raise your hat or cap when you meet a lady or a girl whom you know. Extend this courtesy to a man when he is accompanied by a lady.
  4. Boys, walk on the side next to the curb when walking with a lady or girl.


  1. Refrain from loud, boisterous talk or play.
  2. Boys, enter a street – car after ladies, but descend from it before them, if you are accompanying them.
  3. Offer a lady or an older person a seat in a street – car.
  4. Do not chew gum in a street – car.
  5. Do not rush ahead of others to secure a seat.

School Corridors

  1. Avoid running in corridors.
  2. Avoid playing, whistling, or talking loudly.
  3. Do not crowd in corridors and on stairways.
  4. Permit a lady or an older person to go through a door first.
  5. Boys, remove hats or caps on entering the school.
  6. Say "Excuse me" or "Pardon me" when passing in front of another person, reaching past another person, disturbing another person in any way.
  7. In bad weather clean off the shoes before entering the school building.
  8. Do not drop fruit skins, paper, etc., on the floor. Pick up any scraps of paper which you see and deposit them in a waste – paper basket.


  1. When entering a class-room, as well as when leaving it, glance toward your teacher, and if she is looking, bow pleasantly.
  2. Address a woman teacher as "Yes, Miss Brown" or "No, Miss Brown," and a man teacher as "Yes, sir" or "No, sir," not merely as "Yes" or "No."
  3. Use the expression "if you please" or "please" when making a request.
  4. Remember to say "Thank you."
  5. Stand when a lady or older person enters the room.
  6. Sit and stand erect.
  7. Keep hands out of pockets.
  8. Speak distinctly and enunciate clearly.
  9. Do not chew gum.
  10. Take proper care of desks and furniture.
  11. Learn how to care for books.
  12. When a teacher drops a book or a pencil pick it up and return it.
  13. If you disagree with a statement in class do not speak out until you are called upon by the teacher.


  1. Avoid unnecessary noise in the auditorium.
  2. Do not drop paper on the floor.
  3. Take seats quietly.
  4. Rise when a guest speaker enters the auditorium.
  5. Do not wait to be called to order. The appearance on the platform of the one who is to speak is the signal for silence and attention.
  6. Continue to be silent and attentive during the whole period.
  7. During musical numbers on an assembly programme give the same courteous attention that you would give to a speaker.
  8. Show appreciation by applause, but avoid excessive applause, whistling, and stamping of feet.
  9. When entering the auditorium after the programme has begun find a seat so noiselessly as to escape attention.
  10. Avoid crowding or jostling when entering or leaving the auditorium.

Duty to Older People

  1. Rise when an older person enters the room.
  2. Rise when being introduced.
  3. Show special deference to older people.
  4. Offer services and little kindnesses to older people.
  5. Do not interrupt the conversation of older people.
  6. Express your affection for older people through thoughtful actions.


  1. Remember that a written invitation requires a written reply.
  2. Do not delay in replying to an invitation.
  3. Remember that acceptance of an invitation binds you, in honour, to carry out your engagement. If circumstances prevent, at once inform the one who invited you; and do so in a considerate manner.


  1. Introduce a man to a woman, a boy to a girl, a younger person to an older person in this way: "Mrs. Smith, may I present (or introduce) my friend Miss Brown? "; or, "Miss Brown, my friend, Mr. Williams" ; or, "Father, this is Helen Johnson."

Duty as a Guest

  1. Greet the host or hostess on arrival and departure.
  2. If older people are present, greet them before greeting the younger people.
  3. Be courteous in all actions.

Table Manners

  1. Boys, draw back the chair for the girl or lady next to you at the dinner – table, and push it under her as she sits down.
  2. Do not sit down until the hostess is seated. Boys should not sit down until all the ladies are seated.
  3. Do not rise from the table until the hostess has risen.
  4. Do not rest your elbows on the table.
  5. After you are served wait until the hostess begins to eat.

Personal Appearance.

  1. Wear clothing suitable for the time of day and for your work.
  2. Dress becomingly.
  3. Take a daily bath.
  4. Keep your teeth, hair, finger – nails in good condition.
  5. Keep your clothing and shoes neat and clean.


  1. Remember that good behaviour and manners in church, in theatres, at concerts, or at any reflect on you as a person.
  2. Practise good behaviour and good sportsmanship at games.
  3. Learn to talk interestingly and to listen intelligently.
  4. Be dependable.
  5. Be courteous, frank, and friendly. Do not try to be popular by attracting attention.
  6. Do not make unkind, cutting remarks.
  7. Do not ridicule or belittle other people, even though you disapprove of what they say.
  8. Do not listen to gossip nor indulge in it.
  9. Do not be snobbish.
  10. Express what you wish to say as clearly and as attractively as possible, depending upon correct English rather than slang for effectiveness.
  11. Wait for a sign of recognition before interrupting a person who is busy.
  12. Respect the property of other people.
  13. Have respect and consideration for others.

NOTE. – Pupils should be trained to receive visitors to the school courteously, in the class – room or anywhere in the buildings or on the grounds.


General Theory

Hartshorne, Hugh: Character in Human Relations (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935).

Heaton, Kenneth L.: The Character Emphasis in Education (University of Chicago Press, 1933).

McKown, Harry C.: Character Education (McGraw – Hill Book Co., 1935).

National Education Association, Department of Superintendence, Tenth Yearbook: Character Education, 1932.

National Education Association, Department of Classroom Teachers, Seventh Yearbook: The Classroom Teacher and Character Education, 1932.

National Education Association, Research Bulletin: Education for Character, Part I., The Social and Psychological Background, Vol. XII., No. 2, March, 1934; Part II., Improving the School Program, Vol. XII., No. 3, May, 1934.

Powers, Francis F.: Character Training (A. S. Barnes, 1932).

Sources of Material

Brewer, John M., and Glidden, Charles H.: Newspaper Stories for Group Guidance (New York: Inor Publishing Co., 1935).

Cabot, E. L., and Eyles, E.: Stories for Character Training (Harrap, 1919).

Jones, Vernon: What Would You Have Done? and Teachers’ Manual (Ginn, 1931).

Source: British Columbia. Department of Education. Programme of Studies for Elementary Schools, 1936, pp.95-112.

Transcribed by Kerry Allisen, History 349, Malaspina University-College, March 2002