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Teaching character strengths

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Anne Shillingsburg

on 31 March 2017

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Transcript of Teaching character strengths

What does it mean to teach character strengths?

There is a short list of traits that cross-culturally are identified as leading to success and happiness.

There is an even shorter list of traits that researchers can show are subject to influence: i.e. we know for sure they aren't just genetic.

We need to move to calling these "strengths" rather than "traits" because the term emphasizes that they can be improved.

Growth mindset
Stop telling kids they're smart!
One of the very few things that social scientists can clearly show increases happiness is the active practice of showing gratitude.
*Active goal setting
My proposal for a school Macro structure
November is 30-day challenge month
Read and learn more about teaching character:
Teaching character strengths
How and why
Note: These are not moral; the idea is to improve success, not goodness
The longer list includes things like
*humor *aesthetic sense *curiosity
*self control *optimism

If everyone agrees these are correlated with success, isn't it wiser to teach the tools that bring knowledge rather than getting overly focused on the knowledge alone?
Like most attributes, the qualities of grit, gratitude, and social intelligence aren't things that a person just is; they are things that have to be taught and practiced.
Carol Dweck's experiments with praise.
You must've worked hard!
You must be smart!
= less risk taking, less effort , and lower achievement
= challenge seeking, more effort, and higher achievement
Think about it: if "smart" is something you "are," doing hard things is only a chance to prove you aren't.
* students who believe they are intelligent or good at something often avoid situations that could prove that wrong. They'd rather be seen doing things easily or taking an IQ test.
*Students who believe that they can improve their abilities through hard work seek the hard work
My range
Teenage boy's range
We can do the same number of push ups because I practice and he doesn't!
IQ, like physical strength is a real thing, but it only predicts a range a person can operate in. We may not be able to increase the range, but we can help students operate at the top of their range.
Start praising them for specific, repeatable behaviors
Great job being smart??? Awesome job being awesome???
To get the message, the student needs to be praised for exactly what he or she did right.
= good curiosity *What a good question! It's great to ask when you don't know
= You're getting better at this
* I like how you listened to Jim's comment and responded. You're really working on your discussion skills.
= good try
*I see that this was a little bit hard for you, but you didn't give up. That's great.
You answered that question right!
Great job being right??
Who knows if he can be right again? Focus on the thing he can do again and make him want to do it and earn that praise again.
You speak so nicely.
You work well with others
It really shows that you practiced your speech at home.
You listened to partner and used polite language to disagree. Great.
You are a good reader
I saw you finish and then go back to make sure you understood. Nice.
Math is really your thing!
I'm already good at it so I should...?
Building a growth mindset depends on focusing on what kids
, not what they are
You're smart!
It's smart to ask for help when you need it!
You are so talented!
What a bright kid!
Checking over your answers was a good move!
I like that you consider my feedback as you go
We want happy, polite classrooms full of happy polite kids, so let's practice politely showing gratitude so that we can all be happier.
*Use writing thank you notes for writing or typing practice.
*Set aside a few minutes at the end of the week for kids to thank others who were nice.
*Thank students for good behavior instead of reprimanding bad.
*Ask students to mention or write about their favorite parts of a weekend, field trip or other special day.
Angela Duckworth's work shows that grit is the personal quality most predictive of long-term success.
How much can it be developed? We don't know yet, but there are a few attributes of it that research says can be manipulated.
Sticking to a task in the face of challenges
*Deliberate practice
Choosing appropriate goals
Visualizing their achievement
Keeping them visible
Achievers keep practicing even when it's hard, so start emphasizing that the one who's working hardest is doing best, not the one who does the job most easily!
Becoming a millionaire is not a good goal for a second grader!
Good choices
*are achievable in a time frame that's age-appropriate
*can be approached by steady effort
Becoming an astronaut is an aspiration. Working 20 minutes a day to improve my spelling is a good school goal
Asking students to write about or draw a picture of how they'll feel if they achieve their goal makes them work toward the goal
I'm serious! A Duckworth study showed that students who went through this type of exercise did 60% more practice problems for PSAT prep than those who didn't, even though their goals were the same.
So ask the kids: what is is going to feel like? What is your mom going to say? What will dad's face look like?
I see you struggling! You are so tough!
You used the dictionary! You know what's up!
Did you see her try again? She's definitely going to get this!
He read the directions 3 times!
Look at that face! There is hard work going on in that brain!
* Students across the school in participating classes choose a goal that they can do or work on for 30 consecutive days (about how long it takes to form a new habit).
Walk the dog everyday
Write a letter to someone I love
Floss my teeth
Eat 3 pieces of fruit
listen to the radio in French
Read before bed
log on to IXL
How will we know they did it?
We won't; that's not the point
Ask them to write, draw or present about the experience, good or bad--which is just another chance to show them failures too can be a learning process
The course I took on Coursera for FREE:
Angela Duckworth on grit:
Carol Dweck on Growth mindset
Matt Cutts on 30-day challenge
Creator of Khan acadamy on teaching character
Full transcript