The Science of Character

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“Instead of asking students what they want to be, we should be asking them who they want to be.” 

I wish I could give attribution for the above quote.  It was something I saw on Twitter a few weeks ago, and it resonated with me.  The film called, “The Science of Character” delivers a similar message, except the question is, “How do you want to be?”

My 5th grade GT students study the “Dimensions of Character.”  This 8-minute film, “The Science of Character,” says everything that I hope they will learn from this year.  It stresses that you have the power to develop your own character – and that you can also shape the character of other people.  The video cites brain research that supports these ideas, and also cites Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets.

The video asks the audience to think about your own top five strengths.  You can access the ones you have identified to be the most important on the Periodic Table of Character Strengths, and you can click on each one to learn more about it.  This is a fabulous resource.  It not only gives the definition of each strength, but links to films, books, and other websites that give examples of the strength.

The site also offers film discussion guides for every level, from elementary to adult. There are many additional resources on learning more about character strengths, as well.  There is a link to a Character Strengths Survey, but that requires log-in information that I would not recommend be entered by students under 18.

I am definitely planning to use this with my 5th graders.  Last year, using an idea from Angela Maiers, I asked my students to choose their own “Dream Team” of people who demonstrate the traits they most admire.  (You can read more about this project here.)  The “Science of Character” film and resources fit in perfectly with this project.  I want to thank “Let it Ripple” for providing such a wonderful supplement for classrooms around the world!

More Growth Mindset Resources

Albert Einstein Quote


As you may have gathered from yesterday’s “Flappy Bird” post, I am trying very hard to maintain a Growth Mindset, and to foster this thinking in my daughter and students. One of my favorite bloggers, Sonya Terborg, also talks about encouraging a Growth Mindset in her classroom.  One of her ideas, in this post, is to add a Growth Mindset quote to any printed work that she hands out to her students.  Sonya links to this fabulous set of quotes that includes some from Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset.  Sonya also gives examples of some statements that communicate learning goals and expectations that she found on the MindSetWorks site.  In a separate post, Sonya discusses “Developing a Growth Mindset in an Inquiry Based Math Class.”  I love the way she leads up to a weekly math challenge for her students.

Here are some other recent resources I’ve collected about cultivating a Growth Mindset:

“How Not to Raise a Quitter” by Dr. Michele Borba

“Teaching Persistence: How to Develop Student Stamina” by Norene Wiesen

“Impact of Mindset on Teaching and Learning” by Drew Frank


Getting Schooled by Flappy Bird

Screen shot from Flappy Bird
Screen shot from Flappy Bird

“Everyone’s playing this new app called ‘Flappy Bird‘,” my daughter announced from the back seat.

“So no more Angry Birds?” I asked.


She tried to explain the app to me, but  a description of a bird that has to weave through spaces between pipes (which are inexplicably hanging from the sky and growing vertically from the ground) is difficult to comprehend as you, yourself, are weaving through cars on Highway 281 during rush hour traffic.

To test the “Everyone’s playing it” part of the statement, I asked one of the girls who carpools with us, who attends a different school from my daughter.

“Oh, yeah, everyone’s obsessed with it,” was the response.  Case closed.

Now, I don’t usually hop on the bandwagon of obsessive apps – I’ve never played Candy Crush, and never understood the appeal of Angry Birds.  But my daughter caught my attention when she said, “It’s really hard.”

It intrigues me when middle school students willingly spend their time on something that is hard.  So, I decided to download the app and give it a whirl.

The directions are simple:  Tap the screen to keep the bird in the air.  Keep him from hitting the approaching columns by directing him through the openings in each column.  Don’t stop tapping or he does a face plant into the ground.

It’s not just hard.  It’s downright frustrating.  I played it for ten minutes, and gave up.  I’m pretty sure my Flappy Bird has a serious concussion and should be hospitalized immediately.

“Did you play it, yet?” my daughter eagerly asked the next day.

“Yes, but I didn’t do very well.  I made it through 2 columns.”

“I made it through 17!” she declared proudly.

I almost said, “Well, I guess you’re just better at it than I am.”  But then I caught myself.  All of her life, I’ve been trying to convince her to push on through even when something is difficult.  In my classroom, I continuously remind the students of having a growth mindset, to learn from mistakes, to stop avoiding activities that you can’t do well the first time.  And here I was, ready to declare myself a Flappy Bird Failure after just one try.

So, I said, “I guess I just need more practice.”

And I kept at it.  I am now up to a high score of 5.  My daughter is up to 39.

But I’m not stopping.  Because I need to prove to myself that I can walk the walk.  And it’s doing me a lot of good to make myself continue to work at a task that is downright frustrating.  It helps me to put myself in the shoes of my daughter and my students – to empathize when they are assigned tasks that seem impossibly difficult.

“So, tell me again why you keep playing this game?” I asked my daughter.

“Because it’s so hard, but when you start doing well it feels so good!” she said.

I’ll have to remind her of that when she takes Calculus in a few years…

Flappy Bird Tweets During the Superbowl
Flappy Bird Tweets During the Superbowl