The activities below are great for teaching the Character Quality of Respect, and can easily be modified for different age groups and grade levels. We’d love to hear how these activities go with your class or group, or if you made any changes that made the activity easier or more impactful in your comments at the bottom of the page!
This demonstration will show that how we speak and act will invite respect to be directed to us. Fill a large shallow bowl or pan with water and sprinkle pepper onto the surface of the water. The pepper represents people around us. Explain that our words and actions will either draw people toward us to be our friends or will push people away. Imagine the bowl or pan divided in half. Pick a point in the center of one of the halves and touch a bar of soap to the surface of the water. The pepper will be repelled away from the soap just as others are repelled when we are rude. Now pick the point in the center of the other half of the bowl and sprinkle some sugar. The pepper will be attracted to the sugar just as people are attracted to our sweet words and kind actions.
To process the activity, ask these or similar questions:
- Were you surprised when the pepper moved away from the soap?
- Were you surprised when the pepper moved toward the sugar?
- Do you like being around rude people?
- Do you like being around respectful people?
- Will you remember the pepper the next time you consider being rude?
Most children are familiar with the phrase, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Anyone who has been the target of a bully knows this to be anything but true. Teach your class a different ending to this phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart.” Ask the students if they have ever had a broken bone, and ask them to share how long it took for their bones to heal. (Be prepared for some long answers.) Ask them how long it takes a broken heart to heal – some will say a lot longer than bones, and you may even get someone to say ‘never.’ Explain that hearts need kindness to heal, not just time. When we are rude to our classmates by calling them names or not letting them sit by us, we hurt their hearts. We need to practice respect and kindness to help heal their hearts.
Bring in something personal to you that is a prized possession but may not look valuable, such as a pair of well-worn slippers, an item belonging to someone who has since passed away, or a gift from a treasured friend. Also, bring in something with an obvious high external value that has less meaning than your prized possession, such as something headed for the Goodwill box, a cashmere sweater, a leather purse, etc. Without explaining what the items are, ask the class which has the greater value. They will choose the item with higher monetary value, not the one with the higher sentimental value. Explain why the other thing is more valuable to you. Describe the difference in the respect you have for the item on which you place the higher value. Ask the students to think of an item that they own that has great sentimental value. How would they feel if someone treated that item with disrespect? Relate these feelings to the value that we each have and the respect that we each deserve.