Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

5-Minute Film Festival: Resources for Teaching About Character

Five videos and a set of resources for celebrating Character Day on September 26.

March 13, 2014 Updated May 18, 2018
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Schools and organizations around the world are hosting screenings of a collection of short videos that explore the research behind character development and encourage us to focus on our character strengths for greater personal and community well-being. You can see one example below, as well as videos that illustrate four of the seven character strengths distilled by KIPP schools in partnership with grit researcher Angela Duckworth and psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, authors of the book Character Strengths and Virtues. We hope you’ll be inspired to celebrate #CharacterDay2018 on September 26.

30,000 Days (11:01)

Last year, over 130,000 events were held in more than 150 countries to screen and discuss this and other videos produced by the organizers of Character Day. Fill out this form to register to host your own screening and join the global conversation on September 28 this year; find more resources on the Character Day website. (Best for: anyone curious about how to develop character strengths.)

PERSEVERANCE: You Don’t Know Jack (3:44)

I’ve never seen a better illustration of grit than the story of Jack Andraka, a high school sophomore who was determined to explore his idea for a solution to fight pancreatic cancer. Learn more about Andraka. (Best for: disenchanted high school students who wonder if they can make a difference.)

GRATITUDE: Science of Happiness—An Experiment in Gratitude (7:14)

SoulPancake is particularly adept at capturing powerful moments of human emotion and transformation. In this video, the act of expressing gratitude increases the happiness of a group of volunteers. Caution: Some language here is not appropriate for kids. (Best for: skeptics who don’t believe gratitude exercises are effective.)

SELF-CONTROL: The Marshmallow Test (2:07)

Perhaps the best-known experiment on self-control and delayed gratification, Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test has been studied and challenged. Angela Duckworth analyzed the test and found it to be valid. Regardless, re-creations like this one are adorable to watch. (Best for: elementary teachers trying to wrangle impatient little ones.)

OPTIMISM: Deep Sea Diving—In a Wheelchair (9:39)

There are many wonderful character traits explored in this TED Talk, like curiosity, perseverance, and bravery, but it’s Sue Austin’s optimism—and how she sees her wheelchair as an instrument of freedom and adventure—that really moved me. Learn more about Austin. (Best for: anyone who needs a dose of glass-half-full sentiment.)

There are bountiful resources out there for teaching character, though it’s often hard to tell a canned curriculum from the kind that will really have value for your school or classroom. Here are some good starting points for learning more about character strengths and fostering them in educational settings:

  • Let It Ripple, the folks who organize Character Day, serve up resources for every character trait imaginable at the Character Day Resource Hub.
  • Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab offers a library of tools for families and educators, categorized as strengths of heart, strengths of mind, and strengths of will.
  • The Character Education Partnership has lesson plans, videos, and articles about teaching and nurturing character strengths.

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