Character Trait Development

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Character Education/Inclusion (by Kurt Krueger)

Societal Upgrading that works:

With all the fear, violence, and bullying going on in all parts of our society, we NEED an upgrade.

Many families spend a lot of time, care, and attention on nurturing their children. They do it the best way they know how given all of the other challenges that they are dealing with and never having been taught parenting methods. We can educate their children in the various character qualities for a wonderful and fulfilling life. Please read on for integrating it into a school culture.

"To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society". - Theodore Roosevelt

Character Education/Enhancement

Character Education/Enhancement would develop quality citizens for a quality future. It could:

  • Reduce violence over 90% (as demonstrated in a Refugee Camp after just 2 years of LVEP implementation)
  • Decrease absences 16-1 (more Average Daily Attendance) see example below:
  • Decrease referrals to the dean (save $ & time)
  • Improve standardized test scores as much as “focusing/teaching on/to the test”
  • Dramatically increase the percentage of students who graduate – 50%-83%!
  • All classes could utilize character enhancement practices during any learning moment.
  • Lessons would be planned to integrate values/virtue expressions during each unit.
  • Assemblies would show dramatically the how’s and whys
  • Faculty, staff, and aides would all have a week worth of instruction and practice in the Living Values program – preferably a month prior to the opening of school.
  • Each department would then spend a week preparing units of instruction.
  • Homerooms would present daily or at least three times a week lessons from the Living Values Education Program OR The Esteem Builders Program OR The Virtues Project, or other quality programs.
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Here’s an education model example:

A pilot study with 3 different schools across North America: 1 rural, 1 urban and 1 suburban. 1046 kids, K-8 were involved. Teachers in the classroom were required to use 3 - 15 minute activities per week with their students. That was easy for them since the activities were cross-correlated to both curriculum content and grade level. All they did was to integrate each activity into their daily lesson plans.

The result: 46% drop in detentions, 41% drop in physical aggression and 39% drop in verbal aggression. Further, there were statistically significant (at the .0001 level) improvements in 11 behaviors that are already correlated with academic success.

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Figure the cost for each campus altercation vs. amount earned for IMPROVED attendance.

ACADEMICALLY in a Kansas elementary school from 3rd to 5th grade improvement in standardized tests:

  • Reading - 10 percentile points
  • Language: 6 percentile points
  • Math: 8 percentile points
  • Core: 9 percentile points
At Silver Creek HS, San Jose, CA S-E Group Control
Days of absenteeism per semester 1 16
Percentage of students who completed 90% or more of homework 75% 25%
Percentage of students who participated in twenty or more extracurricular activities 25% 2%
Percentage of students who graduated High school 83% 50%

These improved behaviors just happen to be identical with the "outcomes" everyone is looking for in character education. How do you want to help? Contact your local school superintendent or principal or School Board Member?

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Five web sites that have resources

... and links to more for inspiration and implementation of character into our society:

You may wish to check out a great book series, Living Values and/or the Parenting book: Nurturing with Love and Wisdom, Disciplining with Peace and Respect, Diane Tillman. OR The Virtues Project Educator’s Guide: Simple Ways to Create a Culture of Character, Linda Popov. OR What Do You Stand For?: A Kid’s Guide to Building Character, Barbara A. Lewis.

Do you feel that it should be a component in all schools? Could we design a task force to develop a Culture of Learning Character program for sharing with ALL educators and sectors of society, at all levels? Keep the focus on the higher reasons for living and education, developing our future compassionate leaders, and conscientious and wise followers.

I propose that we dramatically enhance character development through societal education. Societal education includes all levels of society and draws forth from the people the innate values of each person – see some of ideas below…

There are character traits that all people could easily support. We would truly transform our society through education into a continuance of a QUALITY CULTURE. We would have less violence, an improvement of academic scores, and less social ills. Just look at end of this letter for some research on this. G.K. Chesterton wrote, "Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another." What kind of a soul experience would we like to pass on to the next generation? How do you wish to spread the idea? Obviously, begin with your modeling quality character traits. Pay It Forward! See this recent exposé of 3 quality Values/Virtues programs: Character Inclusion for Regenerative Societies, Diane Tillman, Daniel Allen.

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How can you help?

The American President Kennedy once stimulated America to a greater vision for society. He stimulated the creation of the Peace Corps and the landing of people on the moon. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help." I invoke your help.

We need a greater vision to manifest for America/the world for this millennium. Let’s focus our efforts on creating a better society by bringing our focus to drawing forth character qualities in everyone. This may be done through the full inclusion of character education throughout the curriculum of our education systems AND throughout the entire society.

Some ideas for stimulating our SOCIETY in the area of character consciousness:

The Music industry could suggest the singers to create music that is focused on one or several character traits.  This could be at all levels of music from children's to adolescent and adult styles.
The television/movie industry could have movie themes illustrating character trait(s).  Older examples of successful series on American TV was, Touched by an Angel; or the movie, Remember the Titans. A set of 52 character traits could be spread out for one a week, to focus upon.

The Print Media could emphasis the character traits daily, weekly or monthly with a feature article/story/page. More positive news about what is working. And heart opening stories… The Internet could have as site banners some great character quotes, stories or illustrations/cartoons depicting character qualities. While boarding a Delta Airlines flight, character quality quotes are shown on the screen. YouTuble staples; Prince Ea, Wayne Dyer, and Goalcast short videos.

The Art Scene could have murals developed for the cities illustrating particular character traits. Students at all levels could be the artists that paint murals around the schools, and cities, thus empowering them to manifest the qualities depicted while developing their artistic vision and self-worth.

Business and Industry can bring the character inclusion programs into their particular company AND by supporting character development through volunteering and offering financial support for character inclusion programs AND in their phone systems hold time, place recorded inspiring quotes. Education can use all the modalities and disciplines for inculcating quality character traits throughout the educational systems including the support staff and administrators. Read further for some results. Physical Education can focus on Strengthening Character (see attached article), it can be a start for a school.

Physical Activity/Sports can use strengthening character programs like the Project Adventure, New Games, or the Positive Coaching Alliance for ALL levels of society.

You can think of more ways to make our world better… JUST DO IT!!!

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Who would support it?

National and State/regional governments (UNESCO – supports the Living Values Education Program), interested business and industries, and in general, the public. How about you?

How may this be accomplished?

Individuals now could share the vision through modeling it and also share the idea of character inclusion with elected representatives, business/industry owners, (school board members too) and friends, etc. Organizations may do the same and put it on their web page, offer grants for implementation, develop and implement a character enhancement program for ALL employees, and more...

Governmentally, by setting up an empowered task force as was done for the space program, bringing together the best academicians, practitioners/teachers at all levels of education, business/industry, and experts in the field of character development/education.

Kurt Krueger


Greatness is determined by service. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With Love we change the future, now and forever. Kurt Krueger

Just Like Gandhi... Just like King, Jr.... Just like YOU...

“…one person can make a huge difference, for it is always one person within a group or cluster who calls forth the highest vision, who models the grandest truth, who inspires and cajoles and agitates and awakens and ultimately produces a contextual field within which collective action is rendered possible and becomes inevitable. Are you that one person? Do you choose to be an inspiration for all those whose lives you touch? That is the question your soul asks you now.” --Neale Donald Walsch

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If not me, who? If not now, when?



Strengthening Character

© Kurt A. Krueger

Published in the Strategies Journal of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, March/April 2003

Physical educators and coaches are in the best business in the world - developing our youth into totally FIT individuals. As we strengthen their bodies, we can strengthen their character, which in turn will help create a wonderful society

Realistically, we have a great deal to overcome. Today, while many children are technical wizards, some of them are deficient physically and/or morally. Many are also dropping out of school at an alarming rate. Teachers get to be “paraparents” – people trained to support parents and to mentor and motivate children, many of whom have so many needs. It’s a good thing we are strong, resilient people of good character because we have to reinforce the character development that goes on outside of school. All too often, we have become the primary providers of values education.

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The purpose of this article

The purpose of this article is to offer several ideas, methods and practices for strengthening people’s positive character traits within a physical activity environment in a K-12 and beyond setting. 

Unlike educators in others disciplines, physical educators interact with and educate all of the students in a school. We teach everyone at every school— from the Limited English Speakers to the Special Ed kids to the Gifted and Talented. A properly formulated program can strengthen the character of an entire school and thus affect the community at large.

There are two primary National Standards that relate to character (National Assoc. for Sport and Physical Education - NASPE, 1995). Standard 5 states that “Students demonstrate supportive behavior and refrain from negative behavior when interacting with others in age group appropriate activities.” The character traits promoted by this standard are: caring, kindness, consideration, helpfulness, and responsibility. Standard 6 says that “Students describes and accepts personal performance limitations and those of others.” This standard develops compassion, understanding, and responsibility.

The California Demonstration programs in physical education have incorporated social skill development into the curriculum in accordance with the National Standards and State Framework. In fact, “Social Skill Development” is the foundation of the program and is the very first unit. Over a two-week period, the character traits of encouragement, courtesy, complimenting, helping, caring, and active listening are introduced through a variety of fun filled activities. Resources for this unit include cooperative games books such as The New Games Book by Farrington and Fluegelman, Right Fielders are People Too by Hichwa and Silver Bullets, Cow Tails and Cobras II by Karl Rohnke. Each class period is concluded with both the teacher and the students assessing the goals of the lesson, its applications, and what they learned from it. Many elements of this unit continue throughout the year.

The initial second semester unit is “Trust and Team Building.” It has similar components as the very first unit. Most of the activities in this unit come from Project Adventure activities, such as “Willow-in-the-Wind,” “Trust Falls,” “Trolley;” cooperative and ‘trust’ runs, partner push-ups, etc. This unit develops: cooperation, caring, competency, consideration, courage, dependability, integrity, reliability, and responsibility. An assessment process similar to the first unit is also exercised daily.

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Steps toward stronger character

Here are some steps toward stronger character inclusion into your Physical Education and Athletics program:

Accentuate a character trait. (Borba, 1999)

Each unit can accentuate one or more character qualities. The Virtues Project: Educator’s Guide (Kavelin-Popov, 2000) offers 52 character traits to choose from: Bravery, Capability, Caring, Cheerfulness, Citizenship, Cleanliness, Commitment, Compassion, Competency, Consideration, Cooperation, Courage, Courteousness, Dependability, Economy, Fairness, Forgiveness, Friendship, Generosity, Goodwill, Hard Work, Helpfulness, Honesty, Initiative, Joyfulness, Kindness, Law-abiding, Loyalty, Moderation, Orderliness, Patience, Patriotism, Perseverance, Politeness, Pride, Promptness, Punctuality, Reliable, Respect, Responsibility, Self-Control, Self-Discipline, Self-Reliance, Sportsmanship, Thankfulness, Thrift, Truthfulness, Wisdom. Whenever a student or anyone else does something exhibiting a good character trait, praise her/him personally or in front of the class.

EXHIBIT THE QUALITIES YOU WANT. Physical Educators know the truth of the old axiom, “Actions speak louder than words.” You must be the model of the character traits you wish to engender in your students. They will then, more than likely, follow your lead. You must say what you want them to do and show them the good example — “Do as I say AND do.” When we do as I say and do, the following practices will have greater effect in bringing out the character qualities we desire.

The majority of the population learns visually, bombard your students with visual messages. Have an extra credit or a full class positive poster assignment. Each poster should portray a specific character quality with either a quote or simply the word. These posters should be everywhere-- in the locker room, gym, strength room and other areas of the school. Use molding/framing strips and Plexiglas to frame the posters for display. You can also laminate posters and place them around the track at various intervals. For example, every 110 yard/100 meter mark could feature an encouraging character trait. Similar posters could be placed on fences using ring hooks. Mini posters (8.5” x 11” or 14”) can be taped inside of locker doors. They can be used to cover any markings and reinforce positive qualities – advertise the GOOD.

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Strength Room

The associated character traits or qualities exercised in a Strength Room or sports training facility are: Assertiveness, Commitment, Courage, Determination, Diligence, Perseverance, and Self-discipline. An initial information sheet on the strength room unit or a large poster in the sports training room could provide the following information:

  • Definition of Strength - Muscle power and mental or emotional fortitude are inherent spiritual attributes in every human being.
  • Definition of Fitness - A fit person is physically and mentally strong and healthy with good stamina/endurance.
  • Purpose of the Strength Room – True fitness training entails the simultaneous development of strength in the body, mind, and spirit through conscious, concentrated training.
  • Benefits - When the target heart rate is kept throughout the workout, the benefits are increased muscle tone and strength, and improved efficiency of the heart and lungs. Overall health is improved.

Let your equipment work for you. The backboards, balls, hoola-hoops, goals, poly dots, cones, etc. should feature printed or handwritten character traits, quotes or phrases of encouragement. Use bright colors and/or large lettering whenever possible. When you wish for several groups of students to move hoola hoops for a run activity - you could ask students to find to the "courage" hoops and do a partner or a triple group run and/or another activity with it.

You could refer students to current articles in the local newspaper or magazine that would be of interest to them and/or your current unit and/or that which stimulates a quality character trait exemplified by an athlete. You may also ask them to write a summary; or you could create 5-10 questions about the article — create learning sheets/homework assignments from these.

If your classes are single grade level as opposed to multi-level, you may wish to design your curriculum so that the same grade classes focus on one character quality at a specific time. This in turn, will infiltrate your entire school, as is done in most character-focused institutions of learning. The halls and bulletin boards could have a poster or saying illustrating the character trait. Music that depicts the trait could be played during Physical Education class and/or during the passing period.

2. Tell the value and meaning of the character quality.

It's important to have positive expectations of students as they foster increased positive behavior. Label and point out traits people use in class, "Jose, that was a respectful and caring way you introduced yourself and spoke with our new student. Now Ilya knows that we have quality people to play with at school."

Explain each character trait thoroughly. For example, ask, “What is perseverance?” Which of your students know the definitions and reasons for having a specific character trait becomes immediately apparent. Repetition and positive reinforcement are the keys. We must educate them through activities that consistently instill respect, responsibility, encouragement, caring, courtesy, complimenting, helpfulness, and active listening skills.

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Here are some examples of an initial Social Skills Unit.

Introductions/Respect: We call people by their name.

Introduce yourself, describe something you like (food, movie, your best personal qualities, hobby), and then do:
Partner stands – front and back. Toss-a-Name/Warp-speed, etc.
Move to new partner… repeat the introductions.
Partner and pod runs – partners run together holding a three foot rope; pods do the run holding a 15-20 foot rope – staggered on each side of the rope.
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  • Class Managers are chosen and given responsibilities for recording who is present, tardy and dressed properly (I daily check their work).
  • Stretch Leaders also lead warm-up runs, stretches/etc. Others share this responsibility every three to four weeks – or you could change the stretch leaders daily rotating around the class. As you alter pod composition with each unit, you can repeat introductions and unique characteristics.
  • How May I Help You Crew (about 4-6 students)– bring out the equipment and set up the room/field. They, like the Class Managers and Stretch Leaders, are periodically rotated, so that by the end of the semester/year everyone gets to demonstrate their responsible qualities.
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Active Listening SkillS

  • Shoulders square to the speaker.
  • Eye contact on the speaker.
  • Quiet Listener - Mouth closed, breathing though the nose.
  • Raise your hand and wait for acknowledgement to answer or ask a question.


CARING (Kavelin-Popov, 2000, p.137) -

“WHAT IS CARING? CARING IS GIVING LOVE AND ATTENTION TO PEOPLE AND THINGS THAT MATTER TO YOU. When you care about people, you help them. When you do a careful job, you give it your very best effort. You treat people and things gently and respectfully, as you would like to be treated if you were they.

“WHY PRACTICE CARING? Without caring, nothing and no one matters. If someone is hurt or sick, no one will help him or her. When people have an "I don't care" attitude, they do sloppy or incomplete work. Things break and people get hurt. Caring people help others feel less alone. Because they care, others trust them. Caring makes the world a better and safer place to live.

“HOW DO YOU PRACTICE CARING? You care for others when you show love and concern by doing kind things for them. Ask them how they are and what they think. When they are sad, ask, "How may I help?" You handle things with control and gentleness. You give your best to everything you do. When you take care of yourself, you treat your body with respect. You keep yourself clean and healthy. You take care of your needs.”

3. Teach what the trait looks and sounds like. Speak the Language of the Virtues.

Language can either empower or discourage. Self-esteem is built by praising virtuous actions. When shaming, blaming language is replaced by focusing on whatever character quality is needed in a situation, true character development is fostered. It is applied either when acknowledging or correcting. If you fill a school with words like lazy, stupid and bad, that is the behavior that follows, but if you use words such as courage, helpfulness, and flexibility, you are modeling and empowering those behaviors.

  • Ask students to model an example of a necessary trait for your current unit or sport.
  • Post and refer to John Wooden's Pyramid for Success (Wooden, website). Just some of the personal virtues listed that are imperative for success in sports and life: reliable, sincere, adaptable, patient, integrity, cooperative, and loyal.
  • Assign or refer to movies that inspire positive character development: Remember the Titans, Chariots of Fire, Breaking Away, Rudy, American Flyer, Hoop Dreams, Hoosiers, Jim Thorpe, etc. Ask students to write their impressions of the various character traits exhibited – those that bring success and that make a good friend.
  • During just about any unit, play music that shares the traits you are fostering. Some examples are: “RESPECT” – Aretha Franklin; “Circle of Life” - Elton John; “With a Little Help from My Friends” - The Beatles; “Conviction of the Heart” - Kenny Loggins; “Hero” – Mariah Carey; “The Rose” – Bette Midler. You could assign an extra credit for students to find music that expresses positive character traits.

4. Provide Opportunities to Practice the Trait. It takes a minimum of 21 days for a trait to be acquired - usually six weeks.

  • Each unit and activity has a part that will illustrate a positive character trait. Provide a question or activity that shows the particular trait you are emphasizing for each unit. Make it is visible daily - on each handout or your white board, etc.
  • Assign homework, which reinforces a character trait- directly or indirectly.
  • On a daily or bi-weekly basis, assign logs for noting the practice of virtues.
  • Videotape and show the students themselves as they practice the traits.

5. Provide effective feedback.

  • Catch positive behaviors and point them out to the class at the time.
  • Peer Pressure works BOTH WAYS.
  • Use constructive criticism. Embrace the conflicts and difficulties that happen each day, use them as teachable moments, ask the students frequently to put words to what they have learned. “What did we learn today when Mika fell off the climbing equipment? What might we say/do differently next time?”
  • Positively point out aberrant behavior and rephrase the behavior into a way to live with a quality character. “How can Tyrone act better in his group? How might we help him show more respect? How may he help himself improve?”
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An entire program and whole school atmosphere is transformed with a focus on character inclusion. Out of the 73 middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, our school is one of only two that has no police officers on campus. This is at an ethnically diverse school where 83% of the students are on the Federal Lunch Program!

The physical education department at our school has focused on character development since 1996.  Time has proven that more students have easier time learning and teachers have an easier time teaching since we included character education into our program.  Students learn positive characteristics that make them feel and act more conscientiously.  This translates into the simultaneous and long-term improvement of our society overall.

With the proper modeling of desired character traits and with a consistent focus on character development, we have begun to transform our school and community into a much better place to live and work. All this while having fun in physical activity! Just imagine what it would be like to have all students turning into kind, considerate, responsible, respectful, and ACTIVE citizens. Let’s go for it — Just Do It!!!

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  1. NASPE, Mosby: (1995). Moving Into the Future: National Physical Education Standards: A Guide to and Assessment, St. Louis, MO.
  2. Borba, Michele, (1999).“Steps Toward Strong Character in Students,” Today’s Catholic Teacher, April, p. 44-47.
  3. Kavelin-Popov, Linda, (2000) Virtues Project: Educators Guide. Simple Ways to Create a Culture of Character. Torrance, CA, Jalmar Press, p. 134 & 137.
  4. Wooden, John, Pyramid of Success -

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Recommended websites:

Kurt A. Krueger has been described as a fitness futurist. The Director of the Institute of Sports Psychology and President of Success Systems International is a noted expert in Peak Performance Practices. He has presented Success Systems for leading national and international corporations/conferences, and Winning Ways to elite athletes/coaches. His bestselling, WINNING WAYS FOR LIVING series and has a high tech WINNING WAYS SYNCHRONICITY SOUNDTRACK, are now available.

Mr. Krueger helped design and implement and teach a “New PE” program at Van Nuys Middle School which was awarded the 2005 AND 2012 Outstanding Program of the Year for California. He served on the Physical Education Advisory Board for Los Angeles Unified School District for 12 years, developing curriculum, and training teachers. Kurt has served as a faculty member at a California State University in Psychology and Physical Education and taught the Social Sciences and Physical Education at the secondary level in Los Angeles Unified School District from February 1969 – June 2016. He has trained professionals, world record holders, and/or Olympians on 5 continents. Mr. Krueger has been interviewed on Network television/radio worldwide. Read his Bestselling series, Winning Ways for Living!

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