CharacterStrong & Social Emotional Learning

CharacterStrong Curriculum

words Character Strong
We are happy to announce that the West Shore School District has approved the CharacterStrong curriculum for elementary and middle school students to be used during the 2022-2023 school year.  

Through the use of the CharacterStrong curriculum, we have an opportunity to help our children learn the value of empathy, service, and connection. Along with strong academics, our goal is to teach students to be capable, compassionate people, and to empower them to become the best versions of themselves. When our students feel safe, supported, and part of a community, they perform better, act with more kindness, and want to show up to school each day. We believe this curriculum will have a powerful and positive impact on the climate and culture of our school, and it is our hope that families will join us in this work to build a kinder school culture and, ultimately, a kinder world.

Elementary Overview

Be Kind, Be Strong, and Be Well.
CharacterStrong is more than a set of lessons - it is a partnership between schools and families to create a place where students feel like they belong and learn skills that will help them be the best they can be! 

CharacterStrong has three main goals for students: Be Kind, Be Strong, and Be Well. 

Be Kind
Social skills like listening, friendship, solving conflicts, and leadership.
These skills are taught alongside Empathy, Respect, & Cooperation 

Be Strong 
Skills that help students focus, stay organized, and set goals. 
These skills are taught alongside Responsibility, Courage, & Perseverance

Be Well 
Skills that help students handle their emotions and deal with stress. 
These skills are taught alongside Gratitude, Honesty, & Creativity 

This year, you’ll be invited to join us each month in discussing these traits. Please be sure to look for information in the monthly e-News on what skills and strengths are being taught that month and to be on the lookout for posters in your child's school and classrooms reviewing the monthly skills. 

Kindergarten - Grade 5 Character Traits

MIddle School Overview

MIddle School Overview
As you can see from the graphic, for students in grades 6-8, the focus is on three main outcomes: increasing a sense of belonging for all students, improving skills that support student well-being, and deepening student engagement in their academics, in their school, and in their community.

One of the key parts of nearly every lesson is the “CharacterDare." These are invitations near the end of most lessons to put the content that they are learning into action in the real world. If you ever want to play an active role in the CharacterStrong curricula, simply ask your student about the most recent CharacterDare.

Grades 6-8 Character Traits

Images are copyrighted by CharacterStrong and may not be duplicated or distributed.

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to:

Establish Healthy Identities
Students will develop self awareness which will allow them to understand their own emotions and thoughts and how they influence their behavior in a variety of settings.

Manage Emotions and Achieve Personal and Collective Goals 
Students will learn how to manage emotions and behaviors in different situations. 

Feel and Show Empathy for Others
Students will learn how to take the perspectives of and empathize with others.

Establish and Maintain Supportive Relationships
Students will learn how to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships. This includes the ability to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve, approach conflict constructively, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.

Make Responsible and Caring Decisions
Students will learn how  to make caring and positive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across situations.

Benefits of Strong Social Emotional Skills

Parents and families already work on many of these skills at home. Our role is to support their work and provide all students with a common language and a school community in which they can practice these skills. Benefits seen from the development of strong social emotional skills include:

  • increase in students’ overall grades and attendance  
  • students better able to cope with emotional stress, solve problems, and avoid peer pressure to engage in harmful activities
  • students equipped to deal with problems that affect them on a personal level so they are better able to navigate the pressures of adult life  

CharacterStrong FAQ

Where can parents learn more about CharacterStrong?
To learn more about CharacterStrong, check out www.characterstrong.com and look for them on social media. In addition to the sample lessons available on their main website, families can sign up for "Family Access" to the CharacterStrong curriculum and will be given 30-day access to review content. To register for family access, please visit https://www.characterstrong.com/family-welcome-link. Questions can also be directed to Dr. Jamie Whye, Assistant Superintendent. 

What grade levels will be utilizing the CharacterStrong curriculum?
Students in kindergarten through grade 8 will be utilizing CharacterStrong. Our high school team is working to determine what resources will best meet the needs of our staff, students and families and I will bring forward that curriculum for Board approval once it has been selected.

When will CharacterStrong lessons be taught?
The CharacterStrong curriculum will be a routine part of the student day with lessons included during morning meetings at the elementary schools. Middle school staff will designate a common time each week to deliver the lesson. Instructional time will not be lost at either level.

Can you provide an overview of the CharacterStrong curriculum?
CharacterStrong is designed to build social and emotional skills, develop character, and strengthen educator-student relationships. It intentionally teaches character traits and goes in-depth into what these traits look like and then follows up with practical ways to improve them in their own lives and with those around them. Adults may recognize some of these traits from when they were in school and the lessons were considered Character Education. 

Prior to the adoption of CharacterStrong, all of our elementary and middle school buildings taught different variations of character education as part of their Multi-tiered Systems of Support and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. With Character Strong, teachers will be asked to do what they do best, teach. The lessons come prepared and outlined for teachers in order to reduce the burden on staff. If the program is successful, that will mean more time to focus on academics, rather than on having to resolve problems between students.

CharacterStrong is not a therapeutic program or mental health treatment, it is a character education program which weaves together strong instruction with intentional relationship-building techniques to support teaching non-cognitive character traits. At no point in the CharacterStrong lessons are children or adults asked to share things which would be best discussed with a mental health provider.

How can parents support the CharacterStrong program at home?
When it comes to the well-being of our children, parents and school staff members are a team. Parents will still be the ones instilling their personal values; however, there are many skills and character traits that our children utilize in the school and work settings and there is a benefit to learning and practicing those skills with their peers. Families can join us in supporting the development of these traits by talking to their children about what they are learning in school and how they relate to their family's personal values.

Is there any research or evidence on the effects of social emotional learning?
Research supporting social emotional learning can be found on the CASEL website and CharacterStrong website. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the nation's leading organization advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students.

Is there a process for opting out of the CharacterStrong curriculum?
Families have the right to have their children excused from specific instruction that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Board Policy 105.3: Exemptions From Instruction, outlines the guidelines for making this request. Please contact your child's building principal for additional assistance.  
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