Life Compass
Stress Tests of Character

Lesson Plan #1

Which Character Strengths Support Academic Achievement?

This lesson can be used early in the year in any class or subject to help frame and articulate the character strengths that contribute to success in your class and in professions related to this subject


To help students understand the internal strengths required to 1) become an expert in the field you teach and 2) navigate the stress tests of character that come with mastering a subject.


Share a video, story, or image of an accomplishment related to the field you teach.  For example, in science you might show the launch of a space shuttle. In music, you might play a clip from a symphony. In English, you might show a book that has influenced people around the world. In athletics, you might show an incredible race that required perseverance. In math, you might show a proof that took years to prove or a bridge that required extraordinary planning to build. In history, you might show a picture of a human making a courageous choice (such as Ruby Bridges walking to school under police guard). 

Tip: If, as a teacher, you choose something that inspires you, your students will sense your curiosity and wonder.


Think: Using sticky notes or small pieces of paper, ask students to write down the human qualities required to accomplish the feat they just witnessed or discussed.  What internal strengths did they possess that empowered them to build this building, write this book, lead this movement, make this scientific discovery, etc. Put one word on each small piece of paper.  

Pair: In partners or small groups, have students share their observations. Have them group together words that are the same or similar.

Share: As a class, make a list of the most common strengths, or virtues, that emerged from the small group discussion. Your list might include words such as 

  • Courage/Bravery
  • Attentiveness/Focus
  • Tenacity/Perseverance
  • Organization
  • Thoroughness
  • Internal motivation
  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Empathy/Compassion
  • Hope
  • Resilience
  • Responsibility
  • Patience
  • Integrity


Discussion Question: Look at the list, adding more words as you see fit, and ask: So what does this tell us about what it takes to become a strong scientist/mathematician/writer/citizen/artist?

Written Reflection or Journaling

Look at the list again. What are one or two strengths that you currently possess that can help you in this class? 

What are one or two strengths you want to develop? 

What small steps can you take to grow stronger in these areas?

What help might you need from your teacher?

The Stress Tests of Character curriculum was made possible with the generous support of a grant from the Kern Family Foundation and our partnership with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.

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For more information on this and other resources, visit The LifeCompass Institute.