Character Education Courage Activity

I recently wrote about the importance of teaching our upper elementary students to act with courage. Courage is one of the many social-emotional topics that we need to discuss with children in order for them to hone their skills, tap into their personal strength, and be prepared to take positive actions in future situations.  While we cannot prepare students for every situation, we CAN help them think through the qualities of courage and prepare them to act courageously when necessary. I use the following demonstration during my courage-themed morning meeting unit.


One of my favorite ways to launch a discussion about courage is with “The Courageous Sheet of Paper” activity. It’s easy to implement and “packs a mean punch” in demonstrating the message that WE ALL HAVE THE POWER to MAKE OUR COURAGE MUSCLES STRONGER. In this demonstration, you use a sheet of paper to show how we all have the ability within us to access more strength and courage. (NOTE: This activity was adapted from an idea included in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Courage Curriculum. ) Here’s how you can use this demonstration in your own classroom to encourage your students!

Materials Needed:

-1 sheet of copy paper

-a light, softcover chapter book


1) Holding a sheet of copy paper flat out with one hand and a chapter book in the other, ask students if the paper has the ability to hold up a light chapter book. Be sure to act quizzical and as if this is the craziest idea you have ever posed—of course the paper cannot hold up the book!

2) Demonstrate that in this form, the paper is not able to support the book. Ask students, “What if the paper found ways to strengthen itself? What if the paper could become stronger in some way or grow a backbone?”

3) Roll the paper into a tube of with approximately a 1 inch diameter. Attempt to hold the book up with the paper tube. The paper should successful hold up the book.


4) Share the quotation from Ruth Gordon, “Courage is a muscle. It grows stronger with use.” Ask students to explain how the sheet of paper demonstration relates to this quotation.

  • The flat paper was too weak to hold the book in it’s original form.

  • By reforming the paper and increasing its strength, the paper had the ability to hold up the book. This can be compared to developing the ability to stand up for our beliefs, digging deep to find the courage to speak up, and taking responsibility by using our gifts and abilities to help others who are in need.

  • This demonstrates that anyone can be a hero and have courage. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and we should not underestimate our ability to be courageous or to help others.

  • It is normal to lack courage when we are faced with challenges, dangerous or uncomfortable situations, or situations where we need to use our voice. However, we can be determined to develop our “courage muscles” and to remember that we have a responsibility to speak up when something is not right.

During my 2-week Courage themed unit, students and I discuss how to make our “courage muscles” stronger, practice thinking courageous thoughts, and prepare our minds to act with courage by discussing how we would respond given some scenarios and situations that would test our courage. I carve out time for this topic during our morning meeting lessons. In the courage unit materials, you will find suggested read-alouds, meeting lesson ideas and activities, discussion questions, quotations about courage (in journal and poster form), a personal courage self-assessment, student journal pages and more.