Implementing The Positivity Project

Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Positivity Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping America’s youth build strong relationships by recognizing the character strengths in themselves and others. Our vision is to create citizens and leaders who will enhance our communities and country by internalizing the belief that “Other People Matter.” Positive psychology’s scientifically validated 24 character strengths serve as our foundation. Positive psychology teaches that people have all 24 strengths within them — and that character is not just skills or behaviors, but rather an intrinsic part of each of us.

The Positivity Project is not a “program” with strict guidelines. Instead, we have developed a model that works in public, private, and charter schools and in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The purpose of this article is to explain what The Positivity Project looks like in practice, both school-wide and in classrooms, and our Partner Schools’ common keys to success.

The Positivity Project in Practice: School-Wide Implementation

Google Drive for Accessing Resources

Our goal is to provide Partner School educators with easy access to Positivity Project resources. That’s why we use Google Drive to share all of our resources, for free, with our Partner Schools. Individual educators can access the resources directly through their Google Drive account or through a tab on our website, www.posproject.org/resources. For schools that do not use Google Apps for Education, we ensure they have access to our resources by creating @posproject.org Google Drive accounts for each faculty and staff member.

Nationwide Calendar

All of our Partner Schools are on a nationwide calendar that begins in September and ends in May. We encourage schools to stay on the same calendar so that they can see what their fellow Partner Schools are doing — and share their creative ideas with each other. The character strengths are selected to coincide with specific dates during the school year. For example, bravery around Veterans Day, gratitude around Thanksgiving, and hope around Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Positivity Shields, Word Walls, Banners, and T-Shirts

To remind students and staff that Other People Matter, we recommend that every room in the school have a printed copy of the Positivity Shield and the Character Strength Word Wall. This will be low cost, as digital copies of the Shields and Word Walls can be printed out at each school in color or black & white. We also encourage schools to place banners in their hallways and purchase Positivity Project t-shirts for students and staff. All of our resources were developed by Rule29, a Chicago-based design firm, who focused on creating beautiful visuals that appeal to children and adults alike.

Indian Hill Elementary (Grand Blanc, MI) has banners in the school and some sharp green t-shirts for faculty and staff.
Above is an example of a Word Wall. The top of this picture shows the Word Wall placards created by Rule29 and the bottom picture shows how a Mrs. Cernaro made it her own.
Morgan Road Elementary (Liverpool, NY) displays students’ “curiosity bubbles” with the Positivity Shield.
Students at Lincoln STEAM Academy (Pittsburgh, PA) wear their Positivity Project t-shirts on a field trip to Lake Erie.

VIA Character Strengths Assessment for Faculty and Staff

We recommend that each faculty and staff member take the free 15-minute Values in Action (VIA) Survey to understand their own unique character strengths. In our Partner Schools, this tool has proven to help educators internalize the applicability of the 24 character strengths and, therefore, to use the character strengths vocabulary more frequently when interacting with students and each other.

Educators at Imagine-Chancellor (Boynton Beach, FL) display their top character strength.
Educators at Nate Perry Elementary (Liverpool, NY) display their top character strength, during a school-wide Positivity Project kick-off assembly.

Monthly Character Assemblies

Schools are encouraged to conduct monthly character assemblies. On this day, all students and staff members can wear their Positivity Project t-shirts. These monthly assemblies serve to emphasize that administrators care about developing and maintaining a school-wide culture of character — and that individual character is the cornerstone of the school’s culture. Similar to banners and t-shirts, these assemblies promote school pride and enthusiasm.

Morgan Road Elementary (Liverpool, NY) conducts their monthly character assembly, led by Principal Brett Woodcock and the Positivity Superheroes of the school’s character education committee.
Students at Minoa Elementary (Minoa, NY) celebrate The Positivity Project with an assembly. 5th graders performed skits and read poems on the character strengths they’ve learned so far.

Connecting to the Home

The Positivity Project strives to involve parents in the character strength education of their children. By connecting classroom learning to homes, students observe, think about, and apply character strengths in new ways. We work with Partner Schools to develop strategies that engage parents around character through methods such as: information letters, back to school nights, and the daily use of social media.

Principal Jeremy Mitchell of Indian Hill Elementary (Grand Blanc, MI) uses a weekly newsletter to communicate with parents about the character strength of the week.
Principal Brett Woodcock of Morgan Road Elementary (Liverpool, NY) uses Twitter to connect with parents and share his school’s enthusiasm for The Positivity Project.
Minoa Elementary (Minoa, NY) set up a Positivity Project table at the school’s Welcome Back Picnic.

The Positivity Project in Practice: Classroom Implementation

Character Cards

Character cards are one-page documents that provide each teacher with a short overview of the character strength for that week. It’s a tool to quickly get up to speed — and often sparks teachers’ thinking on certain elements they’d like to highlight.

Weekly Character Strength Slide Presentations

These are the PowerPoint presentations that educators can use to teach each of the 24 character strengths. There are two versions — one in Arial font and one in kid-friendly Comic Sans — with the same content. The slides are developed to support educators in teaching the character strength of the week for 10-minutes per day 4-days per week.

It is not mandatory that teachers use these slides. The slides are simply a tool to help educators teach the strength and to reduce prep time. We encourage educators to add to or edit these slides in the most impactful way for their students.

A sample deck can be accessed here.

At Chestnut Hill Middle School (Liverpool, NY), teachers use the slide decks, but adjust them to their classrooms’ needs.

Reflection Journals

The purpose of these journals is to help students reflect on the character strength they’ve learned about during the week. Included in the Journal is one page with every strength’s definition, two pages of reflection space per strength, and 10 pages of free writing space at the end.

Keys to Success

We’ve seen four major keys to successful implementation within our Partner Schools. They are:

  1. Principal Leadership. Principal leadership is essential to effective implementation of The Positivity Project. That is why all Partner School principals are required to sign a non-binding pledge agreeing to implement specific best practices. Principals are the unmistakable leader at each school and their encouragement inspires teachers and staff members to create new and exciting ways of infusing character strengths education into their classroom and school community.
  2. Teacher Autonomy. Each school and every classroom is different. Instead of a mandatory pedagogy, we trust the educators on the ground — who know their children the best — to implement The Positivity Project in the most impactful way for their students. Success results from helping teachers master the 24 character strengths language and concepts — and equipping them with resources — so that they are comfortable and confident teaching character every day.
  3. Consistency. We believe in the power of distributed learning. Educators instill character strengths vocabulary and concepts through explicit teaching of each strength for 10-minutes per day 4-days per week. Schools will dedicate 1–2 weeks to each strength to help students understand through definition, examples, discussions, and exercises. It’s like flossing and brushing your teeth; you need to do it daily.
  4. Make it Your Own. We love to see the creativity and enthusiasm displayed by our Partner Schools who make The Positivity Project theirs. We’ve seen faculty and staff dressing up as Positivity Superheroes, schools connecting with their community, podcasts with a principal interviewing his teachers, art classes focused on character strengths, and even music classes writing and singing original “positivity jingles” for each character strength!
Indian Hill Elementary faculty and staff took one day and traveled to 24 different businesses, organizations, homes, and locations within Grand Blanc, MI to gain a deeper understanding of the 24 character strengths. They connected with — and learned from — members of their community, while also displaying character strengths throughout the day.
These are the lyrics to the “Somerset Elementary Kindness Jingle” written and performed by Carrie VanSickle, the music teacher, and Somerset Elementary (Somerset, OH) students.
Imagine-Chancellor (Boynton Beach, FL) students in Ms. Francouer’s art class presented Principal Onori with a project highlighting her top character strength.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Positivity Project, please sign up for our weekly newsletter at www.PosProject.org and follow us on social media — where we are quite active and focused on the character strength of the week!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PosProject/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PosProject

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pos_project/

If your school is interested in becoming a Positivity Project Partner School, please email us at info@posproject.org.