Activity 3: Building Character Puzzles
Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Thin poster paper or card stock for small groups
- Fine-tipped washable markers for small groups
- Scissors for small groups
- Transparent tape for small groups
Preparation for Activity
- Decide how many small groups to form and how best to form them.
Description of Activity
Small groups create puzzles to help participants describe and understand the characteristics that shape good and bad character. Conduct it in seven steps:
- Ask the group to make puzzles that show good personal characteristics and bad ones. Say that when they do this they should think about people they might know or know of-not horrible villains from movies or superheroes from comic books.
- Divide the group into smaller groups of three or four youth each. Identify half the groups as "good characteristic" groups and the other half as "bad characteristic" groups. Give each group a sheet of poster paper or light cardboard, two or three pairs of scissors, and two or three markers. Keep the groups together until you explain the next two steps.
- When the groups separate, each should create a list of twelve good characteristics in a person or twelve bad characteristics, whichever their assignment is. Four of those things should be actions (such as "helps people" or "hurts people"). Four more should be typical emotions ("happy" or "angry," for example). Four more should be adjectives, or describing words (like "friendly" or "self-centered").
- Every group should then make a jigsaw puzzle from its characteristics by writing each one once in some random spot on their sheet of card stock. The words can be written at odd angles, upside down, sideways, and diagonally. Together they should pretty much fill the card stock. Challenging option: The groups can cut their card stock into the shape of a wolf's head before writing the words and making a puzzle.
- Each group should then cut their card stock into about thirty or forty puzzle pieces. The puzzles they create should be fairly easy to put together. The goal is not to make a thousand pieces that would take countless hours to reassemble.
- The groups should swap their puzzles and reassemble the pieces they receive. When they finish, they can tape the pieces together so they can move the puzzles.
- Have the small groups come together and place their completed puzzles where all can see them.
- Discuss the puzzles and the lists, using these questions:
- Can people control all their characteristics?
- Which ones are easiest to control?
- Should people think about building their characters into something good?
- What do adults mean when they describe an activity as "character-building"? (Often they seem to mean that the activity will be hard and not much fun, but it will make you a better person.)
- Can character building be fun?
- Do people with good character always do the right thing? Do people with bad character always do the wrong thing?
- Can you tell more about a person's character by what that person says or what that person does?
Conclude by making the point that human character is complicated. Even when we think we know someone really well, we may not. Return to an idea mentioned in Activity 1: Most UUs believe that people are the best people they can be. They do more right things than wrong things. In other words, they try to have good character, and most of them do, even if they are not perfect.