Character Counts Digital Classroom

Building Trust

It is important for students to understand the importance of building trust and what happens if trust is broken.

Building Trust
Grade Level: K-5


Character Skills
  • Trustworthiness
SEL Skills
  • Self-Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
Academic Skills
  • Diligent Learner


  • Be honest. Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal.
  • Have integrity. Do what you say you’ll do.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Be loyal. Stand by your values.

Identify and understand emotions, values, attitudes, motivations, mindsets, and personal attributes.

Relationship Skills

Interpersonal and social skills to guide appropriate behavior and create positive relationships and meaningful connections . 

Diligent Learner

Have a growth mindset and is willing to learn from mistakes.

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In “Trust Tower,” students will explore what it means to build trust and what happens if trust is broken.

Materials and Activity Preparation
  • Building blocks – Jenga blocks work well
  • Prepare:
    • Three simple tasks your students can complete in 1-2 minutes and with minimal adult supervision.
    • A tower on your desk or in a space easily viewed by students using 3 blocks.
    • A second adult or responsible student to complete the tasks with the students. Discuss the tasks and roles of this person with them ahead of time.

  • To start the activity, ask students what trustworthiness looks and sounds like.
  • Share with the students that you are going to trust them to complete some tasks. 
  • Show them the tower you built. Explain that this is your trust tower. You say that trust is built by showing someone over and over again you are trustworthy, like blocks in a tower, getting taller each time you show that trait.
  • Explain to the students that you will give them the instructions for the first task and then close your eyes because you trust that everyone will complete the task.
  • Give the instructions for the first task and close your eyes. The second adult in the classroom will do the task with the children.
  • Open your eyes and ask if the task was completed by everybody. They will say yes and congratulate them on building trust by adding a block to your trust tower.
  • Give the instructions for the second task and close your eyes. The second adult in the classroom will not do the task and be very over the top and dramatic about so the students see.
  • Open your eyes and ask if the task was completed by everybody. The second adult should be very loud in saying yes. The students will either call out the adult or the adult may need to confess. If no one calls out the adult for not being truthful then simply question out loud “I wonder if anyone saw that they were not trustworthy?” 
  • Take one block off your trust tower. Tell the students when trust is broken it starts to break down the trust tower and the trust in your relationship with another person.
  • Give the instructions for the third task and close your eyes. Again, the second adult in the classroom will not do the task and this time will also encourage other students to not complete the task.
  • Open your eyes and ask if the task was completed. Again, make sure the second adult very loudly says yes. The students may call out the adult and other students (ignore these, as you do not want to call out individual students in a group) who did not complete the task. If not, the second adult should confess, but not point out any individual students who followed along. 
  • Take another block off the truth tower and focus on the second adult’s lie. Mention that when one person lies, it often shows other they can get away with it. Sometimes the trust tower falls really quickly when we see others lying and getting away with it.
  • Encourage the students to look at the trust tower now and how broken the trust is in the classroom. Ask the question “how do you build trust?”
  • For each answer the students give that show trustworthiness, add a block and talk about the power of the choices they make each day. It’s easy for the tower to break down, but it takes work to build it back up, especially when we watch others around us “get away” with breaking trust.
Student Reflection

Have students journal or reflect in small groups about the following questions:

  • How does it feel if someone breaks your trust? What does it take for you to trust them again?
  • When is it hard to make trustworthy decisions and build trust?
  • What can you do this week to help build your trust in someone else’s eyes?

Parent Connection

As young children develop, telling the truth can be a difficult skill and there will be slip ups by all children. It’s important that we celebrate telling the truth.

Encourage families to create a plan at home for encouraging telling the truth. Create a sticker chart, track with marks on a calendar or collect items in a jar for every truth told. Understanding that even when children make a mistake, that if they respond with the truth that it should be praised. The best way to build is a skill is repetitive practice and praise the behavior you want to see around that skill.  Celebrating the successes of truthful moments will help build this crucial character trait.

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