Activities to Teach Adolescents About Honesty

Practicing honesty helps people live together.

Adolescents are often tuned into media that sometimes downplays honesty in favor of manipulation and falsehood to achieve goals in a story line or a video game. Use true-to-life hypothetical activities to not only teach adolescents that honesty has an important place in their everyday lives, but completing these activities also reveals how practicing honesty positively impacts every aspect of the adolescents' lives, from personal to future business relationships.

1 Honesty Skits

Have the adolescents create a skit or a number of skits about honesty. In the skits, have characters who always tell the truth, characters who seldom tell the truth, characters who expect others to be honest, but aren't honest themselves, and characters who use truth to hurt others. Include characters who cheat on tests or help others do so. Encourage the students to not only use their imagination, but also base their skits on real personal situations. Have students show the logical consequences of honesty and dishonesty. After the students act out their skits, discuss what they've learned about honesty as well as the consequences of dishonesty.

2 What Would You Do?

Enlist the aid of two of the adolescents from the class to assist you. Hide a wallet with $50 in $5 bills in it in the classroom. Place it where it isn't easily spotted, but where someone might have left it accidentally such as on the edge of a shelf or on top of a cabinet. After class starts, find an excuse to leave the classroom. Assign one of the students who you enlisted to sit at your desk or hand out an assignment or any other action that gets the student out of his desk. After you leave, the student will “find” the wallet. Have him go through the wallet, find the money and count it. All the class will be watching to see what he does. Have him finally shrug and say something like, “finders keepers” and begin to tuck the money in his pocket. At this point, the other student you've enlisted speaks up, explaining that what the first student is doing isn't honest and someone might need that money. She suggests giving the wallet, with all the money in it, to the teacher. Have the two students wrangle with the issue. Allow time for other students to weigh in on the situation.

If at all possible, listen in on the discussion. After you return to the classroom, have the student with the wallet sit down quietly without saying anything to you. See if any other student will tell you about what happened. If not, to prod the students, ask if anything happened while you were gone. Next, say you know one of the janitors lost his wallet and that he needs to find it because he needed the money in it to pay a bill so his heat turned off.

Finally, talk about honesty and the consequences of not being honest. Before the class ends have the student stand up and hand over the wallet.

3 Cheating Consequences

Tell the students they are flying in an airplane. Everything is going really well. Suddenly, an object hits the plane, causing a hole in the wing and loss of engine power. Ask the students how they would react in that situation. Discuss the different ways students would feel in this situation — confident in the pilot's training and experience, scared and unsure but still trusting that the pilot or co-pilot will know what to do. Now explain the pilot is new to the airline, having recently gotten his certification to fly. Ask if this changes how they feel. Now explain that the pilot managed to have others do his homework and take his tests, and he isn't as experienced as his certification claims. In fact, he missed the whole section of dealing with unexpected problems. Ask the students how they would feel if they were riding in a plane with this pilot. You can come up with other stories regarding doctors, dentists and lawyers. Have students discuss the importance of honesty in doing their own schoolwork and possible consequences if they aren't honest.

Carolyn Scheidies has been writing professionally since 1994. She writes a column for the “Kearney Hub” and her latest book is “From the Ashes.” She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she has also lectured in the media department.