P2 News

Distance Learning in the Age of COVID-19

By Frank Adamo

**4/20/20 – For the most updated guidance on distance learning, please click here**

As we continue through the deepening abyss of distance learning in the age of pandemic, I’m sure you share my struggle in grasping at different ways to engage, educate, and connect with students.  When you combine that struggle with the need to also help provide learning experiences for two elementary-aged children at home, tasks that we’ve become comfortable with as teachers seem daunting and sometimes near-impossible.  

As a result of this unprecedented shift out of the classroom and onto the internet, I’ve found ways to continue providing my students with opportunities to connect with The Positivity Project and the 24 character strengths.  

As a middle school English teacher, I’ve felt for a long time that the best way that I can facilitate a connection with the 24 character strengths is through authentic experiences and projects that originate with students.  As a result, I often ask students to begin their study with the source material originally developed by The Positivity Project.  

24 Character Strength “Character Cards”

The Character Cards, which are publicly available on our website, allows me to send the links directly to my students.  I make use of that feature widely in my classes. Students cite information from Character Cards in literary papers throughout the year, and when we were in the building, students begin every week interacting directly with the character strength of the week.  It’s a little-known fact that the first materials created by Jeff and Mike are the full suite of P2 Character Cards. The Character Cards are distillations of chapters in the 800-page book, Character Strengths and Virtues, by Drs. Peterson and Seligman, which classified the 24 character strengths. I’ve found that allowing students to dive deeper into each strength provides them with opportunities to make direct connections between their lives and the measure of their character.  Each week, students have the opportunity to annotate these texts, providing insight into how they are connecting and interpreting each card.  

Furthermore, we ask that students:

  • React to what they’ve read 
  • Give an opinion
  • Locate important passages
  • Make connections
  • Track themes

We use this process of annotating short texts throughout the school year across all curriculum areas on my team, and as a result, it becomes a common experience that students use to develop their understanding of both nonfiction and fiction texts.

Distance Learning

As schools in New York State begin their 5th week of distance learning, so much has changed for all of us; however, one thing that has not changed for my students is the way they begin each week.  Students see video from me each morning, and on Mondays, the read of the day is always The P2 Character Card.  As a standing project, I offer students the opportunity to read and annotate each Character Card and make decisions about how to represent their interpretations of those cards.  

Student Projects

As a result of starting each week with Character Cards, I have seen some incredible work from students.  Whether it’s a card filled with the student’s analysis of the trait and its relevance to who he/she is becoming as a young adult or a narrative breakdown of how each of the character strengths has had a direct influence, students in my classes are engaging in this growth largely on their own terms.  They are building meaning as they experience their world, and they are working to share their thoughts about how these traits impact their lives.  

Before we were sent scurrying from buildings across the world, the group of students in the accompanying picture were planning a set of podcasts outlining each of the P2 Character strengths.  This group of 10 students worked throughout the early parts of 2020 to organize themselves so that they could produce research documents to supported each strength, eventually creating several podcasts (listen here).  This work, and so many other projects have been developed by students in my classroom simply through the introduction of the Character Cards.   

I’ve also found the Character Cards to be of value in helping to put learning experiences together for my own children.  I’ve been blessed in so many ways during this crisis, but perhaps most so because my wife is also a (way better) teacher.  While she takes on the lion share of instructional delivery, I’ve found that asking my own children to consider how very specific character traits can impact them while we are home is an incredible way to have productive conversations about school, work, chores, and the uncertainty of the world we live in.  These cards are taped to the dining room walls, and we have had extremely positive conversations about the strengths as a result.

As you continue working to navigate the constant change of distance learning, please consider all information that can be shared with students and parents through that single page each week.  The resources available on each character slide presentation are invaluable in the depth of experience that they provide for students in our classrooms. However, in the “absence of our presence,” I have found the use of the P2 Character Cards to be a great way to connect with students and their families.  

I hope that as we work through what will become a historic time in American education, that you, your family, your students, and your school communities continue to be healthy and safe. 

Very Sincerely, 

Frank Adamo

Frank Adamo
Ed. Tech Coordinator

Frank Adamo is The Positivity Project's Ed. Tech Coordinator. He is also an 8th grade English teacher in Niskayuna, NY. Frank is passionate about maximizing technology's impact in the classroom. He regularly works with parents, students, teachers and administrators on the benefits of using technology in the classroom as well as the opportunities and drawbacks of social media in the digital age.