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  • Subject: Social/Emotional Health
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: One or two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will do the following:
1. Explore the concept of self-esteem
2. Analyze their personal strengths and weaknesses
3. Consider the role self-esteem plays in a healthy life


The class will need the following:
paper and pencils
newsprint and markers
construction paper and colored pencils
old magazines
scissors and glue
computer with Internet access (optional but very helpful)


1. Ask students to define the term self-esteem. Write their ideas on a sheet of newsprint. Help students understand that self-esteem refers to how we understand and value ourselves.

People with high self-esteem are realistic about their strengths and weaknesses and are able to set goals and work toward them with optimism and humor. They also feel competent in areas they consider important and do not take other people's negative impressions of them too seriously.

People with low self-esteem have a hard time honestly evaluating their strengths and weaknesses and often have an unrealistic, overall negative impression of themselves. They take other people's opinions of their strengths and weaknesses more seriously than they should. Also, they do not feel competent in areas they consider important. People with low self-esteem tend to be pessimistic.

For more information about research on self-esteem, visit the following Web sites:

National Association for Self Esteem

The Self Esteem Institute

Tell students that an important first step in building self-esteem is taking a realistic look at their strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes. This helps them know what goals are realistic to pursue, what aspects of their personality and lifestyle to seek to improve, and how to identify their weaknesses without worrying about how others perceive them. Tell students that self-knowledge helps lay the foundation for high self-esteem.

2. Then tell students they are going to complete a personal inventory during this lesson to help them achieve better self-understanding. Tell students to follow the directions, filling in blanks or checking the answers that apply to them. You may copy the inventory for students, read it out loud, or write it on a piece of newsprint and post it in the classroom.

Personal Inventory

School Subjects

  1. I like ______________.
  2. I do not like ________________.
  3. I am good at __________________.
  4. I am not good at _______________.
  5. I am good at this subject, but I do not like it: ____________.
  6. I am not good at this subject, but I like it: _______________.
  1. I like __________________.
  2. I do not like ________________.
  3. I am good at _________________.
  4. I am not good at _________________.
  5. I am good at this activity, but I do not like it: _________.
  6. I am not good at this activity, but I like it: ____________.
  7. I prefer being involved in individual activities _____ or group activities ___. (Check one.)
Relationships with Friends and Adults (Check the statements that apply to you.)
  1. I am generally well liked: ____________.
  2. I am generally not well liked: ___________.
  3. I have a group of friends: ________.
  4. I prefer having one or two friends: _______.
  5. I am a leader: ___________.
  6. I am a follower: _________.
  7. I prefer people who like the same things I like: ___________.
  8. I prefer people who like different things: _____________.
  9. I have the support of significant adults in my life: __________________.
  10. I have the support of a group of peers: ______________________.
Food Preferences
  1. I like to eat ____________.
  2. I do not like to eat __________.
  3. I do ____ do not _____ eat a balanced diet. (Check one.)
  1. I relax by __________.
  2. I like relaxing alone _____ or with other people ____. (Check one.)
  3. After this activity, I always feel calm and peaceful. _______________.
3. Give students ample time (it should not take more than 10 or 15 minutes) in class to complete the inventory. Then ask students to take the information they learned about themselves and create a drawing, collage, or short essay that illustrates who they are. Make available paper, art supplies, and magazines to cut up. Give students about 20 minutes to complete their projects.
4. During the next class period, ask for student volunteers to share their artwork or essays, and their personal reflections, with the class.
5. Ask students what they learned about themselves? How can they apply this information to their lives? How does it affect the goals they set for themselves? Tell them that understanding their own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences is essential in boosting their self-esteem.
6. Conclude the lesson by asking students what role they think self-esteem plays in leading a healthful life. If students feel good about themselves, do they think they will make good decisions about friends; diet; exercise; sex and abstinence; dangerous habits such as drugs, smoking, and drinking; and overall work habits? Why do they think this is so? Help students understand that if they feel good about themselves, they will want to take care of themselves.

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Discussion Questions

1. Using what you learned about yourself from the inventory, do you think you have high self-esteem or low self-esteem? What is one thing you can do to build your self-esteem? (Be sure to tell students that they need not share this information with anyone. These are questions that they can think about as they begin to learn more about themselves.)
2. What do you think the relationship is between self-esteem and becoming involved with drugs, alcohol, or a potentially bad crowd at school? Do you think that a person with high self-esteem or low self-esteem would be more likely to do those things? Give reasons to support your ideas.
3. Do you have a friend who has low self-esteem? What are some of the signs of low self-esteem? What could you do to help your friend raise his or her self-esteem?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' involvement in class discussions, their attitude toward completing a personal inventory, and the quality of their projects:
  • Three points: was highly engaged in class discussions; demonstrated positive attitude toward completing the personal inventory; created a realistic project highlighting the results of the inventory.
  • Two points: was moderately engaged during class discussions; demonstrated mostly positive attitude toward completing the personal inventory; created a project that highlighted some key points from the inventory.
  • One point: was not engaged during class discussions; demonstrated negative attitude toward completing the personal inventory; was not able to produce a project highlighting the results of the inventory.

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Self-Esteem Builders
Have students develop a community service project that may also help them build their self-esteem. For example, students can tutor a younger child, help coach an elementary school sports team, or assist in an arts and crafts program for young children. Have students keep a log of the progress of the child they are assisting. Make sure your students note how the child they are assisting felt about his or her abilities when they first started and whether their attitude changed over the course of a couple of months. Encourage students to notice signs of improved ability in the subject or activity, such as more facility in reading, better performance on the sports field, or more proficiency in crafts.

Then ask students to observe signs of improved self-esteem, such as more self-confidence or a more optimistic outlook. Do students see a correlation between improved competence in a specific area and greater self-esteem? Are their own findings consistent with the definition of self-esteem they learned about in this lesson? Aside from helping the younger child improve his or her skills, what else did they do to elevate the child's self-esteem?

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Suggested Readings

A Risky Prescription: Sports and Health
Sandy Stiefer. Lerner Publications, 1997.
Filled with examples of world-class athletes, color photographs and highlighted insets, this book explores the differences between healthy and unhealthy practices in sports. Chapters focus on the psychology of competition, drug use (legal and illegal), nutrition, and sports injuries. This is a well-balanced presentation of an important topic.

The Student Athletes Handbook: The Complete Guide for Success
Perry Bromwell and Howard Gensler. John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
Are you a high school athlete who would like to compete in college? If so, this book is written for you. The first section focuses on how to apply to college athletic programs and how to prepare for the college experience. The second section focuses on the college years, providing information on how to perform well both academically and athletically and offering advice on making decisions about pursuing a professional sports career. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Guide for the Student Athlete is included in an appendix, as is a listing of sports played at the college level.

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high self-esteem
Definition: A realistic, honest, and healthy view of oneself.
Context: Even though Mary was not good at soccer, she enjoyed playing it very much, and did not let her inadequacies affect herhigh self-esteem.

low self-esteem
Definition: An overall pessimistic and negative view of oneself.
Context: Carolyn was always devastated if she received criticism at school because she had verylow self-esteem.

personal inventory
Definition: A tool used to determine an individual's strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
Context: After taking apersonal inventory, Jake realized he loved music and got so much pleasure from playing the guitar that he didn't care if he wasn't the best in the band.

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The following standards are from the American Association for Health Education for students in grades six through eight:
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and reduce health risks.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.
This lesson plan adheres to the standards set forth in the National Science Education Standards, in particular the category Science in Personal and Social Perspectives.

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Marilyn Fenichel, freelance writer and curriculum developer.

This lesson was created in consultation with Shauna Felton, middle school health teacher.

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