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Students' self esteem


Senior Member
I was recently told by our Resource Specialist that some of my 4th grade girls could really use a boost of self esteem in class. Does anyone know of any books that will give teachers tips on raising their students' self esteem? Your help is appreciated!


I don't have any suggestions for books but I recently did an activity in my class that helped a little with this issue. My class and I discussed what it means to compliment people. I was having a lot of issues with name calling in my class. I split the kids into two groups and put one group in a circle facing outwards and the other group circled them so they were all facing each other. Each person had to give a genuine compliment to the person across from them. After a few seconds, the outside circle rotated and we repeated it until we had gone all the way around. I had several of my sensitive girls tell me how nice it was to hear something nice from the people that are normally not very kind to them. I'm thinking of doing this once a month just to boost my class morale.


Senior Member

The best description of true self-esteem that I've ever heard was, "Self-esteem is the reputation that you have with yourself." In other words, do you see yourself persevering, succeeding, getting along with others, handling challenges without falling apart?

There are often two related problems. One, that kids don't see themselves accurately, either because they're feeling depressed or stressed or some external factor is causing them to believe negatively about themselves (and they're vulnerable enough to believe it). The other is that the child might be genuinely having a hard time with school, or life in general, and is accurately perceiving that struggle, and doesn't trust himself or herself to get through it.

If it's that the kids don't see themselves accurately, there are a variety of ways to go about getting them to change their perspective. The book Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman is a particularly good choice (it also has some choice words about the "self-esteem" movement vs. actually teaching kids to see themselves in a positive, REALISTIC light)

But if it's because they're struggling in some way (socially, academically, etc.) then the best way to improve their self-esteem is to help them succeed in those difficult areas. Certain things are likely to really make a kid feel down, such as not being able to read at an age where everyone else is a fluent reader, or not having any friends. These are basic developmental skills that must be achieved if the child is really going to feel positive about himself or herself.

So if you first figure out where the breakdown is for these girls, that might suggest a clearer way to go about helping them.


Senior Member
The Meanest Thing You Can Say

ADD ON IDEA:I always start the year with Bill Cosby's book The Meanest Thing You Can Say.
For those of you not familiar with it, it is about a little boy who goes
to school and the new kid says "Lets play a game about who can say the
meanest things to each other." The little boys dad convinces him that the
best thing he can say is SO because there is no defense for SO.
We practice this for the first couple of weeks and then anytime we have
someone saying hurtful things to other people. The kids love it and they
want to be picked on. I will pick a child who wants to be the person
and I stand there and look them over carefully and then I say something like
"Blue hair barrets! Cool people only wear red ones" The kid will giggle and
say "SO"( by the way it has to be done with an attitude of indifference and
style) Then I looked shocked and say "Well you are not cool if you don't
wear red ones" "So" "Well you can't be my friend then." "So" By now the
whole class is laughing and saying "So" Then on the playground when a child
comes up and says "He called my stupid." I just say what
>do you say? "So" That right there is no answer to
"So" and you know it isn't true. I teach 2nd and I now have 5th graders that
will be standing with me when someone runs up and says He called me______ and they will turn around and say "Just say so there's no answer
to so. Elaine /nv/2
After reading the story, everyone sits in a circle and you have a large
paper cutout of a girl. Everyone gets the "girl" and wads or folds a piece
of her. At the end needless to say she's in bad shape. Explain that every time
they do this to her it's the same as saying something hurtful to her. Try to
smooth her out and explain that even though she can be smoothed
back out the wrinkles are still there, just like even though someone can
apologize and be forgiven, the hurtful marks are still left on us. It was a
big hit.


Senior Member
Lucky Charms

To Use With Lucky Charms
This special treat is to remind you that I’m glad you are in
my class! Search the bag for the marshmallow shapes
hidden inside! You should find:
*A yellow star---to remind you to always shine!
*A pot of gold---to remind you that you’re worth a million!
*A colorful rainbow---to remind you to promise to always do
your best!
*A blue moon---to remind you that once in awhile, we all
make mistakes, and that’s okay!
*A green clover---to give you good luck as you begin first
*A purple horseshoe---to remind you that U matter!
*A red balloon---to remind you to soar above the clouds and
try new things.


Senior Member
another idea

This one was suggested at a recent inservice:

Have the kids start a list of goals they would like to accomplish in their lives. Goals can be anything from "get a new skateboard" to "Read a chapter book" to "Be a better friend" -- just anything, no matter how lofty or unrealistic, they would like to accomplish.

(I can think of a few obvious management issues, such as why "Kill myself" or "Get _____ to stop being such an annoying moron" might not be the most appropriate goals.)

The inservice leader suggested having them add one goal to the list each day, and also having a list of goals for the class. As they look over their lists each day, they may find themselves accomplishing some of the goals, or re-evaluating them. They can highlight or star the goals that were achieved, which turns the list into a working record of what they are accomplishing. This gives them a sense of mastery, as well as purpose for the future.

He said his own teenage son started off with typical teenage things like "Get an X box" but then branched out into a lot of different areas. One goal, "Learn to scuba dive" turned into yearly diving trips with his dad. Another goal, "Buy a new stereo" turned into a yearly experiment in making monthly payments gleaned from doing chores and jobs around the neighborhood, and taught him all about money management. This was a child who was previously failing subjects in school, including math. It improved his son's outlook on life and allowed him to expand his interests and sense of mastery.

There's a website (not really for kids) called 43things.com that is based on the same idea - people listing and accomplishing goals that matter to them.

I am going to try this with my 4th grade class. I think it will boost a lot of things for them, including that elusive self-esteem.