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Decision Making Activities for Youth

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Teaching middle and high school students about decision making strategies can benefit them throughout life. Use these activities to engage them in some helpful exercises to spur their thinking about making important decisions.

Decision Making Activities for Youth

Helping your middle and high school students learn strategies for making well-reasoned decisions can be quite beneficial for them. Use these activities to guide your students through some interactive exercises that will enable them to concretely understand these important strategies. Each activity is designed to be used with teams. Additionally, there is an individual reflection component for individual accountability and to help the learning stick.

Weighing Pros and Cons

  • Materials: two-sided scale (or food scale), weights (consider fishing weights)

In this activity, students will make a decision by writing a pros and cons list and assigning a value to each item. Begin by brainstorming with your class some common life decisions that they may need to make in either their current or future experiences. For example, answers may vary from short-term to long-term decisions. Some answers may be choosing elective classes, joining a sports team, selecting a college and/or career, moving to a new place, partying with their friends the weekend before finals, or getting an after-school job. Use one of the simpler examples to conduct a discussion and model writing a pros and cons list. Assign values to each item on the list. Use the weights and scale to determine a final decision based on the list.

Place students into teams for the practice portion of this activity. Ask them to select three items from the class list or think of their own. They can then create a two-column chart and record pros and cons for each one. Next, they will work to reach consensus on a numeric value for each item (1, 2, or 3) based on importance. Then, they will use three different sized weights to represent those values and place them on the scale. Based on the results, they will identify their final decision. If you prefer not to use a scale and weights, this activity can also be done by assigning values and adding up the numbers in each column to accomplish the same result. Wrap up with an independent reflection on the decision-making process or a pros and cons list of their own for an upcoming life decision.

Analysis and Reflection

  • Materials: decision scenarios, reflection questions

In this activity, students will compare and reflect on the potential outcome of important ethical decisions. The goal is to help students understand the importance of evaluating decisions before they are made and reflecting on them afterward to determine next steps. Begin by placing students into teams and providing them with a set of decision scenarios. For example, a scenario may be as simple as ''June was one point away from a passing grade in her Social Studies class. The final exam was tomorrow, and she had not studied adequately. Her friend Monique offered to sit next to her during the test to help her out.''

Based on each scenario, ask students to identify the positives and negatives of each potential decision. After making this list, they can then reflect on what improvements or changes could be made going forward. Consider providing a list of reflection questions for added support, such as

  • What should June do before deciding whether to cheat?
  • What are some potential consequences of cheating?
  • What might be the outcome if June doesn't cheat?
  • How can June avoid this situation in the future?

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