Self-Esteem Activities for High School Students

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

High school is arguably the most formative time in a young person's development. Because of this, self-esteem is vitally important. This lesson provides teachers with classroom activities designed to build self-esteem in high school students.

Self-Esteem in High School

It seems as though nearly everyone has a high school nightmare story-- the one utterly embarrassing event that spawned a hated nickname or snarky yearbook comment. While these experiences may be unavoidable, a student with high self-esteem can weather the storm such experiences bring and come out smiling on the other side.

Strong self-esteem extends beyond the ability to take a joke or live down an unfortunate event. When a student has confidence, they can perform better academically and find healthy and fulfilling social relationships. The exercises in this lesson are intended to give your high schoolers the tools to develop and maintain an appropriate amount of self-esteem throughout their academic lives and beyond.

Anonymous Niceness

This activity encourages students to write something complimentary about a classmate.

  1. Divide students into teams of four (or three or five if needed).
  2. Assign each team a letter of the alphabet. (team A, team B, team C, etc.)
  3. Give each person in each team a number. (A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2 etc.)
  4. Hand out two index cards to each student and have the student write his or her assigned letter and number on the cards.
  5. Have students attach one of the cards to their foreheads with tape or string so that others can see it. At this point, each student should have one card on his or her forehead and one card in their hand. (For example, Jenny is student three in team B so she has one card on her forehead that reads B3 and another B3 card in her hand.)
  6. Collect the second card from the students and then randomly distribute the cards around the class. (Now Jenny is holding a card that reads C2.)
  7. Tell students to move around and locate the classmate whose card they hold and write one positive thing about that person on the back of the card. (Jenny looks around and finds the student with C2 on her forehead and writes a positive thing on the card.)
  8. After the first compliment is written, tell students to exchange cards and write a new positive comment. Repeat this process as many times as you'd like.
  9. Collect the cards and return them to the original student. (Now Jenny has her second B3 card back and can read the anonymous comments of her classmates.)

During the activity, encourage students to write specific, insightful comments, not just passing observations.

  • Good compliments
    • Your science presentation last week was really interesting.
    • Great goal yesterday in the soccer game.
    • I appreciate how much you help your classmates with math problems.
  • Poor compliments
    • You have nice hair.
    • I like your shoes.
    • You're funny.

As students move around the room, feel free to grab a few cards and write compliments of your own!

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