Self-Esteem Activities for Special Education Classrooms

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

This lesson will provide you with specific activities to use in the classroom that will improve self-esteem for students with special needs. The lesson includes activities for varying age ranges.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the value we see in ourselves. It is also how we think others see us, and what we think add to the world around us.

A positive, or high, self-esteem makes our students feel loved and accepted. This affects their academic success because they have a sense of security that they can and will succeed. Also, students with high self-esteem have better coping skills for dealing with change, the unexpected, and failures.

A negative, or low, self-esteem can make our students feel unworthy. These students do not have the confidence to take risks in school, i.e. volunteer or participate in class discussions. They generally keep a low profile. However, some students with low self-esteem can act out to deflect their negative self-feelings. This is why it is imperative to implement self-esteem activities for students with special needs.

Self-esteem activities for elementary school students with special needs:

Shields-Have students create paper shields (think medieval armor). The shields are a representation of a solution to a problem or fear they have in life. This is a great way to get a conversation started about what makes them feel anxious or bad about themselves.

'What is your shield protecting you from?'

'Why do you need a shield?'

You must identify the problems before you can create solutions.

Self-esteem activities for middle school students with special needs:

Create a Tree of Me-The end product can be displayed in the classroom as a constant reminder of why each child is unique and special.

Have each student draw a tree with bare branches. Next, have students draw and cut out leaves on construction paper. On each leaf, have each student write a positive attribute about themselves. The students will then glue the leaves to the tree.

Accommodations: Provide students with pre-made papers of a tree with bare branches, pre-cut leaves with or without words on them.

Self-esteem activities for high school students with special needs:

Student Interview- Divide students up into groups of two, and try to pair them with someone that they do not know very well. For students with more severe cognitive disabilities, create a list of questions they can use, or prompt them with questions throughout the activity. You can even teach a lesson on appropriate interview questions before the activity. After the interview session, the students will then introduce their partners to the class based on their interview questions and answers. This builds self-esteem for students because they get to share positives about themselves. The activity also helps them to develop the ability to speak in front of groups of people.

Depending on the cognitive and ability level of your students, these activities are appropriate for any grade level.

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