Illustrative Examples of Units of Practice

Promoting Good Self-Esteem


As educators and parents, we know that children need good self-esteem and confidence in order to succeed and to lead happy and fulfilling lives. Research has shown that children who lack self-worth may have many academic and behavioural difficulties in the classroom. This may occur for a variety of reasons, especially in a society that thrives on competition. Learning and teaching activities described in this unit, focus on the development of self-esteem, cooperation in the classroom, and peaceful, happy educational and social environments. Organizationally, students will meet with and learn from a number of different teachers within the school. This series of activities is the basis for on-going work to develop positive and legitimate self-esteem within the context of peaceful, non-violent classrooms. These experiences continue to have impact on children's lives and are reported by students to be experiences they never forget.

Subject:Social Studies

Learning Levels: Grades P-3, 4-6

Author(s): Denise Gallupe


Ask your students to consider and to write down the answers to these questions:

  1. Do you think that what you have to say is important?
  2. Are you happy with the way you look?
  3. Do you have personal accomplishments?
  4. Do you question the loyalty of your friends?
  5. Are you afraid to learn new things?

If your students answered these questions with anything other than Yes, Yes, Yes, No, No in that order, it is important to develop students' self-worth and self-esteem. The following learning activities have worked well in my classroom and school.



Students in several classes may join together, rotating to different areas in the school to participate in a series of learning activities designed to be completed over four weeks (3 activities of 45 minutes each per week). The children go home feeling very good about themselves as a result of activities through which they identify personal problem solving strategies and practice their use. Students identify personal strengths and qualities which contribute to the peacefulness of their school. They envision the characteristics of peaceful environments and learn how their personal self-esteem and self-worth can contribute to the development of a peaceful and productive environment.

Many of the activities and tasks may be completed within the classroom. Students may need to leave the classroom to gain access to computer technology if it is not located within the classroom. If the whole school undertakes the unit simultaneously, teachers may prefer to set up workshop style sessions where the whole school rotates to different classrooms to complete the tasks. In this context, students register for workshops of their choice and move to various classrooms throughout the day. This arrangement encourages multi-grade and multi-age collaboration. You may want to begin and end a workshop day such as this with an assembly where students may activate prior knowledge, set their learning tasks, summarize their learning and debrief any issues which arise throughout the day.


1."Yes I Can" Posters -

Have the children think about a task with which they have difficulty, or a situation that creates anxiety for them.

Next they are to draw themselves doing the task or handling the anxious situation very well.

They may even want to draw themselves as an adult in a career linked with this task. You may use software as well as traditional drawing tools. For example: A student who finds expressing himself in writing difficult could draw picture of himself as an author surrounded by fans at a book signing session!

A student who had difficulty shooting goals in hockey might draw a picture of herself scoring a goal in a hockey game, or on a hockey card as a Professional Hockey Player!

Put these pictures on display for all to see. Discuss with individual students, or in small groups, have the students discuss how it would feel to be successful at the difficult task and what steps they could make to move toward success.

2. Write a Pledge - Have the students brainstorm examples of positive thinking situations and situations in which they have shown respect for others.

Discuss how they felt and thought when they thought positively when a negative thought might have been easier, or shown respect even though they disagree with someone.

Record the examples and how the students thought and felt on chart paper.

What were the common benefits of thinking positively and showing respect for others? Have the students write a few sentences that summarize their thinking.

As a class, write a pledge about positive thinking and showing respect which could be recited at the beginning of the day after the daily announcements. The students will understand and be proud of their pledge as they say it and confirm it each day in their treatment of each other.

The following is an example of a pledge written by my students:

"I promise to work hard all day and always try to do my best. I will show respect towards others, and help my classmates when I can. I am special and a very important member of this class!"

3. Peace Candle - The following activity, conducted regularly in my class, focuses students to identify the ways in which they have provided help and support to each other during the day and lived out their pledge. It provides a daily way for students to affirm themselves and their positive behaviours.

Have the students sit in a large circle on the floor. Play soft, background music to set a peaceful mood. Have the students think about what they did that day to help someone. A candle, made by the students, is given to one child who will start the reflective process by saying, " I am proud on myself because today I …" The candle is passed around the circle until everyone has had a turn.

An extension of this activity, which can be done at home, is found in the attached article "The Peace Candle". (Word format)

Children have create a candle for the circle from materials such as paper towel rolls, tissue paper and paper plate and decorated it with glitter to simulate dripping wax.

4. Mirror Bragging -Take a full-length mirror and look intently into it for a few moments as the children watch. Suddenly start to brag about how good you look using many adjectives. (Ham it up as much as you can - humour makes this activity very enjoyable!) Next start bragging about personality traits, ways you help your students, colleagues, awards you've received… It is important that you model this first as an icebreaker for the children.

Next, each student takes a mirror and goes to a place somewhere in the classroom or surrounding area where no one else can hear them. They have fun "bragging" about themselves. If you notice a student who is quiet and hesitant to do this activity, you may wander over, take the mirror from their hand, stand beside them and make complimentary comments about them to get them started. As an extension activity, ask students to write in their journals, what they were saying in the mirror.

Articulating legitimate positive traits and accomplishments supports students to connect those accomplishments to their growing sense of identify and self-worth.

5. Understanding and Accepting Differences

Read "Leo the Late Bloomer" by Jose Arguego and Robert Kraus, an appropriate resource for lower elementary grades. Have a class discussion to answer these questions orally in a large group. Extend the experience and reflection by asking students to respond to the key events and feelings expressed in the story in a Literature Response Log.

6. Accepting a Personal Challenge

Read "Jeremiah Learns to Read" by Jo Ellen Bogart, Laura Fernandez and Rick Jacobson.

Have a class discussion about the importance to Jeremiah of learning to read. Why is it important for all of us to learn how to read?

Why it is never too late in life to learn something new?

The students can respond individually as well as in their response logs concerning their own challenges as readers, their interests, and the benefits they enjoy as they learn to read.

7. The Value of Diversity

Create a Flower Garden Art Activity - This activity is adapted from one of my favourite classroom books, "Peace in the Classroom," by Hetty Adams.

Put the students in heterogeneous groups of 4 or 5.

Give some groups only yellow construction paper and a large piece of Bristol board, scissors and glue.

Give other groups a large variety of colours of construction paper and a large piece of Bristol board, scissors and glue.

Have each group create a poster "Flower Garden" with as much variety as is possible with the materials available.

In your group, discuss how your group can create a garden with a variety of interest with only the materials at hand?

After all groups have completed this task, have students come together in a large group to view all of the posters on display.

Have a discussion asking these questions:

  1. In what ways did each group create variety in the Flower Garden?
  2. Where did the ideas for the kinds of variety come from?
  3. How does variety contribute to the interest of the garden?
  4. In what ways is a garden of variety similar to a classroom of people with a variety of personalities and interests?
  5. What was the advantage of having a variety of materials to work with?
  6. What was the advantage of having a variety of ideas from people in your group when you had limited materials?
  7. How do a variety of materials and ideas for making a Flower Garden make a garden more interesting?
  8. How does having a variety of student talents and ideas help in making the Flower Garden with a variety of interest?
  9. If you were to build a second Flower Garden, what could you do differently, now that you have seen the variety of ideas each group used?
  10. What did you learn from creating a Flower Garden about respecting a variety of people's ideas and contributions?
  11. If you had anther task where you needed to make something creative but only had a few materials to work with, what would be the advantages of working with people who do not have all the same ideas or skills or interests as yourself?
  12. Wouldn't it be boring if we all looked the same, had the same personalities, and had the same talents…?
  13. Why is it important to respect each other's individual differences?

You may then want to extend this activity by having the children write about what they learned by doing this activity.

8. "Wonderful Me" T-shirts - In this activity students create individualized T shirts for each other which make a positive statement about the individual.

Using a webbing technique, the children take turns writing a short compliment, or a one-word adjective to describe a classmate.

Each child's name is put in large block letters on a t-shirt using fabric paint, fabric crayons, permanent markers, or tole paints; or by using iron on designs, at a series of classroom work stations.

A safe workstation with direct adult supervision may be required for each workstation. Depending upon the age of the children, the use of the iron might need to be restricted to an adult.

Students love their T shirts and the fact that they were hand created especially for them by a classmate.

9. Responding to Inspirational Music

Listen to the songs, "Greatest Love Of All" sung by Whitney Houston, "Imagine," sung by John Lennon, or other inspiring songs. Have the children close their eyes, relax, and internalize the lyrics. Afterward, they may create an illustration or image which explains what the song meant to them. Other students want wish torespond in writing to the songs.

10. Good Sportsmanship

Have a discussion about "good sportsmanship" and healthy competitiveness. Ask the children questions such as these:

The children may write about what they learned from this discussion afterwards.

11. Problem Cards - Write problems on large index cards.

In groups of 4-5, the students identify real problems which students their age experience. They select one problem and discuss it for 20 minutes to come up with possible, appropriate solutions.

Have each group present its problem and discuss how it came up with the possible solutions.

Which solutions will likely work, and why?

What other suggestions can the whole class make to solve the problem?

If the problem is one which is experienced by the children in this class, how will they put the solution into place and monitor the results?

Example Problem Card:

Gerald is a new student in your class who comes to school everyday wearing torn and dirty clothes that are not "in style". Your best friend is continually laughing at him and calling him names. You feel very uncomfortable about this. What could you do?


A variety of small group learning arrangements are used, including Think-Pair-Share, small group and whole class discussion and problem solving. Student reflection is supported through discussion and response logs.


The actual evaluation of this UOP will be an ongoing process of teacher observation of student behaviours regarding overall confidence level, willingness to contribute to class discussions, improved behaviour in class, ability to focus on their work, and enthusiasm to try new tasks. Assessment will also include monitoring their ability to cooperate in small and large group situations when doing project work.


1. "Yes I Can" Posters - variety of art materials including crayons, plain white paper, Bristol or ticket board, paint, water containers, paint brushes, construction paper, pastels, KidPix or other software programs available for drawing, computer, printer.

2. Write a Pledge - Chart paper and stand, markers.

3. The Peace Candle - Paper towels rolls, (one for each student), tissue paper (various colours), small paper plates (one for each student), glue, glitter, stickers, construction paper, scissors.

4. Mirror Bragging - One full-length mirror, small hand mirrors (one for each student), journals, pencils.

5. Understanding and Accepting Differences "Leo the Late Bloomer"- book by Jose Arguego, Robert Kraus, pencils, response logs.

6. Accepting a Personal Challenge "Jeremiah Learns to Read" - book by Jo Ellen Bogart, Laura Fernandez, Rick Jacobson, pencils, response logs.

7. The Value of Diversity

Flower Garden Art Activity - 4-5 sheets of large white bristle board, coloured construction paper, scissors, glue, pencils, paper.

8. "Wonderful Me" T-shirts - Plain white t-shirts (one for each student), iron, ironing board, fabric crayons, fabric paint, tole paints, permanent markers.

9. League of Peaceful School website - Computer, Internet.

Refer to the website for support and ideas to assist you with difficulties you may be experiencing with conflict resolution. Their Vision - The League of Peaceful Schools embraces the hope that our young people will grow up experiencing less violence (intimidation, harassment, discrimination, sexism, racism, classism) and, as a result, be empowered to undertake greater civic responsibility. Thus, our young people will have enhanced opportunities to achieve their potential and grow in appreciation of the richness and fulfillment of fostering caring human relationships and respect for the environment.

10. Responding to Inspirational Music

Song "Greatest Love of All" sung by Whitney Houston, song "Imagine," sung by John Lennon. Pencil, paper, crayons, markers.

11. Computer, Internet.

10. Relaxation Techniques -

Refer to the website of the League of Peaceful Schools (see below) for ideas on relaxation techniques. Scroll down to find these. It is important to realize that everyone experiences stress, even children!

12. Paper, pencil, computer, word processing software such as Writing Centre, Wiggleworks, Microsoft Publisher . . .

13. Problem Cards - Large index cards, pen or markers.


League of Peaceful School website

Relaxation Techniques - Refer to the website

for ideas on relaxation techniques


The Peace Candle ( a pdf document)