Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Strengths Finder 2.0 for High School Students

After doing personal growth literature circles with my juniors, I realized the impact this type of book has on their lives. With just over a month left in the school year, I went to Barnes and Noble looking for a quick read aloud I could use for the rest of the year. One of the employees suggested I look at Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

In this book are the 34 most common human strengths/traits. The book challenges the reader to focus on their strengths instead of spending all of their time and energy on their weaknesses. I also explained to the students that one of the most common interview questions they will hear is, "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" We decided that if the students could do a personal reflection on these 34 characteristics, they would have a really great answer for that question when the time comes.

So, I created a Google spreadsheet listing the 34 traits. Every day I read the descriptions of two of the strengths out loud. In their spreadsheet, students reflected on the following columns: Yes, that's me...No, I don't...Maybe this is me....Someone I know that fits this description...Ideas for action. We discussed the qualities of each strength and students took notes in these columns while I read. (This took about 10 minutes at the start of class.)

After we reflected on each of the strengths, I had the students go through their notes and pick their top 5 strengths. Before they settled on their top 5 for sure, I separated them into random groups of their peers and they discussed the strengths each of them had chosen and whether they saw those strengths in each other and if they would have chosen different strengths to fit them.

Then I gave them the essay they would be writing for their final exam. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yPYaSxTgtThXryJ_7tCdsxV7h8jRd5Ua1uaBIq4Qg7Y/edit?usp=sharing

Students could organize their essay in any way they saw fit to hit all of the requirements. I have never enjoyed reading essays more than I did for this assignment. Every student poured their heart into this piece. And of my 75 juniors, none of them had exactly the same five strengths. This was such an eye-opening experience not only for my students, but also for me. I did this exercise with them and found it so beneficial for my own personal growth. I am encouraging our entire staff to do the same. (A lot of students picked staff members they thought had the same strengths as them!)

And because this was a final exam, I didn't see the students after I graded them. So, this was a great way for me to email them as a final wrap-up for the class and to give them feedback on this powerful piece.


Updated July 7, 2018

I often receive 30-40 graduation open house invitations. It is not possible for me to attend all of them, but I do love that students think enough of me to want me to come to their open house, so I want to give them something special. This year, I pulled out all of the final exams I had saved from last year. I created a mini canvas for each student, writing their top 5 strengths on the canvas with their name. I gave them a little easel so they could display those strengths when they either go to college or start a new job. I gave them back the copy of the essay they wrote for me the year before so they could remember why these were their strengths. I then reminded them in a card to never forget their strengths and to continue to build upon them.