Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

5 Ways Teachers Can Nurture Strengths in Students

5 Ways Teachers Can Nurture Strengths in Students

By Kathy Magnusson, M.Ed.

What if people were asked to work only on what they were good at doing?

What if schools asked children to do activities that they were able to successfully focus on because these activities brought them joy?

What if we asked students about what they want to improve in their learning?

These are powerful questions that help parents and educators discover students’ strengths. Knowing this can help children determine what activities will bring them the most success.

[info_box color=”blue” width=”100%” float=”left” text_align=”left”]”Strengths are a combination of talent (the natural way of thinking, feeling and believing), skills and knowledge”[/info_box]

However, if no one asks, then these strengths go underdeveloped. That’s where you, the teacher, come in. You have the power to help a student uncover their talents and then build up and reinforce those talents.

Here are five ways to discover and nurture strengths in your students.

1. Self-Directed Projects

Self-directed projects help students discover their interests and passions. One way to use this technique with students is to schedule a “Genius Hour,” the program many classrooms are now instituting.

The idea behind it is simple; you must meet three simple criteria:

  • Ask a driving question
  • Task the student with researching it
  • Find a way to share the learning with others

In the adult world, both Google and 3M have implemented a similar idea—a “20% of time” rule—for employees to work on their own projects. This rule has led to some major innovations like “Post It Notes,” which was developed by a 3M employee.

More: Use Genius Hour in Your Class

2. Play

Play helps students build their social skills and learn more about their strengths—kids will show preferences for what they want to play with and how they want to play with others. For example, some may enjoy a solitary game or want to play with a small group, while others like large group play.

“Play helps students build their social skills and learn more about their strengths—kids will show preferences for what they want to play with and how they want to play with others.”

Watching how your students play can tell you a lot about their strengths. Though Global School Play Day—the initiative that encourages schools to let children play more—just passed, you can still allow students to play in your classroom any day, allowing them to discover their many strengths.

3. Reading

Stories are a great way to get students to explore their strengths. One of my favorite books to read in class is Andrew Henry’s Meadow. The boy in the story is not recognized for his strengths by his family and finds a meadow where he can explore his talent for inventing.

When I read this book to classes, I ask students to identify Andrew Henry’s strengths and then have them draw or build a model house that would reflect their passions and talents.

Other stories can be used in the same way: Have a “Drop Everything And Read” (D.E.A.R) time during the day, allowing students to choose a book that they love. Use the same assignment as above to challenge them to identify their strengths.

 More: Encourage students to read more with Whooo’s Reading

4. Journals

Journals allow students to write and create. Unfortunately, journals are often used only for writing about teacher-assigned topics. However, giving students a choice over the topics they write about can be a great motivator and provides them with an opportunity to explore their learning styles.

Try “Wreck This Journal” or “100 Creative Ways to Journal,” both created by Keri Smith, and see how your students respond.

5. Sketch books

Similar to journals, sketchbooks can lend insight to a how a child learns and perceives the world around them. Everyone is creative and there is no right or wrong to art, especially to a child, which makes this a valuable strength-finding tool for teachers.

“There is no right or wrong to art, especially to a child, which makes this a valuable strength-finding tool for teachers.”

When my son was younger, he loved to draw. Now he doesn’t draw anymore because, along the way, his drawings were “corrected” by well meaning adults. Because of this, he now believes he’s not very good at art. But art cannot be done wrong.

The Tinkerlab has a wonderful Sketchbook Challenge that offers daily ideas for fun, low-stress ways to create art.

These activities help you discover student strengths. The following tips will help you nurture them.

– Make and record observations

– Be curious about your students

– Ask questions. For example, “What did you discover about yourself by doing this project?”

– Refrain from making judgment-based comments, like, “I really like the way you used that color.” Instead give students acknowledgment: “I notice you enjoy helping others when you’re playing.” Or: “When I see that it’s your turn to clean up the art supplies, you are very organized in putting the supplies away.”

– Create non-graded activities that infuse fun with learning.

Student strengths and talents are discovered and developed by the adults around them. Helping students discover their talents is a great way to boost engagement and confidence. Never miss that chance to let your students see their brilliance.

Nurture strengths of your students while raising money for your school with Learn2Earn.

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