Saturday, May 22, 2010

Self-Esteem Comes First - Drawing the Inside Out..

We've long known that when students feel good about themselves, they are much more likely to become better achievers in the classroom. Fostering can do attitudes and building students' confidence by setting them up for success and providing positive feedback along with frequent praise are essential tools for both teachers and parents.

Think about yourself, the more confident you feel, the better you feel about the task at hand and your ability to do it. When a child is feeling good about themselves, it's much easier to motivate them to become more confident learners in the classroom.
A good starting point to approach the issue of self esteem with a struggling learner is to ask them to draw a picture of how the feel about their learning. I did this recently with some of my students. The idea of drawing "feelings" can often be a hard one for children to grasp, especially with a concept such as learning. However, after some initial chat they really began to offer ideas about what image could be used to show a feeling.
As you would expect, some of the images in the drawings of children who find learning a real struggle are quite negative. The images I was really interested in though were those depicting some positive feelings that the children had about their learning. 

We use many different types of assessment throughout a child's school life to gauge where they are now and what the next learning steps will be. Although this offers an important insight into progress, occasionally, something as simple as getting a child to draw their feelings provides a whole host of starting points from which to tackle the very important issue of their self esteem.
Have a look at their drawings below. The positive images are often hard to spot but the reassuring thing is that they are there. It is often through a simple task like this that it is possible to find the best place from which to start building up that child's self-esteem. Learning at school often feels like a massive slog for children that struggle. If we, as parents and teachers, are able to identify a starting point (no matter how small) from something that the child themselves has produced, we are on our way to helping that child succeed.
(Click on picture to see a bigger image)

When this picture was explained to me the child concerned said that "my learning feels like a huge tidal wave coming after me, my feet are tied to the ground and I can't get away. There is always a big black cloud above me that follows me around"
The positive images are the child surfing the tidal wave in the sunshine as they feel that sport is something they are on top of that makes them feel good about themselves. The person on the cloud represents the extra support that they get from their teachers to help overcome the difficulties.

In this drawing the child has represented feelings of frustration about writing with a figure sat with its back to us surrounded by sharp red lines. Below this is an image of a person with steam pouring from its ears (an image that was repeated many times in different students pictures) 
Reading and sport are something that this child felt in control of and so are surrounded with curved blue lines. Drawing seems to be a strength too!

This student explained "I love to learn but I am not always good at it and that makes my heart sad." There is a little figure saying "omg", (oh my goodness!!) and this is how they feel about much of what was asked of them at school. There is a jail with a figure trapped inside "I feel trapped when I don't understand something." The purple rainbow is the starting point for raising self esteem here. This represents how this student feels about learning on their good days. They have a very positive outlook despite finding reading and writing difficult. It is this aspect of their attitude to learning that makes providing support easy and one which makes them a wonderful student to have.

This picture depicts how a  student  feels when everything seems to be against them. "Things go in one ear and come out all muddled up. When I don't understand I get really angry. I don't know how to stop being angry and things get worse"
Here we see the steam coming out of the ears again and very angry and worried expressions on the faces drawn. The images of a knife through a heart and a tiny figure holding a huge gun represents how this student feels about being asked to do things that they don't want to do. When we spoke about this it was really focussed on writing. The green field represents sport and the rainbow and sunshine how this student feels about their reading. Again, here are our starting points to begin to raising self esteem. If we can get the student feeling even more positive in these areas we are then much better placed to move on and tackle those problematic issues around learning.

Before we can begin to deal with any issues around learning, raising self esteem must come first...


  1. What a fantastic insightful activity. I totally agree; self esteem and confidence is so important for success. Success in one area often leads to success in others.

  2. Excellent blog. It is the sort of thing that every parent could read once a month as a reminder of the differences between cause and effect. The drawing was a great way to link these and allow the children to talk in a constructive, objective, and 3rd-person way about the situation.