"Why I Matter" Boosting Student Self Esteem

“Why I Matter”- building Student Self-Esteem

Somewhere between the optimism of January’s “fresh start” and the excitement of getting out of school for Spring Break, there is a sneaky joy thief that needles its way into your classroom. That’s right, people. I’m talking about the “winter blues”.

A dreary, gray winter day.

Cold temperatures and a lack of sun on too many gray, dreary days on end leave many people feeling really down. I always struggle during January and February and count down the days till March 1st. It’s like some magical date that instantly fixes me (and psychologically, it kind of does).

I also noticed it wasn’t just me, but my kids seemed down as well. They were a little less patient with each other and a little quicker to snap at each other. In need of a boost of sunshine? We all were!

For many years, this “sunshine” came in the form of a special Valentine’s Day activity. A self-esteem boost I called “Warm Fuzzies”. Really, it was a simple piece of construction paper, but it sure did the trick!

In honor of years of smiling students happily reading their “Warm Fuzzies”, I am sharing this activity with you! You can do this Teacher Sparkle-inspired activity with your students any time of the year! I hope it brings you and your students all the joy it brought me and my former students!

How to Begin “Why I Matter” (AKA- “Warm Fuzzies”)

This activity was used with 4th and 5th graders but could work in 3rd as well. K- 2nd could do a modified version that I will explain later.

Colored paper and pens for a student encouragement activity.

To begin, give students a piece of colored construction paper (lighter colors work best) and a colored pen or pencil (darker colors work best).

Gather students together to sit in a circle, spreading out to give each other room to work.

You want to discourage chatting during the writing, but still keep everyone close enough that they can pass papers to each other without having to get up.

Ask students to write their name in the middle of the paper and explain that we will be writing a kind and thoughtful comment about each student in the class. 

I model a few examples of appropriate comments and remind them that we will all be seeing what is written, so make sure comments are kind- not embarrassing.

Examples of compliments for student self esteem activity.

We even brainstorm ideas together as a class and write ideas on the board to refer back to later. This helps students who might struggle to come up with a compliment for another student they may not know well.

I also encourage students to use more than one word, be specific, and be honest.

We save the joking around for later though, as written words don’t always come across the way you mean for them to!

Pass It On!

Each student will take their paper and pass it to the person to their left, then write a comment about the person whose name is on the heart they now currently have. Students will need between 1-2 minutes to write, just keep an eye out for how fast or slow to go based on when students stop writing.  

Boy writing compliments on a friend's paper during a student self esteem activity.

When students have finished their first comment, call “Pass!” or some other cuter signal word (ha!). Students will again pass their paper to the person to their left, writing a comment on the new paper they just received.

Students tend to get hung up on spelling, but I just tell them (for this particular activity) to do the best they can and focus on the kind comment itself rather than spelling.

If you have students who physically struggle to write, sit next to them (for quick access to help- you may need to transcribe what they whisper dictate). You could also ask another staff member or volunteer to join if you anticipate that certain students will need help.

It’s ok if a student isn’t quite finished writing and keeps their paper for a little longer while everyone else has already passed on. Sometimes, students take longer to write on their BFF’s paper than on someone’s they don’t know well and will catch up. The point is not to stress, but to have fun.

“Why I Matter” makes a difference!

Students will continue this pass-write-pass pattern until they get their paper back, where it will be filled with kind comments from their classmates! *cue the tears*

Paper signed by students giving compliments to their teacher.

Definitely allow at least 5- 10 minutes for students to read over their papers and enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling that these compliments bring!

I still have “Warm Fuzzies” that my classes and I did together many years ago… and yes, I AM that sentimental (or a hoarder… whatever…).

Every time I break those papers out and read them again, even though it’s been many years later, it brings a tear to my eye (or several minutes of ugly crying… whatever…).

Find your Favorite!

Once your students have read their papers, tell them to draw a heart or circle around their favorite compliment. Give each student the opportunity to read their favorite aloud to the class.  

Some kids will not want to share, and that’s ok! I have seen my students literally cry because they were so overcome by what their classmates said (me too, kiddo! *sniff*), so I always make it optional and move on quickly to the next student.

Girl smiling because her classmates boosted her self esteem with kind compliments.

When everyone who wants to share is finished, tell your students to take this paper home. They can hang it up in their bedroom like a mini-poster to read every day or when they feel down.

I know you may not believe this, but many actually do!

Months after we did this activity, kids would come up to me saying, “Remember my Warm Fuzzy? It’s still on my wall!” *happy teacher sigh*

“Why I Matter” is for Younger Kids too!

For K-2nd grade students, modify this activity by brainstorming and posting a list of adjectives to choose from. Students can copy “compliments” from the list or skip the paper passing altogether.

Give each student a chance to sit in the “Compliment Chair”. Classmates say out loud what they like about that student while you (or another adult) write down what is said. It’s the basic idea of the kind compliments that makes this activity special. Just do what works best for your students.

Everyone Benefits from “Why I Matter”!

This activity never failed to be a special time! Students felt loved and appreciated for all the things that were said about them! Parents even called and wrote notes thanking me for this because their child loved their compliments so much. It truly was the warmth we needed to thaw the chill that had settled over us. This activity brought us all back together- even closer than before.

Materials found in the "Why I Matter" Resource on TPT.

To help you do this activity with your students, I added an updated version in my TPT Store! The “Why I Matter” Student Self-Esteem Activity and Bulletin Board Set comes with a heart template for students to write compliments on.

Also included are “Why I Matter” writing pages with various line spacing for student differentiation.  

A printable bulletin board set allows students to display their “Why I Matter” papers! Everyone can see why they are so special!

Regardless of how you choose to do this, your students sharing kind compliments is an activity bursting with Teacher Sparkle! I promise it will not only improve the self-esteem of your students, but it will warm your heart as well! So little effort for such a huge reward truly makes the time it takes to do this activity TOTALLY worth it!

Pin This Student Encouragement Idea

Save this post to your favorite Teaching Pinterest Board so that you can encourage your students any time they need a boost of self-confidence! Sometimes, students need to be reminded that they are important.

Pinterest Pin "Why I Matter" Student Self Esteem Activity

If you have any questions or want to bounce any ideas off a colleague, I’m here for you! Teacher Sparkle always grows when it has other Teacher Sparkle to share in the excitement!


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