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Teaching Strategies to Help Middle Schoolers Feel Good

Janelle Cox

There’s no denying that middle school can be a difficult time in your life. We’ve all been there and know how hard it can be to make new friends, keep good grades, and think positively. Today’s middle schoolers are no different than we were, expect for the fact that there’s social media, which can give children an unrealistic view of what they think they should look like or be. Today’s research shows that tweens and teens are experiencing more anxiety than ever because of these unrealistic standards. As teachers, we have the opportunity to use teaching strategies to help our middle schoolers learn positive self-esteem. Here are a few science-backed teaching strategies to help middle schoolers feel good about themselves so they can have more positive social relationships.

Teaching Strategies to Get Students Up and Moving

Recent studies show there is a correlation between physical activity and improved self-esteem in children. Encourage before- and after-school intermural sports, as well as joining the school’s sports teams. Make physical activity and movement a part of your lessons. Students can start and end class with a movement activity, or offer a brain break in the middle of class. Implement activities that involve students moving. For example, students can go on a gallery walk to learn or review concepts. This is where they move about in the room as they learn. Any type of physical activity will not only help your students feel good about themselves, but it’ll also help their minds as well.

Teach Self-Compassion

Adolescence is a time of change and, sometimes, a time of struggle. The one thing middle schoolers do best is they tend to compare themselves to others. However, when you have self-compassion and are OK with yourself and any flaws that you may have, then you’ll be less likely to compare yourself to others and feel good about yourself. To help students feel good about themselves, you can integrate the principles of the Making Friends with Yourself Program. Those who’ve participated reported less depression and greater resilience.

Avoid Any Comparisons

Middle schoolers will compare themselves to others whether they are on social media or they aren’t. However, social media doesn’t help any, especially since it’s been linked to depression and anxiety in teens. Teachers are also to blame when it comes to comparisons, just look at how you group students, grade students, or label them. If you’re looking to build up your students’ self-esteem, then try and avoid comparisons at all costs. Keep grading private, avoid grouping by ability (believe me, your students know), and focus on your students’ growth and achievements. The less students are compared to others, the better.

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Cultivate Students’ Strengths

One of the best ways that you can increase your students’ self-esteem is by playing up their strengths. There are a few ways that you can do this. First, you can give them a Multiple intelligence Test to see how they learn best. Next, you can have them take a character survey to help identify their strengths. Lastly, you can take the information that you’ve learned about the students and apply it to your curriculum. By cultivating and supporting your students’ strengths and interests, you are increasing their self-esteem.

Create Volunteer Opportunities

Research shows that helping strangers may just help a teen’s self-esteem. One study found that children ages 11-14 reported having a higher self-esteem when being kind and helpful to others. The study also found that children who helped strangers reported having higher self-worth up to one year later than those who were just kind to family and friends. In fact, volunteering may be just the thing to help boost your students’ self-confidence and make them feel good about themselves. Studies show it helps to prevent depression and loneliness as well as lessen anxiety. Try and create as many volunteer opportunities for your students as you can, they will greatly benefit from it.

Many middle schoolers struggle, and that’s OK. It’s just important to give these children the tools to help them get through it.

What are your thoughts on these teaching strategies? Please feel free to leave a comment in the section below, we’d love to hear from you. 


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.