Encourage self-esteem by teaching students to look at their unique qualities and how they are physically and emotionally changing in a positive light.
- Write an analysis of cultural and media influences that affect body image
- Self-assess how they feel about their own body image and how this affects their self-esteem
- Be able to describe and share how they can help others think about their bodies in positive ways
- Popular magazines
- Poster board, two pieces per small group
- Family pictures
- Journal notebooks or writing paper
- Optional: Computers with web and printer access
Before teaching the lesson, ask students to bring in a few photos of their families and friends. Tell students that they will be making a collage with the photos, so they should be extra copies that do not need to be returned.
Step 1: Ask students if they ever compare themselves to other kids at school or famous people, such as actors, models, etc.
Step 2: Have students answer one or more of the following questions in their journals:
- Have you ever made yourself feel bad by comparing yourself with others? Is it good to compare yourself with others? Why not?
- What can happen when you compare yourself with others?
- Can we be too critical of our appearance or body image? What happens when we do that? Provide examples.
- Can self-criticism sometimes be good for us? How? Provide examples.
- How do we know when we've crossed the line and are being too hard on ourselves?
Step 3: Break students into small groups and ask them to discuss what real people look like. As students are discussing, distribute magazines, glue, scissors, and one piece of poster board to each group.
Step 4: Have students go through the magazines and cut out pictures of teenagers and celebrities. Each group should create a collage with the images by gluing them to the poster board.
Optional: You can also have students search for images on the web and print them out for this collage.
Step 5: Ask students to take out their family and friends photos. Tell the groups that now they will create a separate collage of real people. Distribute a second piece of poster board to each group and have them glue their photos in a collage.
Step 6: As a class, compare the two sets of collages and discuss what students see. Emphasize the ways the media influences the way we view people and their bodies, both by pressuring celebrities to be thin and beautiful and by photoshopping and airbrushing photos to create specific (and often unattainable) appearances. Ask students: What can you do to change the way you feel about how a real teen should look?
Step 7: Tell students that their bodies are likely to change a lot over the next few years. Sometimes they won't feel very comfortable about the changes. Comparing themselves with others is natural, but they should remember that body image is how we choose to see our own bodies. Recall the previous lessons by reminding students that their self-esteem is how much they like themselves as a person. If they see their bodies in a healthy way, are comfortable with their physical appearance, and value themselves as a person, they will have both a positive body image and high self-esteem. Students should accept themselves for who they are!
Step 8: Have students make a list of at least three things they like about their bodies. Then have them write a paragraph about how they feel about what they have listed. Have them brainstorm two ways they will remind themselves of their list whenever they are feeling unsure about their body.
Step 9: Assign the following for homework:
Your best friend is crying because someone told her she was overweight. What suggestions would you give your friend?
Have students work in groups or pairs to write a poem or a song advocating positive self-esteem and avoiding dangerous behaviors as a result of poor body image. Encourage students to be as creative as possible. Have volunteers read or perform their work when they are finished.
Have students ask members of their families if they ever felt bad about their bodies or their appearance. If so, how did they handle it or what did they do about it?
- Reflect on their own body image
- Create collages that compare celebrities and photos of them to photos of real people
- Brainstorm things they like about their bodies and ways to remind themselves of those things
Did this lesson help students feel better about themselves?