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Teaching Self-esteem With Zero

by Kathryn Otoshi

Grades: 3-5

CASEL Standard: Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. 

Character Education Lesson Objective: To understand what self-esteem is and identify positive qualities about themselves as well as activities that provide positive feelings


Part 1:  

  • Have you ever looked at someone and wished that you were like them?  Many times, people want to be like someone else because they like something about the other person.  It could be they like the way the person behaves, they like the clothes that they are wearing or they like the way that person can do something.

  • There are many wonderful things about everyone.  It is important to know that you have wonderful qualities and be happy with yourself.

  • This is called self-esteem.  Having good self-esteem means that you feel good about yourself.  When you feel good about yourself, you will spend less time wishing that you were like someone else.

  • You are going to think of at least 5 qualities that you have that you really like about yourself.  Think about what makes you the proudest about yourself.  

  • After you made your list, you will have the chance to share what you wrote down.

  • As the students are sharing, engage them in conversation about the qualities that they wrote down and how you or the other students see those qualities.

Part 2:  

  • We are going to be reading a book called, Zero by Kathryn Otoshi.

  • Read the book.

  • At the beginning of the book, Zero did not feel good about herself.  She felt empty and did not see her worth.  Have you ever felt like that?  

  • Zero tried to change herself so that she was more like the other numbers, but it did not work.  Have you ever tried to change yourself to be someone you are not?  Why did you try to change?  Were you happy with yourself when you tried to change?

  • Seven helped remind Zero that, “it’s what’s inside that counts most.”  When Zero looked at herself in a more positive way, she realized that she did have value and she could count.

  • Everyone needs a Seven in their lives to help remind them that what is inside of them is what is most important.  

  • You already made a list of your best qualities.  It is important to always remember those qualities and remember that you have value.  

Part 3:  

  • Zero realized that she had value when she saw that she could count with the other numbers.  Zero felt really good about herself when she was doing something that she loved.

  • You are going to think about the things that you do that make you feel really good.  It might be listening to or playing music, playing a sport, building with Legos, doing a puzzle or reading or creating something.

  • You are going to write those things down in the middle of the Zero to show what makes you whole.

  • You are then going to share what makes you feel good.

  • As the students are sharing, engage them in a conversation about why some of those activities might make them feel good.  They might be really good at the activity and feel good about themselves or they might like to do something quiet because it recharges them.

  • Talk about how everyone is different, has different things that they are good at and different things that make them feel good.  

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Written by Kimberly Greacen, Education World® Contributing Writer

Kimberly is an educator with extensive experience in curriculum writing and developing instructional materials to align with Common Core State Standards and Bloom's Taxonomy.

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