Overcoming Obstacles

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Lesson 1: Giving and Earning Respect


  • Students will identify people whom they respect and the reasons they respect them.

  • Students will define “respect.”

  • Students will analyze the concept of self-respect.

  • Students will evaluate their own levels of self-respect.


  • One dictionary (Parts II and III)

  • Folders, one for each student (Part III)  

  • Markers, old magazines, tape, and other art materials (Part III)


3 Minutes

Prompt students to think about the concept of respect by asking questions such as
the following:

  • What does it mean to disrespect somebody? (It means to be rude or to put them down.)
  • Imagine that you overhear someone talking about you, and the person is saying that she respects your opinion. How would this make you feel? (I’d feel proud, complimented, embarrassed.)

Write the following questions on the board: “Who do you think deserves respect? Why?” Explain to students that they will be able to answer these questions by the end of this class.

Part I: Whom Do You Respect?

15 Minutes

Purpose: Students explore the concept of respect by identifying people they respect and listing reasons why they respect them.

1. Students identify people they respect.

Ask students to consider and answer the first question you’ve written: “Who do you think deserves respect?” Note that their answers may include people they know personally or people they only know about (e.g., celebrities, athletes).

2. Students list and discuss the reasons why they respect these people.

Ask students to list the reasons why they respect these people. Encourage them to consider each person separately and to list the different reasons why they respect each one.

Invite volunteers to name one of the people they have listed and to explain the reasons why they respect that person. If students seem unwilling to volunteer, consider prompting them by first naming someone you respect, and listing the reasons why you respect that person.

Ask volunteers to write students’ responses on the board. After everyone has responded, ask the class to consider whether there are any people or reasons for respect that they would like to add.

3. Students evaluate their criteria for respect.

Briefly evaluate the list as a class. Invite volunteers to circle or draw stars next to those reasons for respect that they consider the most important. Facilitate a brief discussion about why students believe those reasons are the most important. Conclude with a brief summary of the discussion.

Part II: What Does It Mean?

15 Minutes

Purpose: Students will develop definitions of “respect” and “self-respect.”

1. Students develop a definition of respect.

Ask a volunteer to look up the definition of the word respect as it is given in the dictionary. If more than one definition is provided, ask students to decide which definition is most useful.

Ask the class to compare the dictionary definition of respect with the list they created on the board. Ask them whether they believe that the dictionary definition takes into account those characteristics they have listed on the board as reasons why people deserve respect.

As part of this discussion, ask students to consider whether friendship is listed on the board as a reason to respect someone. Lead students to conclude that a person may deserve respect even if they are not a friend.

Tell students to consider what they have discussed and listed on the board, and then create their own specific definitions of respect.

2. Students draw some conclusions about the concept of respect.

As a class, create a final definition of respect. Write this definition on the board. Explain that respect isn’t a concrete trait, like eye color, but more of a feeling that’s open to personal interpretation. Elicit from students that this is why individuals can create their own definitions of respect—it can mean something different to each person. Unlike eye color, which a person is born with and can’t change, respect is something a person can earn. Each person knows what it takes to earn respect, because they know what they respect in others.

3. Students consider the concept of self-respect.

Ask students to review the class definition of respect and to think about any other people who can be added to their lists. Prompt them to consider whether these people demonstrate the traits included in the definition of respect and, if so, whether these people should be added to their lists.

Explain again that if people know what they respect in a person, they know what traits they need to have in order to respect themselves. Tell students to think of it as a circle: If people respect themselves, it’s easier for them to be the kind of people they want to be. If they’re being the kind of people they want to be, it’s easier for them to respect themselves. (You may wish to draw a simple circle diagram on the board to illustrate this point.)

Finally, if individuals act like the kind of people they can respect—if they have self-respect—they will often find themselves respected by others.

Facilitate a discussion with the class about the difference between self-respect and bragging. Be sure students understand that thinking about their strengths isn’t bragging about them; it’s just considering the traits they have, like their eye color.

4. Students consider adding a respect rule to the class guidelines.

If class guidelines were developed during the previous module, ask students if they feel that the issue of respect should be addressed in the guidelines. If so, facilitate a brainstorming session to generate a respect rule that can be added to the guidelines (e.g., if you put someone down, you must say two positive things about that person).

Part III: This One Says

15 Minutes

Purpose: Students create folders decorated with descriptions of the personal traits that they believe make them worthy of respect.

1. Students listen to directions.

Distribute one folder to each student. Place markers, magazines, tape, and other art materials you may have in a central place.

As you give the following directions, demonstrate them by writing your own name on a folder and choosing a word for the first letter of your name:

  • Choose markers in colors you like, and write your name vertically down the left front side of the folder.
  • For each letter of your name, choose a word beginning with that letter that describes you in some way. Choose words that tell what your strengths are, what interests you, or what you value. You can cut words from magazines, look up words in the dictionary, or print the words in any way you like.
  • Draw a picture to decorate the back of your folder, or cut one out of a magazine. Choose any picture you like. Remember to choose a picture that says something about you.

2. Students create their folders.

Circulate the room while students are working. Discuss students’ word and picture choices, and show appreciation for individual efforts.

3. Students begin using their folders.

Tell students that they will be using their folders to collect their work during the course. Ask students to place in their folders the “Cloud Nine” activity sheet, which they completed during their work on the Getting Started module. If you wish to periodically review the folders for assessment purposes, explain this to students. Assure them that you will not share anything in their folders with anyone else.


3 Minutes

Ask students to define “respect” and “self-respect.” Have them explain how someone might earn their respect. Elicit from students the following key points that were taught in this lesson:

  • Respect can be earned.
  • If you know what traits you respect in other people, you know what traits you need to demonstrate in order to respect yourself.
  • People who respect themselves often find that others respect them for the same reasons.

Student Assessment

  1. Define “respect.”
  2. Name someone who has earned your respect. List three reasons why this
    person has earned your respect.
  3. Why is it important to respect yourself?

Extensions for Lesson 1: Giving and Earning Respect

Using Quotations

“The dignity the world awards you is in exact proportion to the dignity you award yourself.”

Ask volunteers to describe how self-respect can help an individual change the attitude of others.

Addressing Multiple Learning Styles

Have students write a radio announcement describing their most recent accomplishments (e.g., cleaning their room, passing a test). These announcements should be 75 words or less, be written in the third person, and include their names and congratulations. Have students trade papers and practice reading them out loud. Have students share a few each day before class, or start a schoolwide trend over the PA.

Writing in Your Journal

Have students choose a word or picture from their folders and write about an incident that supports this description of themselves. Have students share their stories with a partner. Tell them to brainstorm synonyms for the attributes discussed. (Students can list these synonyms on the inside of their folders.)

Using Technology

Play Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit “Respect.” Have students discuss whether the lyrics are still relevant today. Have students bring in songs that address the issue of respect. Have students compare and contrast their songs with Aretha Franklin’s song. Ask, “Which images are positive? Which are negative? How do they compare with the class definition of respect?”


Have students research and write reports on people who had confidence in themselves long before others believed in them. Help them come up with a list of possibilities (e.g., scientists with untraditional ideas, people who succeeded despite being stereotyped). Have students give oral reports on such people—with props or costumes, if desired—as if these were autobiographies.

Additional Resources

Read “Fill ’er Up” by Lindamichellebaron out loud, making sure that students understand the meanings of “ego,” “erupt,” and “corrupt.” Discuss the poem as a class.

Activity Sheets

Using Google Slides, you can customize every Overcoming Obstacles activity sheet in the Elementary, Middle, and High School levels.

Click on the button below to open a link to the Google Slides version of this activity sheet. In order to begin editing the file, you will first need to save a copy of the slide to your Google account. You can do this by selecting “File” and then “Make a Copy.”

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