Alternate Ending: Personal History

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Strengths-based choices make a difference


Students will analyze their personal response to a life challenge

Students will identify which character strengths they utilized to overcome challenge

This activity walks students through a flowchart that helps them reflect upon their own proactive choices and responses to challenge, as well as consider how it could have ended differently. Students are asked to infer traits that they exhibited in those responses. Then, students think through an alternate response that they could have chosen based on contrasting characteristics.

Through the process of analyzing their own choices and responses to challenging situations, students should be able to identify which qualities contributed to their successful outcome.

Alternate Ending Handout (one per student)

Student-generated Leadership Qualities list from a previous session   OR   Leadership Qualities Handout  (several copies for the group or displayed)

1. Post the class Leaders Are chart from a previous session, OR post or printout the Leadership Qualities handout for students to use as a resource during this lesson.

2. Explain to the class that this activity will help them to think of how they have responded to challenges in the past.

3. Pass out the Alternate Ending handout.

4. Begin by asking students to think about a challenge that they have encountered that they responded to well—something that they are proud of.

5. The teacher should prepare to share one of his/her own personal examples of a challenge as a model for the activity along with the students.

6. Walk the students through the flowchart in this order…

• WHAT WAS YOUR CHALLENGE: Model for the students a life challenge that you overcame well. Write a short description of your challenge in the appropriate box. This could be something like “Mother became ill” or “Lost a job” .

Once you share your example, ask students to write in their own personal challenge on their handout.

• HOW DID YOU RESPOND TO THE CHALLENGE: Model for the students how you responded to your personal challenge. Write a short description in the appropriate box.
This could be something like “Visited her 3x a week, organized other family members visiting hours, and made sure she was eating healthy” or “Set a schedule to job search for an hour a day, picked up a shift at my daughter’s school”.

Ask students to write in their own personal example on their handout.

• CHARACTERISTICS: Model for the students the 3 positive traits that you used in your response to challenge. This could be something like “Patience, Optimism, Dedication”. Write your examples in the characteristics box.

Ask students to write in their own personal examples—point out the Leadership Qualities list as a resource for students to find characteristics that speak to their actions.

• OPPOSITE CHARACTERISTICS: Contrast three opposite characteristics that you could have used in an alternate reality. These should be the negative alternates to your three positive characteristics. Something like “Anger, Blaming, Unresponsive”.

Ask students to write in their own examples. Emphasize that this is an imaginary exercise. They are thinking in an alternate universe for the next section of the flowchart.

• RESPONSE WITH OPPOSITE CHARACTERISTICS: Create a hypothetical reaction that could have happened from those traits. Infer how you could have responded, if you were to use the opposite characteristics that you listed. This might be something like “Blamed my family for not doing more” or “eat ice-cream and complain to my friends”.

Write your example in, and have students fill in their own chart.

• NEW OUTCOME WITH OPPOSITE CHARACTERISTICS: Inferring from your imaginary response, write in the fictional outcome of the challenge. This might be “My family and I grew resentful of each other” or “I did not spend time applying for new jobs or networking and suffered financially”.

Ask students to write in their own example.

Invite students to pair-share their Alternate Ending map with a friend.

1. You should walk through the alternate ending organizer yourself—before the session--to come up with a personal example that you can share with your group.

2. Consider sketching out the Alternate Ending graphic organizer onto the whiteboard to guide students through the sheet.

3. Before students engage in this activity, it may be helpful to brief them about how this will be shared, if at all. Decide whether or not you would like to require your students to share the results of this activity. It may provide powerful moments of depth that lead to accountability and trust-building among your group. However, be cognizant of sustaining a safe atmosphere among your group. Students may not be ready to share at this level.

1. Invite students to share their map, if they would like to. Acknowledge the choices they each made to respond positively to a life challenge.

2. Celebrate student’s proud moments of overcoming a challenge with a tasty treat and a celebratory feel! Emphasize the skills and strengths that each student brings to difficult times.