Asset-Building Ideas for Teachers

To teach is to touch a life forever. Teachers have the potential to be powerful asset builders. In addition to the Commitment-to-Learning assets (21–25), five other assets (3: Other Adult Relationships; 5: Caring School Climate; 8: Youth as Resources; 12: School Boundaries; and 14: Adult Role Models) focus on the important role of a teacher. Below are some suggestions for what teachers can do to build assets. These suggestions are intended to give you some ideas for how to get started. They may need to be modified or adapted depending on the grade you teach; whether you are a classroom teacher, specialist, or resource teacher; and the nature of your school environment.

Post the list of assets in your classroom.

Devote a bulletin board in your classroom to asset-building messages.

If your community has an asset-building initiative, get involved.

Train all volunteers and support staff you work with to use the asset framework.

Plan asset-building learning activities as part of the curriculum (for example, servicelearning projects, social skills training,or setting aside time to read for pleasure).

Put an asset-building message on your computer screen saver. One school usedthe slogan, “Wrap Your Arms around CherryCreek Kids . . . Build Assets!”

Greet students by name when you see them.

Send a letter to parents about the idea of asset building, and then use assets asspringboards for discussions in conferenceswith parents and students.

Meet with other teachers and brainstorm ways to help students succeed. Aschool in Wisconsin set up DATES(Developing Assets to Encourage Success)meetings that are designed to help studentswho are struggling academically.

Encourage access to at least one caring adult for each student in the building. Homerooms can facilitate this.

Provide asset-building resources for parents.

Teach students about the 40 assets and help them set goals for assets they want to develop (two resources for this are Me@My Best and Take It to the Next Level, publishedby Search Institute).

Provide opportunities for service learning. Help students plan and makedecisions about providing service to others.

Empower students by encouraging them to tell their stories through written and visual autobiographies.

Work with students to set school boundaries or rules. Post a written set of the rulesin conspicuous places: hallways, classrooms,the lunchroom, the gymnasium, andother common areas. Create copies of therules and have an agreement form for studentsand parents to sign, indicating theirwillingness to stay within the boundaries.

Set high and clear expectations for student behavior and learning outcomes.

Create visual symbols of assets. For example, cooperative murals can show the importance of working together to strengthen the community. Art students can create self-portraits that reflect their assets.

Thank other teachers, staff, and students when you catch them building assets.

Demonstrate sensitivity with respect to student involvement in extracurricular activities. Some teachers make it a practice to always allow at least two nights for studentsto complete assignments.

Read biographies or view films about musicians and other artists. Discuss theassets students see in these people’s lives.

Discuss current music, movies, or arts and entertainment and the messages they send. Do they build assets or not?

Discuss the assets of characters in stories, history lessons, and current events. For example, when studying Romeo andJuliet, talk about how asset deficits can leadto tragedies. Change the tale by buildingassets for the two main characters.

Use assets as the focus for assignments.

Choose a quote of the day with an asset focus and ask students to talk about it.

Introduce students to Web sites that have asset-building themes.

Read biographies of people who have realized their dreams. Talk about theassets that helped those people succeed.

Ask students to gather information about their heroes—famous or not. Thenhave small-group or class discussions aboutwhat values these heroes seem to have andhow those values guide who they are andwhat they do.

As a class, create a list of shared values. See the Positive-Values assets (26–31) as aplace to start. Talk about what it takes touphold these values. Set boundaries andexpectations based on these values.

Provide a process in the classroom for mutual goal setting and evaluation. Sucha process empowers students and activelyengages their learning.

Encourage planning through the use of student agendas and calendars.

Use resources in your community to help teach Cultural Competence (asset 34). Consider having students organize a diversity-awareness week, a cultural fair, or some other way of learning about each other’s backgrounds and cultures.

Don’t let students get away with bullying or fighting. Talk to them about how toresolve conflicts peacefully.

Use “strength interviews” with students to help them identify their assets andtheir sources of support.

Attend concerts, programs, and activities your students are involved in.

Congratulate successes with a written note, a call home, or verbal praise.

Create life-planning portfolios that follow a student from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next school year and include goals, dreams, and hopes. They can be an important tool for the student— and for teachers—to keep track of accomplishments and challenges.


Developmental Assets® are positive factors within young people, families, communities, schools, and other settings that research has found to be important in promoting the healthy development of young people. From Pass It On! Ready-to-Use Handouts for Asset Builders, Second Edition.Copyright © 2006 by Search Institute®; 612-376-8955; 800-888-7828; This handout may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only (with this copyright line). All rights reserved.