Leadership is an important skill to develop in high school students. Educators can facilitate this skill by creating lesson plans that incorporate the study of characters who are leaders or act heroically or by having students work in groups where their roles require them to be leaders at times. Lesson plans that require students to teach their peers also help develop leadership skills and public speaking confidence, which is an important aspect of leadership.
Choose reading assignments that portray regular people acting heroically or stepping up and being leaders when needed. Stories with strong characters that lead by example can influence students to recognize that anyone can be a leader. In "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," for example, the main character, McMurphy, is an unlikely leader yet stands up for his peers when they are treated unfairly.
Create lessons that require students to get into small groups and play roles. For example, after a reading assignment, you could assign one person to be the discussion director, in charge of leading the discussion, asking questions, taking notes and keeping the others on task, so that they can finish the assignment that corresponds to the text they just read.
Assign lessons that require each student to teach the whole class, a partner or a small group. You could assign teaching a chapter of a book, a poem or a topic that the class has researched. Require that students teach the lesson and then assess their peers. Although this assignment could be a bit nerve-racking, students will gain valuable public speaking and presentation skills while learning how to step up to a challenge, which are all important skills for a leader to possess.
Require students to complete a research paper about a real-life leader, such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. or George Washington. Educators should ask the students to include biographical information about the leader's childhood and teenage years to illustrate that great leaders were once adolescents just like them. Creating a timeline of a leader's life would be an alternative assignment that could stir similar inspiration.
Tips & Warnings
- Even if students try to protest public speaking assignments, educators should stand firm, because these assignments are valuable exercises that build leadership skills. Give students some choice within the parameters of the assignment, so that they establish ownership of their work and to help avoid mere memorization and regurgitation of information.
- Be aware that the natural leaders in class may take over small group assignments even when they are not the assigned leaders. These natural leaders or outgoing students sometimes find ways to take charge despite the roles you have assigned. To avoid this problem, circulate around the room and supervise the groups as much as possible, stepping in with advice as needed and giving all students the opportunity to play the leading roles.
- "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest;" Ken Kesey; 1962