INTRODUCTION: Most students in my College Survival Skills classes want to stay in their comfort zone and only talk to classmates they already know. Since research shows a positive correlation between students making connections on campus and their being academically successful, I want students to network with as many classmates as possible, with the ultimate outcome of developing cooperative academic relationships. The Great Strengths Hunt is a fun activity that can be used in any course or group, and is especially useful early in the group’s formation.

PURPOSE: To give students an opportunity to…

  • Connect with fellow classmates by identifying ways they might help each other to be academically successful.
  • Increase their self-esteem by identifying their own strengths and sharing them with others.

SUPPLIES:

  • Timer & chime (or other means to signal when time is up)
  • Handout: “The Great Strengths Hunt”- one for each student (appended below)
  • Extra pencils (in case students do not have them)

SETUP: 

Clear enough space for students to stand and form a large circle.

DIRECTIONS:

1. Distribute the handout and, on the back, have students write three skills that, if they acquired or strengthened them, they would be more successful in college.  Give examples such as “good time management,” “effective writing skills,” or “proficient in Microsoft Office.”

2. Have students also record on the handout one skill or strength they presently have. This does not have to be an academic strength, only something they feel they do better than most people. Give examples such as “playing a musical instrument,” “cooking,” or “fixing cars.”

3. Divide the group in half; have them stand and form two concentric circles, with each student facing a partner in the other circle. (If there is a student without a partner, you can join the activity.)

4. Each student should have his/her handout, a notebook or a hard surface to write on, and a writing utensil.

5. Explain, “You are about to embark on the Great Strengths Hunt. You will have an opportunity to talk with your classmates and hunt for information about others. Your goal is to find at least one person who possesses a strength that you listed on the back of your handout as one you would like to acquire. For each person you talk with, you are to fill in a box on your handout.”

6. “You will have 90 seconds to talk to the person you are facing and obtain the information needed to complete the handout.  Upon my signal, people in the inner circle will stay where they are and those in the outer circle will move one person to the right.  We’ll repeat this until each of you has spoken to eight people. What questions do you have?”

7. Begin the activity and signal students to move to a new partner every 90 seconds. (If you find that your students need more time, extend the length of each pairing.)

8. After you call time, invite students to take a seat and discuss the following questions: “Who talked with someone who already possesses one of the skills you would like to acquire?” “Who found someone who had a skill you don’t have but would like to?” “How might this sort of information help you to be more successful?”

9. At the end of the activity, I say, “The point of this activity is to show how you can help each other. Each of you has skills to share and each of you can request assistance from fellow students who also have skills to share. Use this information to help each other be a great success. Another point here is the importance of appreciating your personal strengths and talents. Remember that one person’s strength is often another person’s weakness. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘People acting together as a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could ever hope to bring about.’” 

EXPERIENCES: 

One student compared this activity to speed dating, saying, “You get a chance to talk to many people in a short amount of time and find out if they are a match for you.”  Perhaps as in speed dating, many of the conversations seem to begin awkwardly.  Many students appear to struggle with sharing their strengths. This could be a symptom of the Southwest Virginia culture where modesty is prized. However, because their classmates are so receptive to their strengths, students usually begin to warm up as the exercise continues.  During the group discussion, students seem much more comfortable bragging on each other’s strengths rather than their own, and the conversation quickly becomes a “swap shop” for abilities.  I hear things like, “I talked with Sara, and it turns out she is majoring in chemistry and even got the chemistry letter in high school. I hate chemistry and am really worried about taking it so I am glad I now know who to turn to for help.” Many of the students comment that they were surprised to find someone in the class whose strength matched up with one of the areas they wanted to work on.  What really sold me on this exercise is what was revealed on the evaluations.  Many of the students commented on how good it felt to have someone recognize their strengths.

OUTCOMES:

Based on student feedback, this activity does achieve the purpose of getting students to connect with fellow classmates and exchange ways they can help each other be successful in college. On an evaluation, students reported that before the class, 39% felt connected to their classmates and were likely to ask them for help.  After class, that number soared to 74%. Many students even mentioned the names of other students whom they are now going to seek out for help.

Further, student feedback suggests that this activity contributes positively to students’ self-esteem.  One student said, “I came in this morning thinking I was not worth very much.  I never thought fixing cars was a strength.  Now I realize I can do something important.” 

LESSONS LEARNED: 

The first time I used this activity, I had students merely wander around the room choosing partners. In this format, students usually chose to talk with classmates they already knew. Since I have used the concentric circles, students make many new connections.

I am often surprised at how many students claim at first that they do not have a strength. This discovery suggested to me how much students need the activity to help build self-esteem. It saddens me to think that students are walking around thinking that they have nothing to offer the world. 

SUPPORT MATERIAL:  Handout-The Great Strengths Hunt

The Great Strengths Hunt

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

Name:

Ability:

Major:

Classes Together:

How they can help me:

Contact Information:

 

–Amanda Ellis Bohon, Counselor/Instructor, Southwest Virginia Community College, VA

Forum Image OptionThe Great Strengths Hunt Forum