Using Strengths Language

The content below is taken from the Learning Library at IPEN and is by Emily Larson (Director), it refers to the VIA character strengths and provides a useful explanation to educators regarding why a shared language of strengths is important.


This activity involves students thinking about language and being introduced to the language of strengths and why having a common strengths language is important.


To learn the importance of having a strengths language.

How To:

Teacher Explanation: This class will be all about learning the importance of having a strengths language.

Activity 1: Start the class off by asking the students to come up to the board and write what strengths they saw from the leader given to them for homework. Once they have all written on the board go through and try to find repetitive strengths, or strengths that say the same thing (ex. Giving, kindness, nice, kind, a giver, warm, etc.). Use this to say “wouldn’t it be great if we had some way to label what is good in each other?”

Activity 2: Write down on an index card a word (ex. Pen). Underneath this word write down the words commonly associated with this word (ex. Writing, pencil, paper, ink, blue, black). For this activity one student will come up to the classroom and try to get their classmates to say Pen without saying any of the words listed below.

Once the students have had the opportunity to play this game ask the following question, “was it hard to effectively communicate with your classmates the word without having the proper language?”, “would having a common language have made for a better or more productive conversation?” The same goes with strengths; it is hard to discuss what is good about people if we are all using different language. By using the same language we are able to have deeper and more meaningful conversations about our own strengths and the strengths of others. Introduce the list of 24 character strengths.

Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

1. Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things.

2. Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; exploring and discovering.

3. Open-mindedness [judgment, critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; weighing all evidence fairly.

4. Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally.

5. Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people.

Strengths of Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external and internal

6. Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular.

7. Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles.

8. Integrity [authenticity, honesty]: Presenting oneself in a genuine way; taking responsibility for one’s feeling and actions.

9. Vitality [zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated.

Strengths of Humanity: interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

10. Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.

11. Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, “niceness”]: Doing favors and good deeds for others.

12. Social intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself.

Strengths of Justice: civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

13. Citizenship [social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group.

14. Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others.

15. Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same maintain time good relations within the group.

Strengths of Temperance: strengths that protect against excess

16. Forgiveness and mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.

17. Humility / Modesty: Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.

18. Prudence: Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

19. Self-regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions.

Strengths of Transcendence: strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

20. Appreciation of beauty and excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life.

21. Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

22. Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it.

23. Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side.

24. Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose, the meaning of life, and the meaning of the universe.

Go through the list, allowing them to ask questions. If time: Allow for the students to get back into groups and re-evaluate the strengths of a role model. 

Useful Links


VIA Institute on Character

Published by Improve My Well-being

Laura is an experienced mentor and teacher, with a MSc Applied Positive Psychology (Distinction). She enjoys living and working in multicultural environments and is passionate about promoting social well-being. Blogging is her outlet to share and explore well-being initiatives and practices with as many people as possible.

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