This post originally appeared on the blog Counselor Up.

I love the idea of teaching students positive life lessons rather than a list of things they shouldn’t do. Leadership is an essential skill to modern life. Whether you are a leader at work, in your community, or simply within your household, every person will need to take the lead at some point.

In some ways, leadership seems like a gift or talent. Certainly, some people are natural leaders and seem to have a certain je ne sais quoi about them. However, like all things, leadership skills can be taught. And using great historical leaders is a great way to combine a little history and leadership into one lesson. 

Lesson 1: Defining a Leader

For the beginning of the first lesson, we do a chalk talk. Students can walk around and write their thoughts on the following sentence stems:

  • A leader is…
  • I like it when leaders…
  • One day, I would love to lead…

Here’s where the fun begins: after students get a chance to think about leaders, it’s time to use their leadership skills! Each small group is given the same common household item. Groups must demonstrate the “proper” way to use the item. The person demonstrating the object cannot speak and the demonstration must be unique. This takes a lot of planning and working together – where do you see leadership skills? Where would more leadership be helpful? This can be a pretty hilarious activity!

Before they leave, class completes a ticket out. I have included my ticket out page for you here! Students can choose to write: I learned, I think, or I wonder.


Lesson 2: Non-violent Action

Non-violent action is not passive (that’s where the word action comes in). Conflict is most often resolved by leaders within the conflict. Stepping up and solving conflicts peacefully is an important part of being a leader. 

“The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them self respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not think they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.” – Martin Luther King

In this lesson, we create an anchor chart: How to be a Leader to Solve Problems. I let the kids brainstorm their ideas and make a list. If you’re not familiar with anchor charts, here is a great explanation of anchor charts as a teaching tool.


After completing our anchor chart, I divide the class into groups for role plays. You can either assign each group a strategy from the chart or allow them to choose for themselves. I created a rubric to show the class what my expectations are for role plays.


Lesson 3: A History of Perseverance

All famous leaders have one thing in common: perseverance. Many kids today have one thing in common: a lack of perseverance


After discussing the definition of perseverance, we complete the activity Famous Failures: You Can Quote Me. Each student has a piece of paper with a famous failure and a quote from this person. I tried to choose people from history that my students were likely to know and connect to. 



Students can write a story, poem, play, song, or draw a picture or cartoon to share their thoughts on and ideas about the failure and quote. It’s always amazing to see the powerful responses you get. Afterwards, students can share their ideas. This makes a great bulletin board as well!

You can re-create these lessons on your own or find everything together for you on Teachers Pay Teachers. Do you teach leadership with your little ones? What are some of your go-to activities?


Counselor UpRebecca has been an elementary school counselor for 13 years. She currently has the pleasure of working with over 140 elementary counselors in one of the largest school districts in the country. She loves to be organized and may or may not be obsessed with color coding. She shares her organization tools, lessons, and ideas on her blog, Counselor Up, with all you need to recreate on your own. Or you can check out her creations at her TpT store! Keep in touch on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.