Igniting Sparks: Connecting Students’ Interests and Talents to Classroom Success (High School)

This guidebook provides classroom lesson plans for helping students discover and explore their “sparks”—their unique interests and talents—which in turn leads to greater personal and academic success.

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What makes your students light up?

Some students love playing soccer, while some students love painting. Other students are most engaged while quietly reading—or solving math problems. As a teacher, you know how motivating it can be for students to discover their “sparks,” those activities and interests that truly engage them to be their best. Discovering those sparks can help students express their personalities and make unique contributions to the world.

This instructor guide will help you work with students to explore their sparks, find adult support for developing their interests, and ultimately create a vision of who they want to be in the future. As a result of this spark work, teachers often see student improvement in the following areas:

  • Academic self-efficacy: “I can do it!”
  • Engagement in learning: “I like doing it!”
  • Bonding to school: “School is a good place for me!”
  • Mastery: “It’s important for me to do well in school!”

This guide includes the following information:

  • Lesson plans for students in grades nine and ten
  • Lesson plans for students in grades eleven and twelve
  • Reproducible materials, available as downloads, so students can explore their interests
  • Numerous resources including recommendations for best practices, a video discussion guide, and sample letters to send home with students
  • Research articles related to sparks and the Developmental Assets®

Igniting Sparks was developed by a team of researchers and writers at Search Institute and based on the work of the late Dr. Peter Benson. Dr. Benson, former president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute, was one of the world’s leading authorities on positive human development. He was the author or editor of more than a dozen books on child and adolescent development and social change.

Additional information

Weight .82 lbs
Dimensions 8.5 × 11 × .35 in







Instructor Guide Grades 9 through 12.
Includes reproducibles.