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Student Strengths By Category Lists

Many teachers, especially new ones, find it challenging to
write or modify a lesson plan for special education.

Strengths of the student by character, work habits, academics, and classroom behavior

IEP writing strengths and weaknesses examples

Character strength and why they are important incorporate

Academic and work habits paint clear pictures for future teachers

Looking to help your students shine through strengths-based ieps? Student strength lists can help! This guide walks teachers through the process of writing clear and positive student strengths narratives. From student work habits (work independently) to academics (reading comprehension), every area of a child's development can be highlighted using this easy to use, step-by-step guide. Make your narratives shine with a student strength lists guide!

A student's strength is a positive attribute that can be used to help students reach their goals and become more successful in life. Strengths-based ieps allow teachers and parents to identify student strengths and use them as a tool for success. An IEP team can use student strengths to develop student success goals within the student’s iep. When student strengths are utilized, students will become more active and enthusiastic participants in their educations.


A student strength list is a tool to be used by an IEP team during the development of student success goals for an iep. This student strength list can also be used during the development of student transition goals.


Strengths vary widely from student to student. It is our duty as special education instructors to discover and publicize those assets in order to develop them further.

Tip - The list below is by no means all-inclusive. It is merely a representation or guideline to get you thinking on the right track.


Starting with character strengths begins to paint a picture of how the student positively impacts the learning environment. This can describe how peers perceive them or how they interact with the learning environment as a whole.

Key points to reflection when writing strengths-based ieps:

  • How do charter strengths improve academic performance?

  • Is a students' awareness also considered a strength?

  • Self advocacy is a character strength


__ Honest in actions

__ Does not deceive, cheat or steal

__ Reliable

__ Courageous

__ Loyal to friends

__ Keeps promises


__ Treat others with respect

__ Tolerant and accepting of differences

__ Has good manners

__ Does not use bad language

__ Considerate of the feelings of others

__ Does not threaten, hit or hurt anyone

__ Deals with anger, insults, and disagreements peacefully


__ Does what they are supposed to do

__ Plans ahead

__ Is diligent

__ Perseveres through challenges

__ Does their best work

__ Uses self-control

__ Is self-disciplined

__ Thinks before acting

__ Is accountable for words and actions

__ Sets a good example for others

__ Chooses a positive attitude


__ Plays by the rules

__ Take turns and share

__ Be open-minded; listen to others

__ Don't take advantage of others

__ Don't blame others carelessly

__ Treat all people fairly


__ Is kind

__ Is compassionate

__ Shows Empathy

__ Expresses gratitude

__ Forgives others

__ Helps people in need

__ Is charitable and altruistic


__ Gets involved in school affairs

__ Follows classroom and school rules

__ Respects authority

__ Protects the environment

__ Volunteers


Narrative example: 

Jenny is helpful in class and eager to learn new concepts. When working towards an IEP goal, she has a growth mindset and perceivers through challenges.

José is caring and kind and demonstrates loyalty in friendship. When working towards an IEP goal, he is curious about new material and is open to new ideas.

Work Habits and Academics

__ Organizes materials

__ Comes prepared to class

__ Turns in work on time

__ Strong work organization skills

__ Follows routines well

__ Keeps track of time and obligations

__ Understands and sets goals

__ Can plan ahead

__ Is a self-starter

__ Can ignore distractions

__ Flexible thinker

__ Good working memory

__ At grade level work in reading

__ At grade level work in writing

__ At grade level work in math


Classroom Behavior

__ Can learn from mistakes

__ Self-advocates/asks for help

__ Can work or play independently

__ Works well/gets along well one-on-one

__ Works well/gets along well in groups

__ Consistent class participation

__ Accept consequences appropriately

__ Respects property of others

__ Respects personal space of others

__ Respects uniqueness of others

​Narrative example: 

Jenny actively participates in class discussions and engages well in peer-to-peer workgroups. When working towards an IEP goal, she will ask for help when needed and accept help when offered.

​José follows classroom rules and expectations and actively participates in table groups. When working in the classroom, he will accept help when offered if it is done quietly.

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Writing a student strengths section of an IEP

When you have a structure to help you, developing a student strength statement and weaknesses statement is not difficult. A well-rounded statement includes several areas of strength with up to three options from each. Keep it basic and straightforward, but be truthful in your choice. Always seek parental and general education teacher input before choosing which strengths to highlight the student.

​Student Strengths Statement framework

When writing a profile of the student's strengths, think about the child as a whole. 

  1. What are the strengths that make the student academically successful? 

  2. What are strengths that the student has that make them socially adaptable or socially accepted? 


Both of these questions lead to academic and behavioral success in the classroom. Both items combined will be at the forefront of any student's strength profile. ​​



Sam has a strong character, is eager to learn, and is curious about a new subject. In his classroom behavior, he demonstrates responsibility by coming prepared to class with materials ready to learn. His positive work habits show that he follows rules and routines, can ignore distractions, and is a self starter in classroom activities. 

​Use this framework to help guide the writing process: __________ has a strong character, is _______________, and is _______________. In his/her classroom behavior, he/she demonstrates responsibility by _______________. His/her positive work habits show that he/she _______________, can _______________, and _______________. 


Megan is a hard worker in the classroom. Her at grade level math skills are a strength, as are her social skills. She enjoys working with peers, enjoys class discussion on variety of reading materials and completes tasks on time.

​__________ is a hard worker in class. Her/His __________ skills are a strength, as are her/his __________ skills. She/He enjoys __________ and __________ .

​Sentence starters for student strengths statement in an IEP

These helpful sentence starters can be best used with the assistance of the student and parents. Have them fill out what their best answer is and then compare to find commonalities.

​__________ is best at… __________ has an amazing ability to…

__________ always takes pride in his/her work when… __________ is frequently recognized for… __________ participates the most when… __________ does this better than any other student…

__________ is highly motivated by… __________ is highly interested in…

It is important to keep student strength lists unique just like iep goals because student strengths vary from student to student. In order for student strengths to be effective in developing an iep, they must relate specifically and uniquely to each student. For example, a student's academic excellence may make her a strong reader, but it might not be something that is of importance to her.

If there are student strengths examples that you would like to include for your student, make sure you add them on your own. Even if the student strengths seem silly or out of place, they may be meaningful for some students. Someone may consider being on time a positive aspect of their education. Although that student strength might not directly relate to academic success, it may contribute to the student's participation in class. Remember that student strengths can be based on work habits or personality traits.

When choosing student strengths, pick student strengths that are easily observable and measurable. Student strengths are more effective when they have specific behaviors that can be seen, heard, or otherwise observed by others. For example, student strengths such as "spontaneous" and "good listener" may not be as effective for student success goals because they are broad student strengths. Student strengths such as "helps partner with school work," "remembers to raise hand in class," and "tries to stay on task" are student strengths that can be observed and measured.

Student strength lists should not focus on student weaknesses or deficits. The student's team might include student weaknesses as a part of the student's iep, but they should not be included in the student strength list.

It is important for IEP teams to pick student strengths that can be evaluated and observed. This student strength list is a tool for you to use when creating student success goals that the student can accomplish.

What makes student strengths effective is their ability to be targeted for goal setting. There are many different kinds of student success goals, but all student success goals must meet these basic criteria: student strengths, observable and measurable student behaviors/actions, and student success criteria.

Teachers planning for an iep meeting

  1. Chooses 3-4 student strengths from the student strength list

  2. Writes a narrative about each student strength picked

  3. Includes behavior(s) that student demonstrates when using student strength

  4. Student's family member(s) or an other person involved in student's life can endorse student strengths to strengthen them

  5. Student identifies his own student strengths, if appropriate to student's abilities

  6. Shares student empowerment strategies with other professionals who work with the student

  7. Student's team members choose student strengths to use in student success goals

  8. If student is working on student transition goals, student's team may want to include student strengths with industry or university partnerships

Thank you for reading! I hope that this student strengths for iep examples guide has been helpful. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to reach out. I love hearing from my readers and am always happy to help in whatever way I can. Thanks again for your support!


If you're looking for more ideas on student success goals, be sure to check out our IEP goal bank. We have a variety of different types of student success goals that you can use to help your students shine.

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