Strategy Box

This simple exercise can help youth identify strategies that have worked for them in the past that they can apply to new problems and challenges. Can be helpful when youth feel "stuck" or lacking in ability.


This tool can get youth thinking about the strategies they have used in the past to learn new skills and overcome challenges, reinforcing that they have the ability to improve and identifying approaches that have worked before that they can apply to current challenges or learning new skills. An example and a blank template you can use with students are provided.

This activity has great flexibility and can be applied to both academic and non-academic challenges. Strategy boxes can be a great way of coming up with new approaches to a problem and emphasizing that the mentee has successfully solved problems in the past (and has the skills to do so again). 


  1. A Strategy Box has four quadrants. In three of the quadrants, list things that you are good at or have achieved (try to include things that you perhaps struggled with at first). In the fourth, list the things you identified as not being good at or your new challenge.
  2. List the most important strategies, steps, or beliefs that helped you be successful in those first three areas. What were your successes factors? How did you progress through the challenges? What actions did you take? How did you think about the challenge? List as many as you can.
  3. The last step is to see if any of those strategies or actions  could be applied to the new challenge in the fourth box. 


  • If you do use the Strategy Box idea with your mentee, be prepared to help them think through the steps they used on prior problems or to learn something in the past. Depending on their age and stage of development, they may have a hard time recalling the things they tried and what ultimately worked for them. You may need to offer examples or help “fill in the blanks” in some spots. 
  • You may also need to help them see the links between formally successful strategies and their current problem. They may not easily see how a strategy they applied to something at home or with their friends can now translate to a challenge at school or another context. Be sure to emphasize how prior strategies involved increased effort, gathering new information, seeking support from others, or trying something they didn’t think would work. These types of strategy characteristics are likely to be transferable across different situations and scenarios.

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