Overview: Building off the lesson “The What and Why”, students will engage in brief writing activity to determine if their values are aligned with their actions and future goals. Identifying and eliminating a misalignment can decrease personal stress and discontent. This is easily replicable in any language!

To access the video recording of the webinar detailing this lesson, please click here.

Materials Needed:

  • Template (or similar) to use as a writing prompt. (This can be altered for an oral reflection.) 
  • Discussion questions (below). 
  • Extension ideas into your content area. (below) 

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will reflect on how their personal strengths, experiences, behaviors and values and impacted their lives. 
  • Students will reflect on their ideal futures in order to develop a sense of direction/purpose after they’ve reflected on their personal values. 

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the activity, students will be able to… 

  • Determine if their value systems have changed over time or have remained the same from the past until now. 
  • Evaluate how their current value systems impact their goals for their future plans. 


  1. Consider launching this lesson with a personal story bundle that models what you expect of students regarding at least their stories about the past and the present. Make sure to embed information about your personal values (the “whys”) with the actions (the “what”) that you in the past and the present (the “when”).
    1. If students need a basis of information about what values are, you can have students watch this video about Cultural Values(5:21 minutes)
    2. If you need a list for students to reference about common values, you can have them reference this list, but please remember that this is NOT an exhaustive list.
  2. Students should write their “Past” and “Present” stories first. After writing, have them go back and tie the actions that they mentioned (the “whats”) to the values (the “whys”) that they have. You can ask students to think about if their values have changed over time or if they are the same or different than that of their older family members.
    1. Template for the Past, Present, Future Story in English 
    2. Template for the Past, Present, Future Story in Spanish 
  3. Have students share their work on the assigned online learning platform. Students can post their written story bundle into a Padlet, a Google Doc or a Google Slides presentation that is shared with the class. Students could share an oral version of their story bundle on Flipgrid or record it with their phone and upload it to YouTube.
  4. Lead students in the first two discussion/reflection questions to process what the learned by reading through other students’ story bundles.
  5. Finally, in the “future” section, have students write about their ideal future (the “when”) including what they hope to achieve (the “what”) and how they hope to achieve it (the “why”). Ask students to evaluate this final portion of the story to determine if it is aligned with their values. 
    1. For example, if a student indicates that they want to be an accountant, but they maintain a low grade in math, the student’s values are not aligned with their goals and success will be a bigger challenge.


  1. What similarities or differences did you notice about others’ life stories?
  2. Describe how your experiences may have impacted your values and/or behaviors.
  3. Thinking about your ideal future, what kinds of things would you like to achieve? What steps could you take to change ideal future from a hope into a reality?

Extension activity: 

  • Have students draw or create a comic to illustrate their life story. 
  • Have students create their own SMART goals to better achieve their ideal future. 

Extension in the content area: 

Language Arts: After students have read a short story or novel, have students craft the before or after story for one of the characters. Additionally, students could have to write this while framing the character in a different cultural value system to consider how it would impact the other characters in the story. 

Social Studies: Have students select an historical figure. Students can write the past, present and future story bundle from the perspective of that historical figure ensuring that they maintain the same value system as that figure would have had as demonstrated by prior actions. A continuation of this could be that students have to defend their character to their classmates by showing the alignment of values (the “why”) with actions (the “what”). 

Science: Do this same activity with a past, present and future story bundle, but rather than have students focus on their own lives, have them consider an aspect of science and how is has evolved over time and how societal and cultural values have led to or contributed to those changes. 

World Language: Do this same activity in the target language with students and potentially incorporate one segment (present/future) as a study abroad experience where they are living in a society and culture with a different values system. 

Family and Consumer Sciences: Have students evaluate historical trends in their area of study (Consumer Economics, Child Development, Clothing and Textiles) and ensure that students factor in the value system during that time in history for that area. Another option would be for students to consider how the values system in their culture and of another culture impact one aspect of industry and what they would need to do if they went to work in that industry in the other culture to adjust. 

P.E. & Wellness: Have students interview someone of an older generation and have them think about health/wellness practices in the past, present and future or even a topic like gender equity in physical education or sports in the past and present. You can tie this to a study about gender equality in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

For more lesson plan ideas, please visit the AFS-USA Teacher’s Toolbox

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email us at [email protected].

Download Lesson Plan