On Saturday, 09/09, I had the great pleasure and honour to be joined by amazing educators in my first webinar for this school year on no-prep back-to-school activities that aim to promote kindness and empathy in our classrooms. There were so many wonderful ideas shared and as always I am constantly fascinated by fellow inspiring teachers and their creative contributions. I have blogged about kindness activities before but Saturday’s cycle of sharing inspired me to add some more activities to the list of kindness and empathy tasks we can work on with our learners. The activities below can be used both at the beginning of the school year as well as throughout the academic year as points of reflection and useful tools in building a class and school culture of understanding and kindness.
Without further ado, here are 5 more activities you can use to promote kindness and empathy:
- Adapted KWL charts for Perspective Taking: This is an extension of Project Zero’s “I used to think…Now I think” routine and is a helpful way to engage learners into critically reflecting on how their opinions on a topic might change during and after an activity. When discussing different perspectives/beliefs in a story/role play task, you can ask your students to reflect on the ideas shared in class by adapting the traditional KWL chart into what learners expected they would discover/what they expected would happen before the activity (e.g. before talking about the opinions of the different characters in a story), what their initial thoughts were during the activity and how/whether their thoughts and feelings have changed after completing the activity.
- Kindness Scattergories: Just like the original game, letters are given letters and different categories (Kind actions in class / At home/ At school etc.) are asked to think of an act of kindness that starts from this letter of the alphabet that matches the categories shown to them. Using the students’ answers, the whole class can then create their own Acts of Kindness monthly or yearly calendar.
- Collaborative portraits: Students are given different school issues scenarios (e.g. being late for class, forgetting an important assignment etc.) and are asked to first discuss how the person in the situation might be feeling (e.g. stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated etc.) before they create a joint portrait on the person’s feelings. Students can either decide on what emotions they would both like their drawing to represent beforehand or each student can draw one side of the portrait. Students then present their portraits and the reasons they chose particular colours, techniques, any words etc.
- Read between the lines: A very simple yet challenging activity to introduce learners to different perspectives and the language for introducing beliefs and emotions (e.g. attitude adverbials, adjectives describing feelings) is to ask them to separate facts/incidents from characters’/writers’ feelings. This could range from identifying discrete lexical/grammatical items to studying literary devices such as irony, satire etc. in a text.
- Reframing our “What ifs”: Some years ago I worked with one of my B2 classes on a project called “If I knew I couldn’t fail I would…”. I think it was at that moment that I realized how much the fear of failing and making mistakes was holding those bright young people back from going after their dreams and interests. Since then I have worked with my learners on several reframing limiting beliefs activities that act as points of self reflection and allow them to engage more actively in the learning process. One such activity is the “What ifs” collaborative class project where learners discuss common fears associated with learning (e.g. What if I fail my exam? What if I make mistakes? What if I don’t understand a Reading task? etc.). In groups learners discuss feasible alternatives and solutions for their fears and I’ve discovered that over time they come to accept that learning is an ongoing journey with its ups and downs and that mistakes are evidence of progress and should be embraced in the learning process.