Amongst the reading, writing and math activities, teaching kindness in the classroom can make a huge difference to your classroom community. Students unknowingly perform acts of altruism all the time by modeling their teachers and parents. Why not call out those great acts and discuss why we need kindness every day? You can help students understand kindness and how to spread it to their communities with the activities below.
Help elementary students understand how to identify emotions so they understand what the end goal of their kindness initiative is. Place photos around the classroom of people doing everyday activities with different facial expressions. Give students red, yellow and green stickers and let them move around the room and place their stickers on the photos to identify the emotions they see. Have a classroom discussion about each photo and why they might be feeling those emotions. Ask what kind of acts someone could have done to make the people in the photo happy, or how you could cheer up the people in the photos covered in red or yellow stickers. Let them practice some more using The Compassion Project.
When given responsibility, students can do great things! A great place to start is within your own classroom community. Help students take ownership of their classroom community by giving out kindness jobs just as you would line leader or office runner. As a class, discuss ways students can help each other within the classroom then assign a student to be Kindness King or Kindness Queen. Let students know that it’s their responsibility to watch out and help their peers in the ways discussed or when they see someone in need.
Now that there’s a Kindness King or Queen in your classroom, help your class be known as the Kindness Class! Another group discussion around who in the school might need a special treat, whether it’s a new teacher, a hard-working administrator or a friendly crossing guard. Help students identify unique traits about that person to find a fitting act of kindness for them. Find a no-bake recipe to make as a class, an origami craft to build a mini figurine zoo or offer support by dedicating time to a school errand.
After spreading cheer within the four walls of the school, there is no limit to spreading kindness in your local community. Use this as a time to identify people who students interact with and the jobs they do for a mini-career lesson, or help them identify people they may not automatically think of, such as the grocery store bagger, state treasurer or those in a nearby nursing home. Based on what they do for the community, how can we best show them kindness when we see them?
Kindness Inside and Out
Now that students have spread kindness in their communities, how has it made them feel? Help students understand that the action of spreading joy to those around them can also make them feel good! Encourage students to write about their feelings and experiences from the kindness activities in a journal and allow them to share with a partner or the entire class. This is a great way to help students practice mindfulness while boosting self-esteem at the same time.
Nichole Holladay supports teachers in Arizona as a Schools Implementation Manager for EVERFI. She attended Colgate University, is a former pre-k teacher and enjoys researching childhood development. In her free time, Nichole loves exploring small towns in Arizona and swimming as much as possible.