Teaching perspective is essential to building empathy and other social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. Perspective helps us see the world from others’ point-of-view. With well-developed SEL skills, students can build the foundation for being a good student, worker and citizen, and strengthen their skills in self-management, self-awareness, relationships with others, and social awareness.

Here are four ways to do this in your classroom:

Teach Problem-Solving

When we help our students understand that there are several ways to solve a problem, we help them develop self-awareness and social awareness. Consider using these methods for reinforcing problem-solving skills in the classroom:

  • Have students point out problems in a story, including identifying specific challenges the main character faces.
  • Use group sessions to teach students to share different ways to solve issues, including having them write out problems and solutions in a two-column chart and discussing their thoughts with the class.
  • Instead of giving students the answer, model the process of problem-solving and encourage independence. Clarify your instructions, ask questions to provide direction and give suggestions or helpful hints.
  •  Set up a maze in the classroom and have students come up with different ways to escape.

Keep a Reading Log

We can teach our students to recognize their thoughts and emotions and help them to grasp others’ viewpoints by having them keep a reading log of how they feel as they read. For example, we can have students read a historical story and have them write down how they would react or feel if they faced the challenges of the main character in the story. They can share these feelings in an open discussion with the class or in small groups, which helps them to have a deeper understanding of what the character may have experienced during that time period.

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Change the Pronoun

Teaching perspective also involves demonstrating perspective-taking, and one way to accomplish this is by teaching our students to change or switch the pronouns in a story. When we help our students understand the importance of switching the pronouns they use, we can help them develop a different viewpoint.

For example, have your students write an essay about a person who they admire and write about something important that that person did. But the twist is that they will write it from a first-person point-of-view. This makes it more accessible for them to grasp what it may be like experiencing life from another person’s point of view and can help them to develop empathy.

Read Emotionally-Charged Books

We can use books charged with emotions and give the feelings that are addressed names. After reading these books with your students, ask them questions about the feelings the characters experienced and the feelings they experienced while reading. Here are a few books you can introduce to your readers that may help them with their perspective-taking skills:

Elementary school:

Middle school:

High school:

By integrating a few perspective-taking lessons into the curriculum, we can help grow our students’ empathy, self-awareness, problem-solving skills, and their relationships with others.