Teaching Kindness in the Classroom

Posted on April 24, 2008

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A couple months ago I was substitute teaching in a second grade classroom. A student’s snack-bag of chips had fallen out of her cubby in the coat room and it resulted in everyone stepping on her bag of chips. She came into the classroom with a very sad face and a smashed bag of chips.

I asked how many students had noticed a bag of chips on the floor. Almost every student raised their hand. One small voice commented they did not know whose snack it was.

My next question was, “Who thought they should pick it up?” Half the students that had noticed the bag raised their hands.

I took a jump, a leap, and commented probably you did not think what would come next and continued to state if someone picked up the bag they could have come to me and said I found this on the floor–it would be the kind thing to do.

That day had been full of tattling, eye-rolling, kicking each other under the desk. The students were quick to point out wrong doing. It was so easy to see what was wrong with their room and their world. But to choose the right and kind thing not so easy.

How can we promote kindness? Teach Kindness?

1. Create kindness badges or tokens as a class project. Use tags, buttons, or some other small object that can be decorated. Use these tokens to reward kind activity in the classroom. At the end of the week recognize the “Kind Student of the Week.” This can be a lesson in being a good citizen.

2. As a follow-up or lesson to go in tandem with kindness badges have students collect current events that point out good deeds and positive actions in their community. Try to involve parents if possible. Bring up a story of kindness each week with students. Have a bulletin board for posting topics brought in.

3. Thank You Projects. Have students practice letter writing by sending thank you notes. Have students create a kindness award for volunteers in the classroom.

4. Check out the many grade school and middle school lessons pre-planned at The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

5. With older students discuss the idea of “Paying it Forward.” How does this change a persons perspective both for the person receiving the kindness and the person giving. An Internet search will bring up current events as examples.

6. Pick a service project as a class or start a school effort to help in your community. Think Summer, too! Having a bulletin board or posting area with summer opportunities for students.

7. Encourage students to use their manners, please, thank you, your welcome, and holding doors open or helping carry packages. Simple but wonderfully effective. Give lots of praise to students.

8. Teach and practice thoughtful listening. Here is a resource to use with 3-4 graders. 

9. Have you ever seen a “Happy Face” poster that shows many different expressions?Have a unit on expressions. Morning eye-openers could include how many words can you come up with that mean ‘happy” or “sad”. This could be excellent for journal activities as well.

10. Role playing or puppet shows on topics can be an excellent way to illustrate any of the lessons posted above.

11. Emoticons. Those experssions  we have become accustomed to in Instant Messenging and Texting have become a shorthand for “real” expression :-( this makes me sad. I think something is being lost here :-/. What can we do :-? I was thinking of a poster project where we pick and emoticon and then illustrate it in real emotions or actions.

12. Body Language Lesson–Break students up in small groups and have them pantomime scenario’s and then discuss the body language sued to act out each scene. use this as a launching point to further discussions on body language and communication.

Originally published at The Dailies February 26, 2008

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