Empathy Character Education: Teaching Activities
Raise your hand if you think everyone can use an extra dose of empathy? If you have been looking for fun, unique, and engaging ways to incorporate empathy character education in your classroom, this post is for you! It’s filled with lessons, activities, and ideas to help build up a positive culture in the classroom. Read on to get some great ideas on teaching empathy. You can also grab the full resource here.
Empathy Character Education Pacing Guide
This pacing guide organizes your entire month of empathy. It will help you plan and set aside enough time to complete the curriculum with your students.
These are so effective in getting parents involved. It’s the best way to reinforce character education lessons at home.
The letter included in my empathy resource provides parents and families with tools to help them explain, model, and praise empathy shown in the home. Additionally, it includes a list of books and movies that families can enjoy together.
Empathy Picture Books and Read Alouds
I love read alouds in my classroom. It is one of the best ways to give students shared context for discussion. I have put together a list of my favorites in my resource. These books will spark conversation and give your students insight on how to show empathy in a variety of situations.
Empathy Bulletin Board
I create a new bulletin board display whenever I start a new month of Character Education. It’s a great way to introduce and define the concept and start class discussions. In my empathy resource, I include everything you’ll need to introduce empathy to your students with an amazing display. Keep it around throughout the entire month as you teach empathy. You can add a quote of the week, scenarios to discuss with the class, and writing prompts (also included in my resource).
Empathy Anchor Chart
I love anchor charts so much. They are great visual reminders for students to use as a reference. They can take a quick look as they respond to questions, work independently, and contribute to discussions.
I like to use anchor charts as an activity right after introducing the bulletin board on empathy. It’s a great activity to pair with a mentor text. And, because the anchor chart activity has discussion questions, I think students get the best benefit when completed as a class. I’ve included a printable anchor chart as well.
Classroom posters are great reminders for students. I have three different posters that define empathy. Each has the same message with varying clip art showcasing empathy. The clip art includes multicultural children to reflect the diverse learners in our classrooms.
Posters can hang on your bulletin board to create a display, or placed around the classroom. You might put them up in the hallway to inspire students, or let students keep individual sized posters at their desk or as a folder cover.
This is a calendar that will challenge students to perform acts of empathy. It is entirely editable, so you can change the month, and customize the individual acts. You can also make different versions of the calendar so taht students are doing different tasks than their peers each day.
I like to take a few minutes each day to talk about the acts of empathy from the calendars. We can discuss examples and ideas to complete the tasks. Once completed, the students can color in the square. I honestly feel like these calendars have made the most meaningful changes in my students – it’s personal practice!
Empathy Doodle Notes
The doodle reflection pages are a creative way to get students to think about what empathy is and how they can show it to others. I’ve included reflection questions, examples, fun quotes, and doodles for students to color. Use with mentor texts, as an introduction to empathy, after completing anchor charts, as part of a reader’s theater reflection, or as part of the discussion process. These really fit in anywhere!
Big Feelings Empathy Activity
Get students to think about some of the big feelings they deal with every day. The activity outlines four big feelings that often result in negative reactions. Students think about what it means to be angry, scared, jealous and disappointed. They will draw each emotion, write what they can do when they feel the emotion, and then reflect on how they can show empathy to someone who is also feeling this way. I think students who think about these big emotions are better equipped to handle them in a healthy way.
Respond with Empathy Activity
Students will think about how they would respond with empathy to several situations. The ideas is to walk in their shoes to try and understand the others’ point of view. There are six scenarios covering a variety of topics, followed by a reflection question about showing empathy even if it might be difficult.
Empathy Interview Activity
Each student will find a partner (or you may assign partners) and interview each other. They will then reflect on what was shared. The interview sheet has students ask their partner to describe an emotion, and share a situation where they felt that emotion. Students will reflect on what they would do if they were in that situation.
Walk in My Shoes Activity
Students will design a shoe, write about a bad day they’ve had, and reflect on their classmates’ experiences with empathy. They will draw and color their shoe using any color or materials provided. Students will then write about a bad day, their feelings and what they did in that situation. After trading shoes, the class will read about others’ experiences and write on a reflection handout to express empathy for their peer.
Share a new quote each week with your students. I include five different empathy quotes with three short-answer questions to help students reflect on the quote’s meaning. I selected quotes with a unique perspective on empathy and help students participate in discussions.
Each quote is available on their own page so you can print for use on a bulletin board or hang around the classroom. There are also discussion questions you can print and use with students.
I love using social stories to allow students to put themselves in new situations and think about how to show empathy. The meaningful conversations that stem from these are so valuable. These can be displayed on your bulletin board for class discussion or printed to allow students to work in small groups or individually.
Empathy Readers Theater
There are so many benefits to using readers theater. It helps with fluency, comprehension, speaking, reading motivation, and confidence. It also create a real purpose for reading. There are three scripts included.
Anansi Learns a Lesson: In this story, students will learn about empathy by playing characters from the folktale Anansi. In this spin of the folktale, the other animals return to tell Anansi how the tricks made them feel. By hearing from the other animals, students will learn about what it means to understand the feelings of others.
Good Causes Gone Wrong: In this story, students will play classmates in a lunch room. One classmate named Wen is overzealous about his environmental cuases and chastises several of his classmates instead of kindly education them about his causes. Students will learn how to practice empathy by being open and non-judgmental.
Captain Do-Over and the Time Travel Kid: In this story, two superheroes intervene in situations where people are failing to show empathy. Luckily, the superheroes help the children understand how the other person might be feeling and guide them to make better decisions.
Empathy Writing Prompts
This resource has five writing prompts for students to write about empathy. Students will write from a variety of prompts such as selecting a well-known story and reacting to the characters involved, discussing the phrase “walk a mile in their shoes”, thinking about a job that involves a lot of empathy, a story about a child and a pet with the same unique trait, and a reflection story response with a happy ending. I’ve also included writing paper and clip art so students can turn their responses into published pieces of writing to display in the classroom.
This empathy resource is just a small piece of my larger Character Education or Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Curiculum that you can use the entire year.
CHARACTER EDUCATION CURRICULUM: EMPATHY
All of the individual pillars are covered in my bundle resource. You’ll love the meaningful lessons, materials, hands-on activities, anchor charts, bulletin boards, letters, and more. Not sure where to start? See where I kick off my character education lessons with this post.