Empathy is the character trait where one is really putting themselves in someone else’s place. It’s more than just sympathy and feeling sorry for another person. It’s putting yourself in another’s shoes and truly trying to understand what they are going through. This is a hard concept for young people (and even some adults) to grasp. Can you teach empathy? I have been asked that so many times as a parent and a teacher. Yes, you absolutely can. There are many ways to teach empathy in your classroom. The earlier you start, the more likely students are going to exhibit empathetic characteristics in their own lives.
Module 7 in The Encouraging Classroom focuses on the character trait of empathy. Here are some great ways how to teach empathy in the classroom.
Use “empathy” paper dolls
Have your students make paper dolls to illustrate their own emotions. Each doll template in The Encouraging Classroom comes with several different emotions. Your students will be able to use these dolls when you are teaching about empathy in the classroom. Some activities you may want to try with the dolls include:
- Using the paper doll to tell a story about when they felt different emotions
- Showing how someone is feeling in a story or real life using the paper doll
- Acting out scenarios when they are showing empathy using the paper dolls
- Writing about a time they showed empathy and using the paper doll to help them think about the emotions and feelings involved
Using dolls helps students express their emotions without feeling embarrassed or put on the spot. It’s a perfect way to start relating to others and empathizing!
Sort characteristics and non-characteristics of empathy
Have your students sort what empathy is and isn’t on the sorting chart from The Encouraging Classroom. Students cut behavior actions off the bottom of the page. Then they read and sort the actions into two categories: empathetic & NOT empathetic. Some empathetic actions include holding the door for someone or asking a friend why they are crying. Some NOT empathetic actions include pointing at a person who has a disability or laughing when someone drops their lunch. By recognizing what behaviors are and are not empathetic, your students can start to practice empathy in their own lives.
Reinforce empathy at home
Home connections are perfect ways to practice skills and reinforce what you’re teaching in class. The home connection sheet from The Encouraging Classroom helps facilitate conversations about empathy with parents and guardians. By encouraging parents to discuss specific scenarios which require empathy, your students can make that home-school connection.
Read and write about empathy
One of my favorite things about The Encouraging Classroom character curriculum is connecting reading and writing to what the students are learning in class. The empathy resources include passages at 1st grade and 2nd grade reading level. Passages are perfect to use in reading centers, with a whole group, or independently. First, students read the passage. The passage has a difficult situation involving empathy but it does not have an ending. Next, the students need to decide how to respond to the situation with guided writing and reflection.
Get ready to help your students manage their emotions and show understanding towards others with the character trait of empathy. Use activities and resources from The Encouraging Classroom to know how to teach empathy in the classroom.
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