“Chalk Talk” Exercise

Lead an exchange of perspectives as students respond to prompts around empathy and social issues.
Ages 15-18 / 30
min Activity
Perspective Taking


  • Participate in a “Chalk Talk” exercise by writing responses to questions around empathy and social issues, and engaging in a silent dialogue with their peers 
  • Discuss reflections on the topic and show curiosity and open-mindedness about others’ perspectives

Supporting Research

Researchers have found that open-mindedness is a key skill that helps us explore and appreciate experiences, beliefs, values, and perspectives different from our own. One strategy to foster students’ open-mindedness is to develop their perspective consciousness, or the understanding that others may have different perspectives from them, and guiding them to seek out and examine others’ perspectives. During this activity, educators should emphasize the importance of self-awareness and perspective taking as students share their thoughts on various topics, show curiosity about their classmates’ ideas, and engage in a (silent) exchange of perspectives. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


  • A physical board (i.e., chalkboard or whiteboard) or a large piece of paper
  • Writing instruments for each student (e.g., pencils, pens, chalk, or markers)

Activity Partners

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Empathy Chalk Talk

  1. Begin the activity by asking students to share their understanding of “empathy”. Then, show this video to students, which tells a simple story about how empathy can help us better connect with ourselves and others.

    After watching the video, reinforce the meaning of empathy for students. You might explain: “As we saw in the video, empathy is an important skill that helps us understand and care about others’ feelings and experiences. Empathy has three parts: feeling, thinking, and acting. We recognize and show concern for someone’s feelings, think about their unique situation and perspective, and take action to support them. We can practice empathy towards ourselves, people who we know (like our classmates and family members), and even people who may initially seem different or unfamiliar to us.”
  2. Ask students to gather around a physical board or a large piece of paper, and write down a question about empathy on it. For example: 
    • What is the difference between empathy and sympathy? 
    • What is an example of empathy in a television show, book, or movie? 
    • What are some verbal and nonverbal (e.g., body language, facial expressions, and gestures) ways to convey empathy?
    • How do the three types of empathy (feeling, thinking, and acting) support each other? How do they work together?
    • What is the role of empathy in resolving disagreements? 
    • What is the role of empathy in decision-making? How might decisions differ when they are made without consideration for others?
    • Do you think there are cultural differences in how empathy is practiced or received? What cultural norms might shape our understanding of empathy? 
    • Has technology made it easier or more difficult to empathize with others?
    • What might be challenging about practicing empathy for someone who is different or unfamiliar to us? What are some ways to overcome these challenges? 

    Depending on the size of your class, it might be helpful to split up students into groups of 10-15 students, and set-up a different area for each group. 
  3. Explain that students will be participating in a “Chalk Talk” exercise, which is a silent activity. Share the following guidelines:
    • No one should speak during the exercise. 
    • Everyone should write down their thoughts and ideas about the question. There are no wrong answers.  
    • Students should also take time to read others’ comments, then write down responses or questions about what they wrote. They can also use symbols (e.g., exclamation marks, smiley faces, or stars) to emphasize someone’s point. 

    Provide pencils, markers, or chalk to students, and invite them to write down responses to the question. It’s normal to experience a slower start as students form their thoughts, and as they begin writing, more students will naturally join in. 
  4. Once students have finished the exercise, give them some time to quietly read all of the comments. 

    Then, ask them to return to their seats. Express gratitude for everyone’s thoughtful contributions, and encourage students to share any responses that they found interesting or thought-provoking. 

    Facilitate a discussion around similarities and differences in their responses, and emphasize the importance of recognizing and appreciating diverse viewpoints.

Civics Chalk Talk

  1. Consider engaging students in a “Chalk Talk” exercise around social issues that are important to them. To do this, write down statements to describe different viewpoints, such as: 
    • Human activities significantly contribute to climate change. 
    • Gender equality has been achieved in our society. 
    • Social media has a negative impact on our mental health.
    • Access to healthcare is a basic human right, and we must have a universal healthcare system. 
    • Strict gun control laws are essential for public safety. 
    • Freedom of speech should be limited to prevent hate speech.
    • Social media platforms should regulate content to prevent misinformation. 
    • Voting should be mandatory for every eligible citizen. 
    • College education should be free for all students. 
    • The government should strictly regulate the use of single-use plastics. 
  2. After writing down the statement, facilitate a “Chalk Talk” exercise in which students share their opinions on the prompt, and whether they agree or disagree with it. Students can also write down personal experiences or observations that have shaped their perspective on the issue, their personal beliefs or values regarding the issue, or any data or information about it. 

    As in the first round, students should also write down comments and questions for each other. Remind them to practice kindness and respect, even when they disagree with someone, and show curiosity in wanting to understand their perspective. 
  3. After students complete the exercise, invite them to share their thoughts on the topic, as well as something interesting or impactful that they read in others’ comments. Students might also discuss: 
    • Any new information or viewpoints they hadn’t considered before 
    • Challenges they encountered during the exercise, and strategies for overcoming them
    • The importance of considering different perspectives on social issues 

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.