Dear Friend…

Invite students to write letters about challenges they are facing and respond to each other with kindness and understanding.
Ages 8-14 / 45
min Activity
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  • Write notes about challenges or worries that they’re experiencing and seek out support from their peers
  • Respond to classmates’ notes with kindness and understanding 
  • Optionally, exchange letters with another class through a shared Padlet board (located in the “Extensions” tab)

Supporting Research

It’s common for people to struggle to ask for help from others - however, researchers have found that most people want to help others, and even feel happier themselves after extending empathy towards others. During this activity, educators should encourage students to practice self-care by asking for support from their peers,  and kindness to show concern for classmates who are struggling.

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


Activity Partners

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  1. Introduce the activity by explaining: “Today, we’re going to try something special. We’re going to create a space where we can share our feelings and support each other. The idea is simple: we’ll write down a challenge or worry that we’re experiencing, then respond to someone else’s note in a caring and thoughtful way.” 
  2. Distribute small pieces of paper or index cards to each student. Ask them to take a moment to reflect and write down a challenge that they are currently dealing with. For example, students might share about: 
    • Feeling worried about an upcoming exam 
    • Struggling with self-confidence 
    • Feeling left out or experiencing disagreements with friends 

    Encourage students to be open and vulnerable, but reassure them that they only need to share what they’re comfortable with. Students can also include a question about any advice that they’re looking for, or an action that would help them feel supported and cared for by others. They can choose to sign their name or leave the letter anonymous. 
  3. Gather the notes and skim through them quickly to ensure that they are appropriate for school. Then, shuffle the notes and redistribute them randomly to students. 
  4. Ask students to read the note that they received, and write a kind message or piece of advice in response. Encourage them to practice empathy by acknowledging and showing concern about the author’s emotions and experiences.

    Provide some examples for how students might express empathy, such as: 
    • I wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in feeling (insert emotion). I’ve experienced something like this too.
    • I’m so sorry about what you’re going through.
    • Even though I might not fully understand what you’re going through, I care about you and I’m here for you.
    • If you ever need someone to talk to, please let me know. 
    • I admire your strength and resilience in facing (insert challenge). 

    You might say: “Remember, your words can have a powerful impact on someone! Put yourselves in their shoes to think about what you would want to hear if you were in their situation. Even if you haven’t faced a similar challenge yourself, you can still offer support and encouragement. Sometimes, just knowing that someone is listening and cares about us can make a huge difference.” 
  5. After students finish, gather their responses and quickly skim through them to ensure that they are kind and respectful. 

    Then, spread the papers on a table and let students find their original note. Give them a few minutes to silently read the response that they received.
  6. Afterwards, facilitate a discussion by asking students: 
    • How did you feel as you were writing your letter? Was it easy or difficult for you to describe the challenge that you’re experiencing? How did it feel when you received a message from someone else?
    • What strategies did you use to offer support and encouragement in your response to someone else? How did you practice empathy for the author? How did you feel afterwards?
    • Asking for help is a sign of courage, but it’s normal to feel awkward or vulnerable. How can we feel more comfortable seeking support from others? Is there something that our class could try doing to check-in with each other more regularly?

    Finally, remind students to respect their classmates’ privacy and keep the content of the notes confidential. This will help create a safe and trusting environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or gossip. 

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.