- Participate in a discussion about empathy and actions that demonstrate care and concern for others
- Recognize that everyone has their own preferences around actions that are meaningful and helpful to them
When we remember people who have supported and comforted us in the past, research shows that this reflection helps increase feelings of trust and security, and strengthens our compassion and willingness to help others in return. Educators should encourage students to practice self-care as they identify and express their needs around receiving support from others, and kindness and perspective taking as they learn about how everyone prefers to receive empathy in their own way.
To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.
- Art materials (e.g., pens, pencils, markers, crayons, and paint)
- "Empathy Hearts" handout
- Introduce empathy to students by explaining: “Empathy is an important skill that helps us understand and care about others’ feelings and experiences. Empathy has three parts: feeling what the other person is feeling, understanding their situation by “putting ourselves in their shoes”, and taking action to help them!”
- Prompt students to imagine a classmate named Zee, who is sitting alone on the playground because their best friend just moved away. Encourage them to “step into another person’s shoes” and imagine Zee’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in this situation. As you ask the following questions, record students’ responses on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone:
• What do you notice about how Zee looks? What might their facial expression, body language, and energy level tell you?
• What do you think Zee is thinking about?
• Can you feel for a moment with Zee? What feelings might they be experiencing? Why?
• What actions can you take to help Zee feel better?
• Have you ever experienced a similar situation? Who (or what) helped you?
- Invite students to think about their own experiences receiving empathy from friends. How have others shown care and concern for them in the past? What actions are comforting to them when they are feeling sad, lonely, or upset?
Introduce students to the “Five Empathy Hearts,” which are:
• Kind Words: receiving kind or reassuring words from your friends
• Time Together: spending time together doing something that you enjoy
• Thoughtful Giving: being given a small, meaningful gift
• Comforting Presence: having a friend hold your hand or sit with you to provide comfort
• Helpful Acts: having a friend perform small acts of kindness for you
Ask students which type of “empathy heart” they have, and use the “Empathy Hearts” handout to draw or write how they want others to show them empathy.
- Invite students to share about their “empathy heart” with the class to learn how everyone prefers to receive care and comfort. Consider displaying their artwork in the classroom or hallways so students can see how they can best support each other with empathy.
- After completing this activity, guide students through a reflection by asking the following questions:
• What did you discover about yourself through this activity?
• What did you discover about your classmates?
• Did you learn any new ways to practice empathy?
• Why is it important to practice all three parts of empathy when trying to decide how to help another person?
• Why is it important that we consider the other person’s unique feelings, experiences, and preferences?
Virtual Exchange Extension
Facilitate a live virtual exchange with an Empatico partner class, and invite students to share their stories and reflections with each other. For example, students might:
- Share a story about a time that they received or showed empathy for others, how they felt during this experience, and what they learned from it
- Create and share writing or artwork that shows how empathy looks, sounds, and feels to them
- Practice the “Five Empathy Hearts” to show care and comfort for others during a week-long period, keep track of their actions using a chart or Padlet board, and share their data with each other
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.