What is a Good Deed?
- Learn about the importance of empathy in performing selfless acts of kindness
- Identify and evaluate meaningful ways to show compassion and make a positive impact on others
When adolescents perform kind actions for others, not only do these actions benefit the recipient, but also promote the well-being of the one performing the action. For example, researchers have identified increases in the doer’s sense of social connection, personal fulfillment, and social acceptance, and decreases in their level of stress. During this activity, educators should encourage students to practice perspective taking and kindness to identify good deeds that will positively impact others.
To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.
Consider reading the following short stories with your students, which explore actions of selflessness and generosity.
- Begin this activity by asking students the following questions:
• What is a “good deed”?
• Can you share about a good deed that you have witnessed or participated in? (either as the one performing the good deed, or the one benefiting from one)
• Why do people perform a good deed?
• Sometimes, people perform "good deeds" to support their community after a traumatic event, or in honor of people who were affected by the event. For example, in the United States, after the events of September 11, 2001, people volunteered for organizations like the Red Cross, and gathered and distributed supplies to survivors and first responders. In Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, people helped clear debris and rebuilt homes and other structures. Can you think of any examples in our community?
As students share their responses, write them down on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone.
- Guide students to understand that a good deed is an action that is selfless and done to benefit others. It is motivated by a desire to help or care for others, rather than seeking recognition or praise. Good deeds require empathy, which means that we consider others’ feelings and experiences, and take action to help them in a way that is meaningful to them. To continue exploring empathy, show this video to students.
Some additional examples of good deeds are:
• Helping a friend or sibling do their homework
• Donating clothes you’ve outgrown, or a bicycle you no longer ride
• Helping your parents around the house by doing “extra” chores
• Reaching out to someone you care about or haven’t spoken to in a while, and asking them how they are doing
• Inviting someone who seems lonely to sit with you and your friends during lunch
• Picking up litter outside or cleaning up a park with your family
• Making “thank you” cards for first responders, firefighters, or healthcare workers
• Gathering toiletries (i.e., toothpaste, shampoo, and soap), clothing, and food items, and donating them to a local shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness
- Engage students in a Think-Pair-Share exercise. Students should:
• Think individually about good deeds that they can perform for others, and write down 4-5 ideas.
• Pair with someone sitting near them and share their ideas with each other. Students should help their partner identify which action would have the greatest impact on someone, while still being feasible to perform. If there are any obstacles that these ideas may present, each pair should also discuss strategies for reducing or eliminating those obstacles.
• Share their final ideas with the rest of the class, as you write them down on a physical or digital board.
During the last step, help students identify common goals or themes that overlap with the ideas that they identified. For example, there may be similarities in how they want to:
• Be an ally for people who are typically marginalized or treated unfairly
• Protect the local environment and the plants and animals who live there, or
• Express gratitude for community members and frontline workers
If you notice that several students have shared goals, and could benefit from sharing resources with each other, consider placing them in groups to perform their good deeds together. For example, a group of students could work together to gather items for a local shelter or food pantry.
Alternatively, if students have simpler ideas, they can perform their good deeds individually.
- Distribute a copy of the “Student Pledge Card” to each student, which prompts them to write down a “good deed” (their #IWill Pledge) that they will promise to complete as an expression of kindness and compassion.
Students should keep their pledge cards as a reminder of their promise, or you may want to display these cards in your classroom.
Encourage students to fulfill their pledges (either individually, with their families, or as a group, depending on the complexity of their ideas).
- Facilitate a closing reflection by asking the following questions:
• How did empathy play a role in your good deed? How did considering others’ feelings and experiences help you decide on your approach?
• How did you feel when you performed your good deed?
• What impact do you think your good deed had on the person or community that you tried to help? Do you feel more connected to them after this experience?
• Did you encounter any challenges or unexpected situations? How did you handle them?
• What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
• What are some good deeds that you would like to perform in the future?
This activity was created in partnership with the nonprofit 9/11 Day, which established September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. To view more resources for educators, please visit the 9/11 day website.
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.