What Would You Do?
- Learn about empathy, and how to feel, think, and act in a way that shows care and concern for another person
- Complete an exercise to imagine practicing empathy in different situations
Researchers have designed an exercise called “Event Empathy Action” (EEA) which has demonstrated an increase of students’ empathetic behaviors. This exercise presents hypothetical situations to students, and invites them to reflect on what is happening, imagine the affected person’s feelings, and share a compassionate course of action. Similarly, during this activity, educators should encourage students to practice emotion recognition to identify how someone might feel in a given situation, perspective taking to imagine their thoughts and behaviors, and kindness to express care and concern for them.
To learn more about this skill, and how it promotes students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.
- Introduce empathy to students. Explain that empathy is a skill that helps us understand and care about others’ feelings and experiences, and that it consists of three parts:
• Feeling what the other person is feeling
• Thinking about their situation to understand why they might feel this way
• Taking action to help someone based on their feelings, situation, and needs
- Lead an “imagination exercise” by describing a common scenario, such as: “A new student walks into the lunch room, and they look around slowly. It looks like they don’t know where to sit (or who to sit with).”
Ask students to think about:
• How the student might be feeling
• Why they might be feeling this emotion
• What they could do to help them
In the example above, students might practice empathy by:
• Sharing the new student’s feelings of anxiety, because they have felt uncomfortable in similar situations.
• Thinking about why they might feel uncomfortable, because someone could feel lonely when they are the “new kid” and don’t know where to sit during lunch.
• Taking action to help them, and inviting them to sit at their table.
- Ask the following questions to invite students to share about their own experiences:
• Think about a time when you felt sad, lonely, or upset. Did someone help you? What did they do, and how did their actions make you feel?
• When we are helping someone, why is it important to think about their unique experiences and preferences? Does everyone like to be shown kindness in the same way?
• Have you practiced empathy for someone recently? Or, is there a time that you wish you had practiced empathy for someone? Can you share about what happened, and what you did (or wish you had done)?
- Use the Canva template below as a digital activity, or print it out as a physical handout, to help students imagine how they would practice empathy in different situations. The template can be accessed through this link by clicking on "Use template".
Please note that you will need to sign in to a Canva account to use the template - to learn more about creating a free Canva for Education account, and adding your students to a virtual classroom, please visit this resource.
This exercise can be completed individually or in small groups, followed by a class discussion so students can share their reflections with each other. If necessary, change the scenarios to align with students’ experiences, or any issues that commonly arise in the classroom, such as:
• A classmate posted a video of themselves singing, and people are leaving hurtful comments on their video.
• Your parent or caregiver had a long or stressful day at work.
• Your best friend ended a relationship with someone they were dating.
• During a group project, a member of your group isn’t contributing and the others are upset with them.
• Your sibling isn’t feeling well, and had to cancel their birthday party.
• A neighbor’s pet passed away recently.
• While you are at the grocery store, you notice that someone on crutches is struggling to carry their basket of food.
• A classmate’s best friend recently moved away, so they have been spending most of their time alone.
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.