What Would You Do?

Introduce and reinforce the practice of empathy in real-life situations!
Ages 8-14 / 30
min Activity
Emotion Recognition
Perspective Taking
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  • ‍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

Supporting Research

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.


Activity Partners


  1. Introduce empathy to students. You might say: “Empathy is an important skill that helps us understand and care about people. It has three parts: feeling, thinking, and acting. We notice and care about someone’s feelings, think about what it’s like to be them, and act in a kind and supportive way. We can practice empathy towards ourselves, people who we know (like our classmates and family members), and even people who we don’t know very well!”
    To reinforce the meaning of empathy, show this video to students, which shares a simple story about how empathy can help us connect with ourselves and others. You might also show them this chart, which describes the nine skills for practicing each type of empathy towards ourselves, others, and the world.
  2. 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.”

    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 can practice empathy by:
    • Imagining that the new student might be feeling anxious.
    • Thinking about how someone probably feels nervous when they are the “new kid” and they don’t know anyone else.
    • Taking action to help them by inviting them to sit at their table.
  3. Invite students to share about their own experiences by asking the following questions:
    • 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?
    • Can you share about a recent time when you practiced empathy for someone? 
  4. 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.
  5. Suggest additional scenarios that are relevant to students’ experiences or any issues that commonly arise in the classroom. For example: 

    Younger students (8-10 years old): 
    • Your parent or caregiver had a long and stressful day at work.
    • Your sibling is feeling sick and had to cancel their birthday party.
    • A classmate’s best friend recently moved away, so they have been spending most of their time alone. 
    • Your best friend is worried about giving a big presentation to the class. 
    • Your neighbor’s pet dog ran away.

    Older students (11-14 years old)
    • A classmate posted a video of themselves singing, and people are leaving hurtful comments on their video.
    • During a group project, a member of your group isn’t helping and everyone is upset with them.
    • While you are at the grocery store, you notice that someone on crutches is struggling to carry their basket of food.
    • Your best friend received a low grade on an important exam. 
    • Your neighbor lost their job, and they seem really worried about money.

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.