Compassion Circle

Engage students in a daily conversation to share about their feelings and build a supportive community together.
Ages 8-14 / 15
min Activity
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  • Establish norms for respectful and compassionate communication
  • Participate in a “compassion circle” to share about their recent feelings and experiences, and respond to each other with empathy and understanding

Supporting Research

Compassionate listening is the act of attentively and kindly listening to one another, allowing individuals to feel heard, validated, and understood. By integrating compassionate listening into the classroom, educators can help foster trust and understanding between students. This activity promotes self-care as students respond to prompts about their emotions and experiences, and kindness as they listen empathetically to their peers.

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


Activity Partners

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  1. Ask students to move around the classroom and sit down in a circle. Ensure that everyone can see each other’s faces without needing to adjust their position. 
  2. Introduce the activity by explaining: “Today, we’re going to participate in our first “compassion circle” by taking turns responding to a prompt. Most importantly, this is a time for us to practice compassion for each other. Let’s brainstorm together: how can we show kindness and respect for others during our circle?”

    Work together to establish conversation norms, such as: 
    • Pay attention to the speaker by facing them, making appropriate eye-contact, and keeping an attentive, friendly expression on your face. 
    • Focus on listening to others and give them the opportunity to fully express themselves.
    • Respond with kindness, like offering words of support and encouragement when appropriate.
    • Speak honestly and openly when it’s your turn.
    • Be respectful of different perspectives, experiences, and emotions.

    Consider using a “talking piece”, which is a special object passed around the circle. The student holding the object becomes the speaker, and then they can pass the object to someone sitting next to them. Alternatively, students can raise their hands when they want to speak. 

    Let students know they can choose to pass if they don’t feel comfortable sharing on a particular day.
  3. Facilitate a “compassion circle” as a morning or afternoon routine. Begin the circle by reminding students of the norms that you established, then share one of the prompts below. Come up with additional prompts that are aligned to your students’ experiences and interests.

    You might also lead a quick mindfulness exercise (e.g., “Five Breaths”) to decrease any nervousness before starting the conversation.

Example Prompts

  • If you were a color today, what color would you be and why? 
  • Share one thing that made you smile yesterday. 
  • What is something (or someone) you feel grateful for? 
  • If you could have one superpower to help you through today, what would it be? Why? 
  • What type of weather represents your mood today? 
  • What emoji best describes how you’re feeling right now? (Act it out if you feel brave!)
  • What gesture or action would make you feel cared for and supported by us? 
  • What is something that you’re feeling really excited about? 
  • Describe a recent moment when you felt proud of yourself.
  • Is there something that you’re feeling worried or anxious about? What would help you feel better about it? 
  • What is something that you feel curious about exploring or learning? 
  • What is an activity that makes you feel happy or joyful? 
  • Describe a place where you feel peaceful or content. 
  • Talk about a time when you felt frustrated or annoyed recently. What caused those feelings? What did you do? 
  • How do you like to relax after a stressful day? 
  • What is something kind that someone did for you recently? How did it make you feel? 
  • Describe a song that you’ve been listening to recently, and how it makes you feel.
  • If you could relive any day of your life, what day would you choose and why? 
  • When was the last time that you laughed really, really hard? What was so funny? 
  • What is something silly or strange that is frightening to you?

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.