As teachers, we teach the curriculum of our subjects each day, but there is also a hidden curriculum that we try to instill in our students – all of the life and social skills to be a successful, happy, contributing citizen. Now more than ever, an important piece of learning to navigate as a good citizen in the world lies in our cultivation of kindness and empathy in the classroom. Afterall, the classroom is a community on a smaller scale. In ELA classrooms, we have so many opportunities to include kindness and empathy activities through writing. Here are some ideas on how to spread kindness in your ELA class!
Give students a sticky note or a piece of paper to write an encouraging message on and instruct them to place the note somewhere around the school where it will brighten someone’s day, like a bathroom mirror or someone’s locker.
To help combat cyber bullying, students can create positive Instagram posts in Canva that contain inspirational messages. Students can post these on their Instagram accounts and tag people in them to let them know someone thinks they are awesome. Students can also create a hashtag to use and encourage others to continue the trend.
Six word memoirs are just that – a life experience or core memory in six words. Show your students examples of this type of writing at sixwordmemoirs.com and then ask them to write their own. After, students can display their memoirs around the room as a gallery walk where everyone walks around and reads each other’s work. Remind students that they can remain anonymous if they wish. After reading the memoirs, students will hopefully be invested in each other’s life stories and treat each other with more compassion.
A big part of creating empathy in young adults is helping them to see situations and life through alternate lenses than their own. Songs provide a great way to engage students in seeing the world through different identities and contemplating what each experience might be like. If you are looking for a way to include songs that explore different identities into your classroom, you can check out Songs to Explore Identity here.
Choose a different student each week to be the “Student of the Week.” As a class, create an acrostic poem of that student’s name, listing positive qualities about them in each line. Display the poems on a “Student of the Week” bulletin board to create a sense of community in the classroom.
Set up a box of thank you cards and pens somewhere in your classroom and encourage students to write a note of appreciation to someone.
As a class, brainstorm interview questions that students could ask a classmate to learn about their life and background. Pair students up and ask them to interview their peer to write about life “in someone else’s shoes.” This writing can take many forms as students can write it like an interview, or they can focus on one anecdote from their classmate’s life and write about it like a short story.