Teaching Empathy in the Elementary Classroom

 We want to create an environment in our classroom that encourages and teaches empathy.  Children tend to be egocentric and need to be explicitly taught to recognize others' feelings and how to respond to those feelings.  This will build classroom community and foster an environment of kindness in your elementary classroom.  In this unit of mini lessons, we will teach students what empathy is, how to identify and respond to feelings, and why having empathy is important. Each activity is meaningful and engaging, which will lead to a classroom of empathetic students and learners.

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

I use the book Empathy is Your Super Power by Cori Bussolari as the read aloud for the week.  I like that it takes students through different scenarios and how to apply empathy to those different situations.  You can then model using empathy in different situations throughout your day.  When you see students modeling empathy, be sure to point it out to the class.  The more you do this, the more these behaviors will be embedded into your classroom community.  If you see a situation in which a student could have used empathy, address that with that student.  Let them have a do over so that they can build that into their muscle memory!

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

We read the whole text on Monday and Friday, and read only small portions on the other days of the week, much like an interactive read aloud.  I include scripted mini daily lesson plans, as well as questions to ask during the read aloud to spark those important discussions.

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

We want to teach students what empathy is, the understanding of the feelings and experiences of another.  I like to tell them that it's like putting yourself in someone else's shoes.  We make this anchor chart together, and I teach students four questions to ask themselves when they are in a situation in which they can apply sympathy.  

1.  What emotions is that friend feeling?
2. Why do they feel this way?
3. How would I feel if I were in that situation?
4. What can I say or do to help?

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

Students get their own mini anchor chart to add to their own Social Emotional Learning Notebooks that they can always refer to later.

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

You can also teaching students this Empathy Song.  It also helps them to remember the steps of applying empathy.

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

One of the most important skills you can teach your students is being able to recognize others' feelings or emotions.  Show students a picture of an emotion and have them name the feeling.  You can then ask them to give examples of times when they might have this emotion.  Then, have them describe how they could respond if someone else has this feeling.  We also make this Empathy Glasses to remind them that we are viewing a situation through another's eyes!  They can use these when looking at the emotion on the cards.

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

On Wednesday, we play a game, and this week is the In Your Shoes Empathy Game.  You can play this in small groups or divide the class into two teams for a whole group game.  The shoes are the game pieces and the cards each contain a scenario.  They roll the dice to see how many spaces to move.  If they land on draw a card, they choose a card and have to answer the empathy question.  This gives students lots of practice responding to situations in which empathy should be applied.

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

Our SEL animal character for the unit is Empathy Elephant.  His poem reminds students to see a situation through someone else's eyes.  

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!

On the last day of the unit, students will apply what they have learned.  In the text, the author says that empathy is contagious.  They have to explain what that means.  Hopefully, their empathetic acts will also be contagious in your classroom!

Empathy is one of those skills that can have a major impact on your whole classroom.  We need to encourage our students to be empathetic and generous so that they will carry on those acts outside of the classroom and into adulthood.  Can you imagine how much better our world would be if everyone showed empathy?!  If you are in need of some quick but meaningful activities for teaching empathy, you can grab them HERE or by clicking any of the photos.  Thank you so much for reading!

Empathy activities for kids, including anchor charts, lessons, games, and more!






























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