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Teaching Kindness

Some of you may be too young to remember, others may be old enough to “never forget” the events of September 11, 2001. In the years since that fateful day, I have marked the tragedy in my middle school ELA classes by showing a video, engaging in reading and writing activities, and having a class discussion. While we touch on the sequence of events of 9/11, I like to spend most of the time sharing the things that happened on 9/12. The American people were united; they were kind to one another – friends and strangers alike.

https://www.ihatestevensinger.com/

Why does it take the worst to bring out our best? This question has been on my mind a great deal recently. Lately, the climate in America is definitely not like the days following 9/11. I have been thinking that I need to do more to nurture kindness. With this in mind, I have started curating a list of reading and writing activities to share with my 7th-graders. Below is an outline of my thinking. Hopefully, you will find something you can use with your students no matter what grade level you teach.

What is kindness?

  • Begin with a focused-free write – have students answer this question in their writer’s notebook
  • Turn and talk – then class discussion
  • Solicit examples of kindness from the students
  • Craft a class definition of kindness; then compare to a dictionary definition

kind·ness/ˈkīn(d)nəs/noun

the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

Reading About Kindness – Below are a list of a few of the books on my list to use this year with my students.

Picture Books (all grades)

Books for 4-8 Students

https://www.wishtreebook.com/resources

Writing About Kindness – Below are some writing activities I am exploring to use with my classes.

Classcraft

5 activities for teaching kindness in class https://www.classcraft.com/blog/awesome-teaching-kindness-activities/

  • Send kindness postcards
  • Take gratitude brain breaks
  • Make it rain kindness cards 
  • Start your class with a Random Event
  • Play kindness bingo

A place to find “good news” articles to read and respond to.

EDUTOPIA https://www.edutopia.org/blog/kindness-lesson-plan-rebecca-alber

This site includes the activities listed below for writing and speaking along with other kindness resources.

  •  Good Things
  • The Write Around
  • Shout-outs
  • Appreciation Box
  • Temperature Check
  • Buddy Up
  • Community Circle

By no means do I think kindness is dead, but I think the 20th anniversary of 911 gives us the perfect opportunity to remind students that being kind can make a huge difference in others’ lives. Please share a book or resource about kindness that you like to use in your classroom. I would love to add to my lists.

Rita DiCarne is a 2000 PAWLP Writing Fellow.  She teaches 7th grade ELA at Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School in Maple Glen, PA.  Rita married her high school sweetheart 41 years ago and with him she shares two wonderful children, their fabulous spouses, and four fantastic grandchildren!