5 heart-warming lessons to teach students how to practice kindness

It’s always a good time of year to encourage students to practice kindness. By combining this important social-emotional lesson with other school subjects, you’ll help develop kind, self-aware, and helpful students for your classroom. Plus, studies show that kindness activates the joy area of the brain, leading to happier kids, better concentration, and less stress overall. 

In short, we could all use a little more kindness in our lives. So to honor World Kindness Day, let’s take a look at some of the ways we can naturally bring this important life lesson into the curriculum. 

1. Introduce a journal kindness challenge. 

Journaling is often part of the daily classroom curriculum, so make your writing time focused on kindness for several days or a full week. You can find plenty of writing prompts about kindness online, including these great ideas written specifically for kids and students. Try to start with a pretty easy, open prompt to get students thinking about kindness. Then as the challenge goes on, make the prompts even more thought-provoking. You can do this activity in the classroom or have students tackle it at home. This can be a great part of a bigger social-emotional effort. Check out this reflections journal, perfect for kids 10 and up. Journaling has so many great benefits for students, including improving their writing and communication skills. So get a writing kindness challenge going in your classroom. 

SEL Reflections Middle School Journal Kit

2. Encourage middle school students to practice kindness with short character-building lessons. 

Let’s face it—middle school is a tough age. Those teachers all deserve bonuses and raises. This is a time in a young person’s life when they have a wide range of emotions they’re trying to figure out. While there are many kindness lessons developed for the elementary audience, we can’t forget the importance of tackling the subject with this age group. The secret here is to keep it short and sweet—and then repeat. Instead of going into a single big and long lesson about kindness, tackle it a little at a time. Make it part of a regular routine, creating a culture and habit for your students. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out this book, Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School. It has several 10-minute lessons, based on research, ready to go. 

Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School

3. Recognize random acts of kindness. 

Create a kind culture in your classroom by recognizing random acts of kindness. These moments should truly recognize students who are being nice or kind without prompting or looking for awards. This means you don’t necessarily recognize every single kind gesture that you see. To make this a lesson in your classroom, talk to students about kindness and challenge them to brainstorm what it looks like to be kind to others. Encourage them to think of examples of when someone was kind to them. Then share those ideas and come up with examples of ways we can be kind to others. You can use Post-it notes or poster board to capture all the ideas. Afterward, tell students you’ll be looking for those positive behaviors in the classroom. As you see examples in your classroom, find a way to recognize students. You don’t necessarily want to create a big visual, comparing students to one another. But something simple like a note or these coins would be perfect. This is a lovely way to quietly say, “I see you—keep being an awesome person.”

Kindness Coins

4. Use the community circle project to recognize and practice kindness. 

This free lesson plan is a wonderful way to get students thinking about and expressing their feelings. Plus, it’s a gorgeous art project without requiring a lot of materials. This project uses the simple design of a circle (there’s probably a math lesson you can add in here) to encourage students to reflect and connect with something important to them. You can easily tweak this lesson plan to encourage students to focus on the subject to practice kindness. This is still a really wide topic, allowing them to take it in any direction they’d like. When you’re all done with this lesson, you’ll have great pieces of artwork to display in the classroom and send home with students. 

The Community Circle Project - Lesson Plan Volume 124

5. Talk about understanding others. 

A big part of kindness is being nice to everyone, not just your friend, sibling, or someone you admire. This can be challenging. Sure, it’s easy to be kind to someone you really like, but it doesn’t come as natural with people you aren’t familiar with. This is why the lesson of understanding others can be a great basis for encouraging kindness. This is another free lesson plan, and it really encourages students to look at things from different points of view. You’ll get free worksheets in this lesson plan, along with a suggested art project. This will definitely help students look for ways to come together. 

Undertanding Others, Understanding Ourselves: A Social Awareness SEL Kit - Lesson Plan Volume 2

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