Why Teach Kindness?
6 Strategies for Teaching Kindness
1. Brainstorming Ideas as a Class
Anytime you are introducing a new concept to your class, you need to provide a basic understanding of it at the beginning. Some children may not have a conscious experience in giving or receiving acts of kindness, and you will want them to feel they can easily meet expectations. They may need you to provide clear examples of what kindness in the classroom looks like. One way is to activate prior knowledge by brainstorming ideas as a class.
- Large Group Brainstorming: One way to brainstorm as a class is to ask an open-ended question such as “What was something kind you saw someone do lately – big or small?” and jot down the responses on the whiteboard or chart paper. Two categories: Big Things and Small Things, so that the children can see that it doesn’t always have to be something big, but that small things count just as much!
- Independent Acknowledgement: Pass a notecard out to each child and have them write down something nice done for them lately, and how it made them feel. Collect them, and read them aloud for everyone to hear and understand how kindness makes the heart happy. Bucket filling is a system that encourages students to act independently to fill each other’s invisible buckets by doing kind acts.
2. Random Acts of Kindness
One of the simplest things to encourage students to do is to find opportunities to show each other kindness in random, unexpected ways.
- “Complimentary” Notes: Provide sticky notes in a noticeable spot in the classroom for students to take at any time (they’re “complimentary”!). Students can use them to write a compliment to another student and stick it anonymously on someone’s desk when they’re not looking.
- Thank-you Notes: Have children think of people who have done something nice for them lately and whom they want to say “Thank you”. It could be the lady who serves them lunch at the cafeteria, the bus driver who takes them to school every day, or the older sibling who helped them with their Math homework. Give them an opportunity in class, just a few minutes a week, to write a thank-you note for someone. Encourage students by reminding them that the person they thank will be delighted at the unexpected kindness shown.
3. Acts of Kindness Challenge
Challenge students in class to meet a goal to try to do kind things for others regularly. A challenge can motivate and excite kids into completing a task and create a positive habit. In this case, the task would be to recognize when others do something nice for them unexpectedly, or to attempt to surprise others with random acts of kindness.
- Give them goals: You could give them a goal to meet, perhaps 5 acts per week, and a checklist to help them keep track. When they’ve completed the checklist, they could add a star to a classroom chart, or a shape cutout to a classroom bulletin board dedicated to the challenge. The things your kids do randomly for each other might be to sharpen a friend’s dull pencils, take a classmate’s trash for them at lunchtime, or send an anonymous note of encouragement to a peer who needs it.
- The Compliment Experiment: Make a point to give a compliment to each child during the day, without the other children noticing. At the end of the day, tell the students that you held an experiment all day, that you gave each child a compliment during the day, just to see if attitudes were improved throughout the day. Tell them you noticed a change in the atmosphere of the classroom for the better, and that showing kindness can do that. Encourage them to show kindness to others throughout the day themselves, and see what a difference THEY can make.
4. Read Books About Kindness
- The Kindness Quilt: One of my favorite books for K-2 that teaches kindness is The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. In this delightful book, the main character, Minna, is given an assignment to report on an act of kindness that she does. She can’t decide what to report on, so she ends up making a quilt with many kind acts represented, along with the help of her friends, classmates, and eventually the whole school.
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: “This heartwarming book encourages positive behavior by using the concept of an invisible bucket to show children how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love by “filling buckets.”
5. Classroom Lessons
- Inspirational Words: Write this quote from the Dalai Lama on a thinking map: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Ask students what the quote means, and jot down their interpretations and extensions of the meaning. Give students a writing assignment to describe how we can be kind always.
- Literature-based lessons: Use The Kindness Quilt to teach a lesson on working together to promote kindness, and create a classroom kindness quilt of your own.
- Make it an occasion worth celebrating: Make a point yearly to celebrate “National Kindness Day” (February 17th). Here is a lesson plan to give you some ideas.
- For more information and resources, check out the educator resources page at randomactsofkindness.org. There are tons of resources there for each child in your room.
6. Rewards and Positive Reinforcement
- Try some of these ideas for when you catch your students in the action of showing kindness to their classmates. Praise and kindness go a long way, as do simple things like coupons, a marble jar, certificates, and brag tags. Read more about these creative and cost-effective rewards.
- Give your students something they can give too! These kindness cards are the perfect way for students to announce their pride in themselves for doing good, and to spread the word and motivate others to do the same.
FREE Kindness Awards
Here’s a freebie for you to use in your classroom. Give students these kindness awards to praise them for their acts of kindness in the classroom, and encourage a pattern of behavior to be continued. Click the image to download.
Social Emotional Development
Looking for more lessons and activities to help teach kindness and social emotional skills? Check out the mind+heart SEL curriculum!