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Life Skills Lesson Plans that Teach Empathy

Janelle Cox


How do we teach students to care? Is it even possible to develop life skills lesson plans that teach students empathy?

To develop empathy we must first encourage students to be aware of others’ feelings. The ability to express your feelings is an important part of a child’s development. As teachers, we strive to push our students to their full potential. We have the power to educate them not only academically, but emotionally as well. When students understand how to express their feelings, as well as the needs of others, they will be able to interact with one another seamlessly, and avoid unpleasant interactions and confrontations. Although developing life skills lesson plans about empathy may seem like a daunting task, it can be done and will benefit your students greatly. Students will feel safe, and will have the tools in their pocket to resolve any conflicts peacefully.

Here are a few tips on how to develop life skills lesson plans that teach students empathy.

Start with a Discussion on Life Skills Lesson Plans About Empathy

Start out simple with a few basic questions to see what they know and where they stand on empathy. Here are a few examples.

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  • What is empathy? Why is it important?
  • What are some things you can do to show empathy?
  • What does it mean to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
  • Have you ever hurt someone’s feelings? How did you know and how did you feel?

Share Personal Stories

To help students gain a better understanding of empathy, have them share their stories with the class. This will allow students to gain insight into each others’ feelings and make it easier for them to understand why a person may act or react the way that they do. The more students know and understand about their classmates, the easier it will be for them to understand them. Go around the classroom and encourage all students to share a story about how they hurt someone’s feelings or how someone has hurt theirs and how it made them feel.

Take it One Feeling at a Time

To help students become emotionally aware of their feelings and all of the feelings they may go through during a typical day, introduce one feeling at a time. For example, you may start the conversation about the feeling of being embarrassed. Have students think of a time they were embarrassed and draw a picture on a sticky note. Then write the word embarrassed on the front board and have students come and place their sticky note around the word. Students can take turns looking at the drawings. As a class talk about the pictures and discuss their examples of being embarrassed. Each day choose a new word and have students draw a new picture depicting their experience with that feeling. You can even write the word on paper and laminate it, then have students place their sticky notes around the word and create an “Empathy” bulletin board with all of the words.

Learn When to be Empathetic

Here is an activity that will put student’s decision-making skills to the test. Give students a few empathic and non-empathic situations and have them respond to them. Students should read each statement then decide if they should show empathy, or not show empathy and why.

  • You have been best friends with Kim since you were a baby. Now you have another best friend too. But Kim told you that she’s not friends with your new friend and you should not be either. Your new friend is very sad, what should you do?
  • One of your classmates has been teasing another classmate. At first you thought it was just joking around, but then you noticed that he wasn’t anymore. Everyone in class still thinks it’s funny, but you don’t and you see that the student who is getting picked on is very upset. What should you do?
  • Your best friend is having her birthday party on Saturday and wants you to come sleep over. Your parents surprised you and bought you tickets to your favorite band’s concert, which happens to be on the same night. What should you do?

Have a Conflict-Resolution Plan

Learning to be empathetic will help students with conflict among with their peers. It’s a good idea to give students a generic empathy prompt to help them express their feelings when a situation occurs. For example, the prompt may be “When you “tease/judge/laugh” at me, it really makes me feel “sad/angry.” Then students can go on to explain what they would like their peer to do next time.

Students learn by what they see. Be a good role model and practice showing love, compassion, and empathy. When the students see you doing this, they too will follow your lead.

Do you teach students empathy in your class? Do you have any fun activities that work for you? Share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators