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Teaching Strategies to Bring About Kindness

Jessica Thiefels

With bullying reaching epidemic proportions, spreading kindness seems to be more important than ever before. Most children spend the majority of their day in a classroom with other kids—what better place to promote being kind to others than right there? As an educator, there are many teaching strategies you can use to bring kindess into your classroom every day, from role modeling certain behavior to making a game of it. Use these teaching strategies to help your students learn empathy, respect, kindness, and more.

Teaching Strategies: Model the Behavior

Children, especially younger children, mimic the behavior of those around them, especially the adults in their lives. If you want to teach kindness, begin with yourself, making kindness toward others a priority — 53 percent of teachers surveyed said that this is the way they teach kindness in their classroom.

For example, always speak with a kind tone of voice, don't shout or use sarcasm around younger children, and always let others go first. If someone says something mean, ask them to rephrase the statement to be kind, while still expressing their emotions and what they need.

Teach Effective Listening

Listening is an art and an important skill for being kind to others. Make listening a priority in your classroom with listening rules for everyone to abide by. Here are a few to add to your list:

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  • When my classmate is talking, I don’t speak.
  • When I want to speak, I raise my hand.
  • When someone asks me a question, I wait three seconds to reply.

Ask students to share what rules they think should be included as well, so they can take ownership over the listening. They’ll be more invested when their ideas are included.

Make It a Game

Start a “Random Acts of Kindness Challenge” in your classroom or school.  There are many ways to set this up, and the first one is simple: Have an ongoing challenge where kids earn points for being “Caught in the act” of being kind to someone. They can cash in the points for a small token prize, like a book (on kindness and manners, of course).

You can track this style of challenge with The Great Kindness Challenge app, which allows you to set a goal, and then suggests acts of kindness for students to complete — i.e. smile at 25 people, make a new friend, and draw a picture and give it to someone. Students can watch the countdown each day to see how many more acts of kindness they have to complete.

Prioritize Service Projects

Service projects help children to see that other kids may not have many of the things that they take for granted, whether it's food, clothes, or the hottest new toys. Making service projects a part of your classroom gives them a chance to practice kindness while learning about the people and world aroudnd them. Try one of these service projects to start:

  • Read books at a retirement home.
  • Collect and bring food to the local food shelter.
  • Serve food at the local soup kitchen.
  • Collect clothing for a clothing drive with Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

If you don’t know what to do in your area, contact the local social services agency. They’ll know what’s needed in your area and how to set up a project. For example, many churches partner with larger nonprofit organizations to do service projects and may be able to include your class in a larger effort.

Use Your Resources

There are many resources available to facilitate kindness in the classroom, whether as a fun activity, a lesson, or a field trip. One popular resource is a book called “How Full is Your Bucket,” where the main character realizes that he can fill other peoples’ buckets with kind words and actions, while unkind words and actions empties their buckets.

The Need Show has a great PDF that talks about the lesson of the book, provides vocabulary overview, printables for students and talking points for your lesson.

Use this as a lesson on kindness at the beginning of the year or quarter and then give students a goal to fill each other’s buckets in a certain amount of time — think: One month. They can track the kindness they’ve experienced and everyone can do a shout out at the end, making each student feel great about the kindness they showed.

Join the Be Kind People Project

This project is sponsored by Be Kind America, a non-profit designed to give today's children an opportunity to learn and practice their 10 core values of kindness and share them with others. The Be Kind People Project asks students and teachers to take the kindness pledge, which includes: “Be Supportive,” “Be Honest,” “Be Helpful.”

If the entire community wants to get involved, you can even bring the “Be Kind Crew” to your school which provides teachers with Classroom Kindness Kits, encourages family engagement, and more.

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