Kindness isn’t something that we should focus on once in a while, but something that should be fostered all year round. In the second wave of SEAL: Social-Emotional Artistic Learning, we talk a lot about the methods of bringing SEAL strategies into the classroom by both embedding these ideas into our daily routines and also by creating experiences throughout the year to emphasize important values. Kindness is certainly one of them!!
Teaching kindness in the classroom has a ton of benefits!
Helping students show kindness in the classroom can lead to so many wonderful things in the classroom.
To start, when kindness is present, students feel safe and supported, which can encourage them to be more open and receptive to the feelings and perspectives of others. As students learn to empathize with their peers, they begin to understand the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. This can create a positive cycle of empathy and kindness, where students are more likely to show kindness to others as they become more aware of the impact of their actions on those around them. Ultimately, building empathy in the classroom can lead to a more compassionate and inclusive learning environment for everyone.
Promoting Positive Relationships
When students feel safe, respected, and valued, they are more likely to form positive relationships with their peers, teachers, and other school staff. By promoting kindness, you can create a sense of community in your classroom that fosters positive relationships. When students feel like they belong and are part of a supportive community, they are more likely to thrive academically and emotionally.
One of the most significant benefits of promoting kindness in the classroom is that it can help reduce bullying. When students learn to be kind to one another, they are less likely to engage in bullying behavior. Students who experience kindness are also more likely to report bullying incidents, making it easier for teachers to intervene when needed and address the issue. By creating a culture of kindness in your classroom, you can help prevent bullying and promote a safe and supportive environment for all students.
When children receive kindness, they feel valued, appreciated, and supported, which helps to build their self-esteem. Moreover, when they are encouraged to show kindness to others, they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, which also boosts their self-esteem. Students with high self-esteem are more confident, motivated, and resilient, which makes them more likely to succeed academically and emotionally.
Improve Academic Performance
Kindness in the classroom can also lead to improved academic performance. When students feel safe, supported, and valued, they are more likely to be engaged in the learning process. Moreover, students who have strong social and emotional skills are better equipped to manage stress, set goals, and persevere through challenges, which are all essential skills for academic success.
So, I offer you these four ideas and hope that you can adapt them to what you do with students and share other ideas as well.
Kindness Activities for the Classroom
1. Kindness Chain –
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve invited my students to add to a paper chain that continues to grow link by link. To add a link to the chain, a student must witness another student doing something helpful or kind. They write what the person did and leave it on my chair so I can read it and add it to our chain. One year, the chain strung across the walls of my room twice by June. At the end of the year, I divide the chain up and give it to the students as a reminder to always be kind and to look for the kindness in others.
2. Kindness Circle –
Put the names of all the students into a hat and have each student pick a name making sure they do not have their own. Gather students into a circle and have students take turns saying something kind to the class about that person. You may opt to have students pick names earlier in the day or the day before to think about what they would say. For a variation on this, have students write something kind to that person on a sticky note or index card so that they can read it and then give it to the person.
You will probably have to discuss with your students the difference between making a compliment and saying something kind about the person themselves. There was one year when I did this as a regular Friday afternoon activity and it took a few weeks for students to get away from complimenting someone’s shoes and actually saying something nice about the person they chose. (P.S. I need to re-institute that Friday ritual, don’t you think??)
3. Kind Cards –
Ask students to write a kind note to anyone in the school. Give the students time to write their quick notes (on index cards, for example) and then deliver the notes. If you feel you need to read these before having students deliver them, then do that.
4. Random Acts of Kindness –
We’ve all heard this phrase and what a great theme to put into practice in your classroom.
Simply encourage your students to watch for and perform random acts of kindness. Brainstorm what these acts may be:
- Holding the door for someone
- Saying hello to your teachers and classmates
- Helping someone pass something out/pick something up/get something done
- Doing a chore at home without being asked
Your students will come up with an amazing list, I’m sure. Then send them out to watch for these things and do some themselves. But go the extra step and follow up with your students in some way. Here are some ideas:
- Take time to reflect on these acts of kindness at the end of a class period or school day.
- Offer a small token to those who you find performing an act of kindness. (small token=penny, bead, sticker, a string with a knot in it, etc)
- Send your students out as Kindness Detectives who are searching for those who do acts of kindness. Arm them with these tokens and have them give them out to those they find doing something kind. The other students may not realize what is happening at first, but you just might cause a buzz around school.
- When someone sees another students doing something kind, invite them to add to the Kindness Chain.
By fostering kindness in the classroom, teachers can create a positive and supportive environment that promotes learning and personal growth.
A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Enjoy discussing and trying some of these idea out. And please add your own ideas and stories of success with kindness in the comments.