Kindness is something that should be fostered all year round. Yet, this week is a great time to emphasize kindness as a way to harness all the excitement that may come from the arrival of Valentine’s Day. At the elementary level, Valentine’s Day is a BIG deal – full of excitement, decorated paper bags and candy hearts. I remember when teaching middle school, Valentine’s Day was less of an interest among students. Valentine’s were scarce, but hopeful young ladies were abound waiting for the potential first kiss at a chaperoned school dance. And at the High School level, Valentine’s Day takes on a whole new meaning with real relationships, romantic moments and a few broken hearts.
In each of these cases, a focus on kindness is a great way to go. 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.
1. 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??)
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Random Acts of Kindness – We’ve all heard this phrase. (And did you know this is a national organization? And did you know that this week is Random Acts of Kindness Week? I did not know that until I was looking up images for this post!!!)
Well, here is my idea: 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.
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.