5 Ways to Bring Kindness Into Your Classroom

Guest Blog by Michelle | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Apples & ABC’s

Parents and teachers love to focus on reading, writing and math, but it’s just as important to teach social skills! Here are my favorite ways to bring kindness into the classroom.

1: Start the year with kindness.

To set the tone for the year, I like to teach kindness, friendship and inclusion as early as possible. This year, I started by talking about how we should treat each other in the classroom. Then we discussed feelings. I used Lakeshore’s Moods & Emotions Mirrors to provide examples of different emotions.

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The children shared what makes them experience the feelings on the mirrors—proud, angry, happy, shy, sad and scared. Then my students flipped the mirrors over and practiced expressing these emotions!

All the kids said they feel sad when their friends are mean to them. This was my chance to discuss ways to make our friends happy instead of sad!

We talked about ways we can spread happiness and make everyone feel like part of our big classroom family!

2: Read about kindness.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is one of my favorite ways to spark discussions on friendship and kindness. In the book, a little fish learns that sharing his beautiful, shiny scales with others makes him happy.

I love the big book version because its giant size lets the whole class easily see the pictures. I invite kids to come up and point to the text, and we do fun activities, such as picking out sight-words.

As I read, I pause to check for understanding…and to discuss how the pretty fish feels after sharing his sparkly scales. Then I ask the kids to talk about how they feel when they share. I also like to remind them how wonderful it is to spread kindness and make friends at school.

3: Play interactive games.

Encourage your class to practice sharing with an interactive game, such as the Lakeshore Magnetic Fishing Set. We played during small-group time so I could show students how I wanted them to work together.

We sat in a circle, and each student got a turn to fish. We practiced counting the fish (including the total we had in the end) and naming the colors with each catch.

As we played, we talked about sharing and waiting patiently. We even cheered for our friends while waiting our turn.

I loved seeing my students take pride in rooting for each other!

4: Create task cards.

Kindness task cards are a great way to help older students learn social-emotional skills. I created these cards after witnessing some not-so-kind behavior in my class last year. The cards feature 16 different scenarios that actually happened in my class…and that I wish I could go back and change.

To play, students draw a card, read the scenario and then respond with an idea for showing kindness. The cards also come with editable slides so students can invent their own scenarios. This is a great circle-time activity. I like to use colored containers to keep the cards organized and easy to put away.

5: Work kindness into your decor.

I love to hang kindness quotes around the room—it’s one of my favorite ways to set an expectation for positive behavior. I use quotes as bulletin-board titles and as accents to fill space on the wall.

Quotes are great reminders that we are one giant family and need to support and respect each other.

Academic success is very important, but so is treating others with respect and kindness. We want our classroom to be a safe place where we “stick together,” build each other up and can be ourselves.

You can grab these Bulletin Board Templates in my Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) store. In addition, here’s a great lesson plan for teachers: First Day Friendship Building.

9 Tips for Encouraging Kindness in the Digital Age

by Marianne Kelley | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist 

All babies are born with the capacity for empathy. However, spending too much time using devices such as smartphones, tablets and TVs can weaken this skill. That’s why it’s important to help children practice kindness and caring from an early age, especially in our constantly connected world.

Now this doesn’t mean we should block kids completely from using technology! To encourage kindness in our digital world, we adults simply need to set rules for media usage, monitor kids’ online interactions, use parental controls and, most importantly, set a good example.

We hope these tips will help you find new ways to nurture empathy.

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Tip 1: Build a vocabulary of words that describe feelings.  

  • Use simple words to describe the emotions of others. (Look at that lady’s beautiful smile; she must be very happy!)
  • Label your feelings and ask children to do the same.
  • Act out different scenarios and discuss how the people involved might be feeling.

Tip 2: Decode nonverbal cues by reading facial expressions and body language.

  • Help children learn to read nonverbal cues by pointing out specific examples. Ask kids how someone who is crying might be feeling, and encourage them to think of ways they might help.

Tip 3: Work emotional words into everyday life.

  • Work more emotional words into your discussions with children. (I’m so happy to see your smiling faces today!)
  • Encourage children to use more emotional words each day. They can even practice identifying emotions in themselves using our Moods & Emotions Mirrors.

Tip 4: Watch movies without sound.

  • As you watch, ask kids to guess the characters’ feelings based on their facial expressions, movements and more.

Tip 5: Read!

Tip 6: Model empathetic behavior. 

  • Start volunteering, and be sure to discuss your experiences with children.
  • When you’re upset, happy, sad, mad, etc., label and explain your feelings. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your own feelings, model emotions with our Feelings & Emotions Washable Dolls. Use them to act out scenarios that will help children understand different emotions.

Tip 7: Incorporate empathy into your discipline style.

  • When children require discipline, prompt them to consider how their actions affect others. For example, if the negative behavior involved pushing, ask the child how it feels to be pushed.

Tip 8: Give back.  

  • As a group or team, collect toys and clothing to give to shelters or charities.
  • Ask kids to share their ideas for helping the community.

Tip 9: Follow the golden rule.

  • Treat others (and animals) as you want to be treated—all day, every day.
  • Give kids specific examples of the golden rule in action with our Learning to Get Along Book Set. These books walk kids through sharing, listening, resolving conflicts and more.

And never forget the best way to inspire kindness in children—getting involved and showing them you care!