Reading, writing, arithmetic...empathy? Nothing builds a sense of community like collective empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand others’ feelings and needs and is an important skill to model to create an inclusive learning environment. These empathy activities for middle schoolers can reinforce the idea and model good behavior for your students.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) highlights skills like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making as key to social and emotional learning (SEL). If you are interested in a fuller SEL curriculum, get some tips on implementation.
Empathy helps to develop many of the key SEL skills. Not only does it allow for personal growth, it is also linked to accelerating student learning. Plus, it strengthens the student-teacher bond. There are many reasons to practice empathy in the classroom, and we have a few suggestions for activities to teach empathy to middle school students
Teaching Empathy Activities in the Classroom
1. Imagine Yourself as a Character
Take a cue from your current lesson plan and have students imagine themselves as a historical or fictional character you are studying. This can be a historical figure, like a president, or a fictional character. Ask students to write a short paragraph about themselves as this person. Alternatively, you can have students put themselves in the other person’s shoes and have them write a paragraph about what was going through that person’s mind in a certain situation. What are their challenges? What brings them happiness? Use this graphic organizer below (or one of our many other graphic organizers) to help guide them in their answers.
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