Kindness. Something we all expect and dream of having in our classroom communities. I have been teaching for some time now and there has not been a year where being kind to others hasn’t made our classroom rules list.
Most of the time my kiddos are kind to one another, maybe because of my “we are stopping what we are doing and talking this out mentality” when unkindness erupts or because their home community has instilled these great skills in their hearts. BUT… sometimes, our students lose sight of those compassionate ways and I am left wondering what has taken over my sweet little nuggets?
I finally took some time and reflected. I thought to myself…when were they explicitly taught about kindness? We don’t expect our kids to come in with all their foundational academic skills. So why do we expect them to come in with these important social skills?
What happens when your kids are making mistakes with material and academic standards? We reflect and reteach. So, it was time to make a plan to teach about compassion. I wanted my kids to make a solid connection to what kindness truly was. We needed to reflect on how positive it felt to make others feel goodor to do something good for others without getting anything in return.
3 Ways to Build Kindness Into Your Classroom
Guided reading lessons with mentor texts
Words of kindness
1. Kindness Journaling
I thought one of the best ways to teach about kindness was well… to be kind. I created a kindness journal to help my kids reflect after we did random acts of kindness around the school or at home. The journal had reflection pages, acts of kindness ideas pages, a kindness tally section, as well as doodle pages. It can easily be printed, stapled and put it right in their little hands or it can be printed to fit into those fun journals you can get from the Target Dollar Spot!
The random acts of kindness we did started very simple. For example, on the way to recess we all brought baby wipes to another grade level pod and wiped down their tables. During a transition to specialists we stopped to pick up scraps and tidied up a common space in our school. A larger project we did was picking up trash on campus, which was more involved with parent support or when we made craft kits for Children’s Hospital. The acts of kindness opportunities are endless. After writing a few journal entries and reflecting on our compassionate ways the kids were begging to do more. They were even asking if they could write about acts of kindness they had done at home. TEACHER WIN… COMMUNITY WIN… WE ALL WIN!
2. Guided Reading Lessons with Mentor Texts
I love beginning a lesson with a mentor text. I don’t know about your classroom, but when I am doing a read aloud with my kids, they are tuned in and engaged. It is the perfect opportunity to deliver a lesson, message or to ignite conversation.
First of all, I had to find the books, so I hopped on Pinterest and Google of course to find books that had valuable lessons imbedded with kindness and compassion. I FOUND SO MANY! I was so excited that I had a huge list to choose from. I hit the library and you guessed it Amazon.
I was so impressed with the amount of quality books that I found. Each one showcased another important skill with the theme of kindness, compassion or friendship.
I was able to narrow down the list the following mentor texts as a kick off, or foundation if you will, for my kind classroom mission.
“Do Unto Otters”
“Leonardo the Terrible Monster”
“Ricky, The Rock that Couldn’t Roll”
“We Don’t Eat Our Classmates”
“The Invisible Boy”
“Words and Your Heart”
“What Does it Mean to be Kind?
I am all about meeting standards but sometimes it has to be on my terms. What my kids needed was to learn important social skills, otherwise we would be wasting time tattling and problem solving to be able to access the curriculum anyway.
So, I decided to create guided reading units that would help us learn about kindness, compassion and friendship while meeting standards and polishing up on our comprehension and discussion skills. Sometimes we were even able to complete a fun craft!
You could pick up and read aloud any one of these books, and your kiddos will benefit from simple discussion. If you are looking for a bit more, you can check out any of the units I created by clicking on them below.
Guided Reading Units Focused
on Kindness, Compassion & Friendship
3. Words of Kindness
This was a simple one. Say kind things. Focus on the positive, especially for those kiddos you always find yourself needing to redirect or those kiddos who always seem to be doing what they are supposed to but, you may forget to show your appreciation. All people can benefit from hearing kind words, but we often forget to just say them.
There are a few ways I decided to deliver the words of kindness…
Compliment circles A couple times a week (you could even do one) we would work in a time that we would all sit down together. We talked about how to give a compliment, what a compliment might sound like and I even provided compliment starters for the kiddos that might feel stumped. I kept the poster displayed at all times.
I made sure everyone got a chance to share and to be complimented. The kids loved this. Why wouldn’t they?!
This is the simplest thing, takes little time, but if you don’t put it on the schedule it will slip through the cracks of our busy, overpacked schedules. We all know that the more often they do something, the simpler it becomes and after a while it was so quick to do, and the kids needed little support.
Below you can get a FEEE copy of my compliment starter poster. It is part of my Kindness Matters Unit. Click on the poster to download it for free.
Words of kindness on display
Besides my compliment starter support tool, I also carefully selected some great kindness and positive self-esteem quotes to have displayed in our classroom, pod and eventually the school. I made them in poster format and then made them in bookmarks, so each kiddo had a constant reminder of kindness.
Depending on what you are looking for, I made anti-bully self-esteem bookmarks as well as reminders of kindness bookmarks.
I printed mine in color and laminated them for the kids to keep and use all year. I KID YOU NOT, when I handed these out to students as they were silent reading around the room, the looks on their faces and their responses were priceless. It was seriously THE BEST.
I also loved displaying a kindness bunting and posters from Ashley Egger as additional reminders and support tools to help my students make the best choices when it came to kindness, compassion and friendship in our classroom.
So, what can you do today? Show your kids how much kindness means to you. Have real conversations and share personal experiences about acts of kindness or negative experiences you have had. Read books and discuss. Lead by example and pick up the trash in the hallway, stop to fix the fallen art work or let the other class go first to recess…I know the bathroom line will build up or the extra Keurig coffee might be out of the question now, but it only takes a few moments, a few examples to set kindness into motion. These things are so simple, might take a small amount of time, but they are watching you and truly look up to us.
YOU CAN DO IT! Ha… I always picture Rob Schneider yelling that… anyway… I would love to hear how you instill kindness in your classrooms. I am always looking for new ways to support my kiddos growing social skills.