How to Teach Kindness to Elementary Students All Year Long

5 min read

| By Gale Staff |

World Kindness Day is celebrated on November 13th, and it’s a great opportunity to teach elementary school students about the importance of kindness and compassion. With a little planning, you can easily incorporate World Kindness Day activities into your classroom curriculum. Using Gale In Context: Elementary, your young students can learn about acts of kindness worldwide. They can explore individuals who, despite their youth or background, commit to making the world a better place. This database features age-appropriate content with inclusive customization features. After all, these conversations around kindness and care should be available to everyone.

Here are some ways you can teach kindness in the elementary classroom.

Learn the Meaning of Kindness

Before launching into your World Kindness Day activities, encourage elementary students to define “kindness.” It may be a simple word, but there is so much meaning to unpack. Start your discussion using the World Kindness Day summary page in Gale In Context: Elementary. Then, ask your students to offer examples of times when someone was kind to them. How did that make them feel?

Then, pivot into a deeper conversation about empathy. Developing and practicing empathy is essential to social and cognitive growth. You certainly have social-emotional learning goals for your classroom, and World Kindness Day provides a gateway to introducing these concepts. Help students think critically about how their actions can affect others, whether positively or negatively. These are the building blocks for emotionally aware and successful people.

Discover the Science of Kindness

Ask students to share their feelings when they do something kind to others. People feel better about themselves when they help those in need, and it feels like winning an award. There is a real neurological science to being kind that leads to actual health benefits. Kindness, especially without recognition, sends positive signals to the brain. These feel-good chemicals can mitigate stress, which helps reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and maintain cognitive function.

Volunteering and other acts of altruism can also help fight depression and provide a stronger sense of community. Volunteers also gain practical experience and feel like a valued team member. Encourage students to learn how they can volunteer their time, which doesn’t have to be through an official organization. Maybe they can help their parents with dinner or clean-up? Perhaps they can help pick up litter at the playground? These are life-long lessons you can offer them.

Find Inspirational Stories

Once your class creates a foundation for the meaning of kindness, use the news articles in Gale In Context: Elementary to research real examples. Try to focus on stories about young people demonstrating kindness, as no age or budget is required to be kind. Learn about Orion Jean, a fifth grader who collected more than 500 toys for children in his local community hospital. Inspired by the initiative’s success, Orion then raised more than 100,000 meals for hungry families.

As another powerful example, read nine-year-old Emilee Suddarth’s story. She used her baked goodies to help raise money for a nonprofit organization providing senior meals. During a fundraiser auction for the nonprofit, one tray of Emilee’s cookies raised $600. Using these stories and so many more, your students will begin to understand how any small act of kindness has the potential to impact those around them.

Create a World Kindness Day Class Project

Now that your classroom is motivated, develop your own World Kindness Day project or commitment. You can find dozens of great activity ideas embedded through the Gale In Context: Elementary resources.

Express Kindness Through Words

Choose three people around you and share something kind to each of them. Be genuine—what is something special about their personality or a skill they excel at? Aside from compliments, encourage students to smile and check in with one another every day.

Start a Fundraiser

Find a local organization that your classroom wants to support. An animal shelter, senior citizen center, or food shelf? Connect with your chosen organization to ascertain what they need the most. Then, develop a fundraiser or donation drive throughout November. Set up donation bins, sell holiday goodies, or whatever makes the most sense for your classroom’s goal. Then, at the end of the month, celebrate your accomplishments and visit the organization on a class field trip.

Create Kindness-Inspired Art

For World Kindness Day, encourage students to illustrate kindness. Use whatever medium they want (clay, marker, paint, etc.). Get creative. Then, invite other classes to visit your special kindness art exhibition throughout the day.

Host a Clean-Up Day

Identify a playground, park, or area around the school that could use some extra love. You and your class can commit to a clean-up day for World Kindness Day. Get gloves, trash bags, and whatever else you need to help make the space better for others in your community to enjoy.

Leverage Teacher Support Tools

By World Kindness Day in November, you’re likely looking forward to the upcoming holiday break. Elementary teachers are essential to young children’s development and long-term success. Still, the range of classroom responsibilities, whether integrating new curricular changes or filling in for teacher shortages, is extensive. You persevere, and that’s why Gale is launching a teacher-dedicated database called Gale In Context: For Educators.

With this resource, teachers can find support curriculum with ready-made instructional materials, tip sheets, standardized lesson plans, and engaging classroom activities. Save your favorites and create personal content sets to share with your students through your district’s learning management system. You can also easily collaborate with your colleagues, learning from one another and strengthening your professional network. Plus, you can leverage Gale’s standardized customization tools to personalize your classroom materials and address the individual needs of your students.

World Kindness Day may occur once a year in November, but you can help inspire your students to lean on kindness all year. If your school is not a Gale subscriber, contact your local representative to learn more about these valuable resources. Until then, check out more World Kindness Day resources and powerful acts of kindness through the World Kindness Movement’s website.

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