Empathy matters. The more we explicitly teach this empathy schools, the greater our impact on health and wellbeing in our students. And if you needed further convincing because you are stuck in the ‘literacy/numeracy are key’ mindset, according to a recent study*, teaching empathy can pay huge dividends in terms of children’s learning development of cognitive skills. Two for the price of one!
The following game is a great tool for teaching empathy, for learning to read a situationthe ability to look at a situation for another point of view.
What am I doing?
In this game the children have to think about how to make their actions clear and concise so that they provide the correct visual clues for the other children to guess what they are doing.
A list of mimes that will invoke discussion such as someone looking lonely, crying, laughing etc (A ready-made resource pack is available for download at www.theresourcecupboard.co.nz)
Give a child a mime from the list to perform. The other children can take turns to guess what the child is miming. Once the action has been correctly guessed, take some time to discuss why the character may have been feeling that way and what they could have done to help. Repeat.
- The children could work in two teams, each team having a list of mimes. Children in each team take it in turn to perform the next mime on their list.
- Ask the children to think up their own ideas for mimes that can be added to the list. You could also divide the class into groups of 5 or 6 and ask them to work out a mime between them. They could focus on playground or classroom issue for example.
A ready to download resource pack for this activity is available at www.theresourcecupboard.co.nz
Our classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse (which is a good thing in my opinion but that’s a whole other story). By explicitly teaching empathy, we help children engage in a deeper understanding and a richer enjoyment of life, and the ability to connect and build meaningful relationships with others. Sounds good to me!
And remember, you are doing a great job of teaching empathy every time you show a child that you care. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.’
*(Tough, McGill University, Montreal, 2012)