Empathy and Compassion

GRADES 6-8

Learning Goal

Students build and strengthen the skills of empathy and compassion.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the lessons, students will be able to:

  • Identify the emotions and perspectives of others
  • Help improve the emotions of others
  • Understand the importance of being kind to others

Learning Summary

Student behavior towards others is directly related to their ability to empathize and treat others with kindness and compassion. When students focus on taking the perspectives of others—the first part of empathy—they expand their cognitive and emotional capacity to extend beyond the egocentric developmental stages within childhood and adolescents. We introduce students to the concepts of kindness, compassion, and empathy, and provides students with tools to act in response to their development of compassion towards one another.

 The lesson starts with a Mindful Moment in which students practice compassion for others as well as for themselves. The lesson then moves to defining kindness, compassion, and empathy. Students engage in a proactive circle conversation to discuss their perspectives with the intention of building empathy and a sense of community. Students design a compassion campaign to create something that improves the emotional state of others. The class finishes with a journal reflection.

computer icon    Online Teaching Tips for Empathy & Compassion

Starting with the mindful moment, have students turn off their cameras and microphones in order to focus on the mindfulness practice. The Empathy Cards activity can be challenging to do virtually as it depends on a level of anonymity, so we encourage you to use the videos found in the lesson plan and lesson variations to spark discussion with this age group. If possible, have students or their parents send you an email, picture, or video of how the student practiced kindness recently and then share back out a collection with the class.

Through a live delivery, show one or multiple of the videos found in the lesson plan and discuss key ideas and students’ views on the content. If your class is very comfortable sharing, you can do the Empathy Cards activity using the chat feature on an online learning platform. Students can private message the teacher something they would like the class to know about them then you can read them aloud making sure to keep them anonymous. 

During the introduction, use the slides for the definitions of key terms. Again, focus on using one or more of the videos for discussion. Consider having students create their own compassion campaign at home or in the community such as painting inspiration rocks, writing kind notes to people in their household, or finding ways to pay it forward. 

CASEL Competencies

Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a "growth mindset."

Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.

Classroom Teaching Example