I am a such a big believer in the importance of teaching kids to be kind. I always say to my kids at the end of the year: if you leave my class with nothing else, I want you to leave with KIND HEARTS. For me, teaching students to be kind little humans is the most important part of my job, and the most important life skill anyone can learn.
We are all guilty of being selfish or getting caught up in our own lives, and kids are no different. Kindness is something that needs to be practised. Here are lots of different ways that you can be doing exactly that in your classroom!
These are super simple to create and the kids love them! The kids write their names coloured strips of paper. Their classmates then rotate around the room and write compliments on the coloured strips. The kids can turn their compliment strips into a paper chain to display at school or take home.
One little girl in my class loved it so much that she hung it above her bed. She said it comforted her each night!
Bucket Filler displays are a great way to help your kids to encourage one another with kind words. We start by reading ‘Have You Filled A Bucket Today?’ and discuss how we can either be ‘bucket fillers’ or ‘bucket dippers’.
When we fill someone else’s invisible bucket (by being kind, inclusive etc) we end up filling our own bucket too, but when we dip into someone else’s bucket (with mean words, ignoring or hurting people etc) we dip from our own bucket too.
We talk about how we want to be a class of bucket fillers! The colourful buckets are a visual reminder of this. The kids write kind notes (e.g ‘you are very funny’ or ‘I loved your artwork’) and fill each other’s buckets. Over the years I've used lots of different things to make the 'buckets'- paper cups, party hats, or other similar items from my local $2 shop.
The buckets are a tangible way that the kids can be filling each other’s buckets. Sometimes we write bucket fillers as a whole class activity (which helps me to make sure that all the kids have some notes in their buckets) but I also encourage my students to fill out a bucket filler whenever they find a reason.
One of my favourite notes: sanx for beyen my frend. Translation: thanks for being my friend!
The kids love opening their bucket filler notes every few weeks and reading all of the compliments and encouragements from their classmates. It is always so beautiful to watch.
There are also lots of follow up activities we do to consolidate the idea of being bucket fillers vs bucket dippers.
WRINKLED HEARTS ACTIVITY
This is a really powerful activity for demonstrating the impact of our actions on other people’s hearts. With my class, we brainstorm all the ways that we can hurt people through our actions and words. With each new idea we scrunch our hearts a little bit more. Then we flip it and brainstorm all the ways we can make people feel better.
With each idea we un-scrunch the hearts a little more. When we’ve restored our hearts as much as we could, we discuss that while they are definitely better than they were, it is hard to completely get rid of the wrinkles. Such a powerful and simple way to demonstrate the lasting power that words and actions can have on other people’s hearts.
A few years ago, I created this kindness menu to help my class think more actively about how they could go out of their way to be kind each day.
I chatted to my kids about how much I value kindness and how, like anything, we need to practise kindness so that it just becomes an ingrained part of our day. We brainstormed the ideas for the kindness menu together, so the kids really felt a sense of ownership over it and had a really practical sense of how they can make another person’s day that little bit better.
I hung some whiteboard markers up alongside our display so that the kids could tick off every time they’d done something kind throughout the day. I put the display in the hallway, as all classes across our school walk past our door. I hoped it might inspire kids all over the school to also get involved or to think about how they could do something kind for someone else. And sure enough it did! Before long, there was no room for any more ticks!
This resource has been updated and expanded since then- you can download it for FREE from the Kindness section of my store.
FIND WAYS TO GIVE BACK
It's so important to encourage kids to think outside of themselves and their immediate spheres, and to find ways to give back. There are many ways that you can do this with your class or as a school. One year, instead of doing a ‘Secret Santa’ gift at the end of the year, the kids brought in a few dollars and we donated to a charity that we chose together.
Letters are another way that kids can connect with other kids- here is an example of a beautiful letter that a Year 6 student wrote to another kid who had been forced to flee their country and come to Australia as a refugee. These letters from students were sent along with new school supplies packs that my school had put together.
At my last school, I also had the privilege of organising an annual collection grocery bags for asylum seekers. Each year the kids and their families donated hundreds of bags to families who have nothing.
One little 7 year old boy used my classroom mat to sum up why everyone should bring in a bag of groceries: “We all own one whole mat- some of us even have more than one whole mat. But the people we’re helping don’t even have one square! If we bring in a bag of groceries, to us it’s just one square and we still have all of the other squares. But to others it can mean so much”.
COMMUNAL KINDNESS DISPLAYS
The best acts of kindness are done when no-one is looking. Encourage kids to complete 'ninja' acts of kindness!
KINDNESS CAMPAIGN POSTERS
This is a beautiful FREE activity from Rainbow Sky Creations. Last year I put these tear off flyers around the school on World Kindness Day. By recess, all of the kindness ideas had been torn off and I had kids come and ask me to put some more up! At the end of the day, even some of the teachers took these posters home and put them up around their apartment blocks or neighbourhoods!
There are a lot of kindness quotes out there. One of my favourites is from Aesop’s Fable: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”.
It doesn’t matter how big or small an act of kindness is, it’s never a waste of time. In the same way, no activity that promotes kindness in your classroom is a waste of time! We are all so busy and it’s so hard to cram everything in. But I encourage you all to prioritise some kindness activities in your classrooms.
I promise that it’s always, always worth it!