How to Teach Empathy in the Classroom

Empathy may seem innate to you. Maybe it never crossed your mind to explicitly teach empathy to your students. However, while empathy is innate to some, it does need to be explicitly taught and modeled to others.

If we teach students to recognize others’ feelings and perspectives, it will not only make classroom management easier, but it will make your students more aware and empathetic people.

Here are four ways to teach empathy in the classroom.

1. Read Stories About a Wide Range of People, Cultures, and Experiences

Select books that showcase people, their experiences, and their feelings and emotions. It is especially impactful to incorporate stories about other children that your students can not only learn from, but relate to as well.

Here are a few examples of books that can teach students to emphasize with the perspectives of others:

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2. Have Conversations & Open Dialogue

When a student is feeling hurt, ask others how they would feel if they were in the same situation. You can use this in real life situations as they arise, or create realistic scenarios and ask students to reflect on how they would feel if they were in the shoes of someone else.

For example: Kiara is playing on the playground with her friends Jamie and Lia. Suddenly, Jamie and Lia run off to the other side of the playground and start whispering and pointing at Kiara. How would you feel if you were Kiara? What should Kiara do?

3. Teach Globally

Incorporate lessons and activities that teach about different places, people, and ways of life. You can do this through books, themed units, or other materials such as virtual field trips.

4. Most importantly, model and expect a classroom culture where:

  • Everyone is accepted
  • Different viewpoints are appreciated
  • And feelings are supported

Model empathy by responding empathetically to students. Don’t jump to judgement or punishment.

Give students a chance to be heard, understood, and accepted.

Teaching empathy will increase your students’ willingness to be held accountable and to hold themselves accountable.

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