"To think how others feel."
Empathy is the ability to connect with others on an emotional level and share their feelings. To nurture this connection, one must place themselves in the situation of others and understand their experience through their point of view. If empathy is exercised in social interactions, individuals can create a compassionate and supportive environment where they can all thrive together.
The word "empathy" originates from the Greek word empatheia, which means "passion, physical affection." In the early 20th century, the word entered the English language, drawing from the German Einfühlung, "feeling into," which emphasizes the understanding and sharing of another's emotions.
A world of rainbows and butterflies is powered by the great force of empathy. When people try to understand and support each other's emotional needs, they can create a future led by respect, kindness, and compassion. Believe it or not, you, as educators, hold the power to shape this positive future. Promote empathy in your classroom by integrating these strategies into your lesson planning:
Play a role reversal activity: Prepare a role reversal activity where students can stand in the shoes of their peers. Pair them with a classmate who they will role-play for a day or try changing their classroom assignments. At the end of the activity, students will better understand the joy and challenges that their classmates face.
Integrate historical lessons: In discussing the concept of empathy, incorporate lessons on history in which heroic figures in the past showed empathy. Highlight how these stories contribute to the betterment of today.
Engage students in the “Name the Picture of Emotion” game: Prepare various pictures depicting different emotions, then ask students to name the emotion that the picture portrays. The pictures can be images of real people or emojis. This simple exercise allows students to enhance their ability to recognize emotions and respond appropriately.
Celebrate diversity in the classroom: Introduce students to different cultures and discuss the beauty that lies in differences. In this celebration, encourage your students to discuss or present their favorite holidays, cultural traditions, and legends or folklore. The goal of this activity goes beyond building stronger connections but also to help students connect with their classmates on a deeper level.
Create an Empathy Map with your students: Create charts divided into sections of "Thoughts," "Actions," and "Feelings." Once completed, instruct your students to analyze the characters during reading sessions. Tell them to evaluate what they think the characters think, do, and feel in the story. Afterward, have them fill up the sections in the charts.
Have your students stand on other's shoes: Have a collection of different shoes, and for each pair, create a background story. Ask students to step into these "shoes" and discuss the life of the person they belong to.
Encourage a “sharing” session every day: Pair students with a classmate and have them converse about their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and favorite and least favorite events of their daily lives. During these sessions, encourage your students to actively listen to their partners and converse healthily and positively.
Provide a classroom "safe space": Create a corner where students can go if they're feeling down or overwhelmed, with classmates trained to approach and listen empathetically. Implementing this in a classroom is advantageous for students to develop social awareness and in seeking help when they need it.
Engage students in a silent role-play: Another way to practice your students' abilities to recognize an emotion is by inviting them to participate in a silent role-play. Form groups and assign them with short stories featuring characters feeling various emotions. Ask students to act out these stories without speaking. Observers discuss the emotions and motivations present based on non-verbal cues.
Read stories or play songs: Read Positive Action stories, skits, or scripts on empathy to illustrate the difference that one can make by taking others' perspectives. You can also play Positive Action songs that promote kindness, empathy, and caring. These songs not only teach them important lessons but also leave a lasting mark on their ears, hearts, and minds.
Shape a positive future and make the world's dream of happiness come true! Equip children — the hopes of our future — with the power of empathy and guide them to radiate positiveness. Empower them to always lend listening ears and a helping hand. Use these helpful classroom strategies, and together, let's raise compassionate, positive, and empathetic individuals!