Compassion and Empthay

These are 2 skills which are so important for children to learn. They are also the most challenging. A friend sent this letter to a grade 3 student, knowing I would appreciate the sentiment and raw emotion behind it.

I cried, then decided to share it with Daisy as she prepares to enter Grade 2. I replaced the names in the letter and printed it out ready to read the day before school starts.

It got me thinking about compassion and empathy, skills I hope I am building in my children, as surely as they are constantly developing in myself. I firmly believe it is our responsibility as educators to help build compassion and empathy in our children and students.

The Fill a Bucket Series is a great way to introduce a class or even school wide initiative to promote kindness and compassion on a daily basis.

Fill a Bucket Series (Set of 2)   Bucket Filling from A to Z   Will You Fill My Bucket?

Choices of age appropriate books are now available, thanks to the author Carol McCloud, and we even offer a ready made pocket chart for the classroom.

Appreciating what makes us different is also important to building compassion and empathy.

Our Multicultural World Series of books introduce children to the major world religions and cultures and help to build appreciation and respect for other’s beliefs and customs.

Addressing some of the issues raised in the letter I talk about in the first paragraph, is The Juice Box Bully.

The Juice Box Bully

Bullying and the job of bystanders to act are addressed in this text. As always, using story to introduce the issue gives more children an opportunity to empathize without feeling threatened.

There are so many opportunities to encourage our children and students to develop their compassion. We just need to take them!

How do you help to develop compassion?


Exploring emotions through facial expression

Learning empathy can be such a challenge for young children. Learning to read facial expressions is a great place to start.

Daisy has daily practice because I cannot control my facial expressions, as anyone who knows me can attest! I try really hard to keep a poker face and hide my reactions, to no avail. I am an open book.

This does make it easy for Daisy and Rose to learn to read faces but we had a photography mission to accomplish. I am currently photographing new and existing products for our 2012 catalogue coming out in April. I am no photographer but am learning, with the help of a fantastic camera!

I asked Daisy to imitate the boy in the Facial Expressions photographic cards. We discussed:

  • Why is the boy making this face?
  • How does he feel?
  • What might he be saying?

  • How does this girl feel?
  • What might have made her sad?
  • What would you do if she was your friend?

  • What is this girl doing?
  • Why?
  • How does it make you feel when you make this face?

  • Why would you give this signal?
  • Have you ever been given a thumbs up?
  • How did it make you feel?

Here we were exploring a new product, Emotions Flannel Board Set which will be available in April.

Daisy was excited to read the words and match them to the corresponding face.

She was using the initial letter to identify the emotion word.

As she matched the faces and words we chatted:

  • How does this child feel?
  • Why do you think they feel this way?
  • How do you show this emotion with your body?
  • What makes you feel this way?
  • What is your favourite emotion?

Ideas for extension:

  • Use faces with stories. Have the children match an emotion face to a character. Discuss how the emotions change through the story.
  • Ask children to complete a graph to record how they are feeling each day.
  • Write short stories together to go with the emotion faces.
  • Use felt faces to help explain and reconcile arguments.
  • Make a list of things to do when feeling a negative emotion.
  • Discuss what makes parents/friends/siblings feel a certain emotion.
  • Relate weather to emotions.
  • Play charades with the emotions.
  • Check in with children’s emotions during circle time.
  • Sing If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

Learning Opportunities:

LA: Explaining feelings, forming sentences, developing vocabulary, expressing opinion.

Social: Developing empathy and understanding, relating emotions to body language, identifying personal feelings.

Math: Counting faces and emotion words (we lost one when it stuck to my sock!).

Books that make us happy – 5 a day books

Theses are the books that we are reading now. As I consider happy to be the most important emotion… we are focusing on it first!!

How to Catch a Star

A boy loves stars and sets out to try and catch one of his own. He attempts various methods and eventually succeeds in catching his very own star and a friend.

Your Personal Penguin

This is a book I have been reading with Daisy since she was 6 months old. The bewildered hippo doesn’t know how lucky he is. His personal penguin is loyal, persistent and extremely cute. Listening to and singing along with Davy Jones from the Monkeys cannot help but make you smile. Go on give it a go!

Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to his heart

Dancing makes Howard B. Wigglebottom happy but he decides not to dance again when kids at school make fun of him. Howard tries lots of different activities but nothing make him happy like dancing. His Grandpa teaches him new dance moves and Howard learns to embrace his ‘Wigglebottom’.

The Story of Ferdinand

Ferdinand loves nothing more than sitting quietly under his favourite tree and smelling the flowers. His need for a peaceful existence ends up saving his life after he is thrust into the bull fighting ring. He sits down and smells the flowers worn by all the lovely ladies who are there to watch him fight. “There is no better passport through life than a smile and a laugh.” the illustrator Robert Lawson stated.

Have you Filled a Bucket Today?

Daisy was intrigued with this as soon as we looked at the cover. I don’t know if it is the illustrations or the magic bucket. We will be using this book to explore ways of filling buckets rather than being a bucket dipper. Super classroom book to encourage thoughtful behaviour and empathy.