Guidance Lesson: Empathy
Aleksey Fischer, Katalina Chacon, Kelly McCarthy, Megan Steilen
The guidance lesson is geared toward K-8 students. The lesson focuses on empathy and the impact it has in our lives. What is empathy? How do we show empathy? What is the difference between empathy and sympathy? Students will explore what empathy looks, and learn to show empathy in their own lives. In the form of scenarios, students will be challenged to truly see with the eyes of another, listen with the ears of another, and feel with the heart of another.
Grade Level: K-8
Rationale and clear purpose for the unit or lesson: The students are to learn about empathy in order to understand how to show empathy in their daily lives. It is important for students to understand what it is like to be in someone else's’ shoes so that they can better help others through whatever struggles.
Applicable ASCA standard(s), objective(s), competency(ies):
- B-SS 2. Create positive and supportive relationships with other students
- B-SS 3. Create relationships with adults that support success
- B-SS 4. Demonstrate empathy
- B-SS 9. Demonstrate social maturity and behaviors appropriate to the situation and environment
- The purpose of this lesson is to teach students the importance of showing empathy. The objective is for students to learn the definition of empathy and identify ways to be understanding of others struggles.
- Activate previous knowledge:
- Ask students what they know about empathy.
- Write ideas on the board as the students are sharing out.
- Ask students how they have experienced empathy in their own lives.
- Read book to younger kids.
- Create anticipation - encourage learning:
- Encourage students to remain mindful during activities and lesson.
- Encourage students to engage in respectful conversation with one another.
Developmental Learning Activities designed to meet the objective(s):
- Share definition of empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
- Empathy is also like seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.
- For 3-8, differentiate between empathy and sympathy - first, ask students if they know the difference between the two.
- Have one school counselor reply with “Well, at least you have another dog.”
- Have another school counselor reply with “I am so sorry. I am not sure what you’re feeling, but I am here for you.”
- Ask students which response was empathetic/sympathetic.
- For K-2 students will read a book “Stand in My Shoes” by Bob Sornson, then split into 2 groups. Grades 3-8 students will be put into 3 groups. Each group will be given a scenario. Each scenario will have a pair of shoes next to it that corresponds to the scenario.
- Have a school counselor read the scenario for grades K-2. For grades 3-8 have one student read the scenario out loud. (see scenarios below)
- Each group will spend 5-8 minutes reading/discussing a scenario.
- What does the person feel? How would you feel? Open discussion
- Groups will rotate to the next scenario and continue discussion.
- Bring everyone together. Have students share their experience. What is empathy?
- Considerations: scenarios may provoke strong emotions. School counselors should be aware and look out for students.
- At the end of the lesson, we will ask the students three things that they learned today in order to assess if they understand what empathy is.
Closing and Follow-up:
- Thank you so much for learning with us today! Today we talked about empathy and did some pretty cool activities.
- Ask three things they learned today.
- Challenge them to show empathy for others.
- Attached scenarios to prompt empathy discussion
- Book - “Stand in My Shoes” by Bob Sornson
- Three pairs of shoes
- Example A: At recess, you notice Tommy getting teased by a bully because of his new haircut. The bully keeps calling him names and Tommy looks like he is about to cry. The bell rings to signal that recess is over and Tommy walks by you towards the classroom, wiping tears from his eyes. How is Tommy feeling? What would you say to Tommy?
- Example B: Jane just moved from England and is a new student at the school. When the teacher asks Jane to tell the class about herself, you hear some classmates laughing at her accent (the way she talks). Jane’s face gets red and she is clearly embarrassed. At lunch, you notice that Jane is sitting alone at the lunch table and you go over to talk with her. How is Jane feeling? What would you say to Jane?
- Example C: Jimmy notices his mom is crying. Jimmy then finds out that his mom just lost her job and is feeling nervous about how she will buy food for Jimmy and his brother and sister. How is Jimmy feeling? How is his mom feeling? What could Jimmy say to his mom?
- Example D: You come home and find your little sister going through your things in your room. You get angry and ask her what she is doing. She starts to cry and says she can’t find her favorite stuffed animal. You know that it’s not in your room and tell her she can’t go through your things without asking. She sits down on the floor and cries even harder. She says she won’t be able to sleep without her favorite stuffed animal, even though she has a lot of other stuffed animals. You go into her room to look for her favorite and cannot find it. You come back to your room and sit on the floor with her. What would you say to your sister?
- Example E: At recess, Sally and her friends were playing kickball. Sally has been practicing kickball a lot lately because she wants to do the best she can. After a very close game, Sally’s team won! Sally is smiling and jumping up and down. How do you think Sally is feeling? What could you say to Sally?
- Example A: John, an eighth grader at All Saints Middle School, has always dreamed of playing baseball in high school. He practices for four hours a day, everyday, in hopes of making the varsity team next year. Today John was playing soccer at recess and slipped and broke his leg. What do you think John feels like walking into class? What is an example of an empathetic response you could give John tomorrow as he walks into class on crutches.
- Example B: Sandy is a sophomore at Central Valley High School. She is very excited for the school dance tonight, and has a few friends she plans to get ready and go with. On the way to the dance, Sandy tells one of her friends that she might ask Larry to dance, and hopes he would want to. Once they arrive at the dance, Sally asks Larry to dance, and he responds back with “No way Sandy”. Sally turns around, and walks back to her friends, tears in her eyes. What is Sally feeling? As Sally’s friends, how could you show empathy?
- Example C: Louis is an incoming freshman at Gonzaga University, and originally from Florida. Yesterday he flew in with his parents from Florida to Spokane, and today they are going to help him move into his dorm room. After two hours of unpacking, his parents both give him a hug and say their goodbyes. As Louis’s roommate, you are seeing how hard this is on him. What do you think he is feeling right ? What is a way you could show empathy?
- Example D: Kate put on her new pair of shoes this morning. She was excited to wear them to school. While in class, another student notices her new shoes and makes fun of her. What is Kate feeling? What would you say to Kate?
The best way to teach empathy is to show empathy. Model what empathy looks like to students throughout the guidance lesson whenever possible. Be very mindful of the grade level when introducing this lesson. Incorporate a video about empathy into the lesson if technology is available.
Remember to always be mindful of each student’s, personal struggles and sensitive to cultural backgrounds. Scenarios can be built around each school’s climate for best responses. Consider the classroom layout and size for best scenario rotations. In advance, briefly discuss the topic with the teacher, take any feedback and make accommodations as needed. Bringing in a variety of shoes for each scenario makes the scenario more real. Allow students enough time to discuss each scenario.