Random Acts of Kindness Day takes place every February 17th in the USA, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t take some inspiration from this and share the love around the world! Especially during such difficult times, a day dedicated to kindness will give us all the opportunity to show appreciation and spread generosity to friends, family, strangers and, of course, our students.
Sharing kindness in the physical classroom is perhaps easier with smiles, hugs, laughter, and maybe even some sweets or cake, but how can we translate this and share the love online? In this article, IHWO Director of Studies Coordinator, Lucie Cotterill, has some fantastic ideas of how you can encourage your students to spread kindness in the language classroom – online and face-to-face.
What is kindness?
Kindness can be interpreted in many different ways and younger learners in particular may not fully understand what acts of kindness in the classroom might look like. As a first step, the teacher can show them flashcards / animations of kind (e.g. sharing) and unkind (e.g. calling someone stupid) acts and the children should either give themselves a hug if it’s a kind act or put their fists to their eyes and pretend to cry if it’s an unkind act. For higher levels, the teacher can describe the action.
Once kindness has been defined and understood, the teacher can then monitor the students’ actions in class over a given period of time and, each time a child does something kind, the teacher can give them a little card (physical or digital) which reads, “I have been kind”. After a set time (e.g. a week), the teacher sees which child has the most cards and that child is, for example, interviewed for a school newsletter talking about what they did to get their reward cards and how it made them feel to be kind. This could then be shared throughout the school or community to act as a model of kindness for other children to follow.
Another way to define kindness is to do so through a poem. The teacher can give the students a structure for a poem and the students write their own poems (maybe even recording a video or audio of them performing the poem on a Flipgrid or Padlet).
This is an example of a poem where the students were given the instructions to start each line of the poem with “Kindness is..”
Kindness is sharing my favourite pens,
Kindness is hugging my friend who is sad,
Kindness is helping my mum wash the dishes,
Kindness is something that makes the world better
Students write a compliment to every other student in the class. At a low level, it may just be a positive adjective, and at higher levels students can write sentences (possibly even using a structure given by the teacher, e.g. “I wish I had your….”),
Offline: This can be done by having an envelope for each student and the compliments are written on slips of paper which are then put into the relevant student’s envelope (after being double checked by the teacher). The envelope is then given to the student to take home.
Online or socially-distanced classroom: Set up a Jamboard with a frame for each student (using the “text box” function, add the student name at the top of the frame. Share the link to the Jamboard and get students to put a compliment on a sticky note and add it to the right frame. At the end, download each frame as an image and send each student there frame full of compliments.
Pass it on
This is a lovely video about the contagious effect of acts of kindness:
It can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways. For example, students could watch the video and then be asked if they can recall all the kind actions. This is a great way to practise past simple and learn new verbs (e.g the boy fell off his skateboard but then the man smiled at him. The boy helped the elderly lady..). Students could then be asked to recall when they did something kind and then imagine how that might have been contagious. For example:
Yesterday, I held the door open for a man whose hands were full of shopping. Maybe he then gave some chocolate from his shopping to the mother of a crying child. Maybe she then..
Students can also practise passing on kind acts in their classroom.
The Good News Network has a section full of kindness-related stories, which could be adapted into reading comprehension activities or used for language work.
You could even follow this up by asking students to find out about good things happening in their local community and write their own good news stories, perhaps to be shared school-wide in a newsletter.
For very high-levels, there are lots of articles on the internet about the health benefits of being kind, and this one has a lot of great vocabulary. The article can be cut up so that students match the paragraphs to the headings (online, you could copy and paste as images into a Jamboard or Google slide which is shared with the group. Following that, learners could highlight words that they don’t know and then ask their classmates if anyone knows them and is kind enough to give them the definition. Learners mingle and give each other definitions if they have them.
What about... kindness in the staff room?
Kindness isn’t just limited to the classroom, it’s important for busy, tired teachers to be on the receiving end of kindness too!
For this activity, the Academic Manager (or whoever is responsible for a team of teachers) creates a document which includes a table with two columns. The first column should be entitled, “Name of the teacher” and the second should be, “What I have learnt from them”. Each teacher is given a table, where the first column has already been completed with the name of every teacher in the team, and a deadline by which to complete the second column. The idea being that, as they complete the document, teachers see how much they have learnt from their colleagues and, if there are blank spaces, they need to ask the teacher in question, “Can you teach me something I don’t know?”. This has numerous benefits in that it gets teachers talking to each other and learning from each other, whilst also showing that everyone has something they can learn as well as teach. At the end, the manager collects all the documents and, for each teacher, compiles a list of what everyone else had learnt from them. This is kind because it shows every teacher in the team how valuable they are.
Kind words week
For World Kindness Day, tell teachers that they should write kind words / sentences about three of their colleagues on post-it notes every day that week and then go and stick them (anonymously) on the teachers’ desks. They should write to different teachers each day, and the notes should ideally be visible to everyone. It’s lovely at the end of the week to see all the desks covered with positivity and kind words!
If the pandemic prevents this kind of activity, it can easily be done on a Jamboard instead (see “My compliments” activity above).