Take Your Students on a Kindness Quest!
Editor's note: We could all use a little warmth and kindness right now. Tracy Potash, a language arts intervention teacher from Pennington, New Jersey, shares her lesson plan to teach her middle school students about the importance of paying it forward.
With social media harassment on the rise in middle school, and the aftermath of an angry election season looming over everyone, I recently realized what my class really needed was some kindness. Inspired by World Kindness Day (which takes place in November, but can be celebrated at any time!), I put together the following Kindness Quest.
Key skills: Vocabulary acquisition and usage; identifying key ideas and author's purpose; collaboration; integration of knowledge and ideas; research to build and present knowledge
Time: 1-2 weeks
Step 1: We revisited the Choices article "Mission Positive" from the October 2015 issue. If you didn't catch it the first time, this piece encourages students to get creative while knocking out cruelty. The task: to rack up as many points as possible by expressing thanks, showing compassion, giving back, acting selflessly and spreading good vibes. It was a perfect addition to our lesson.
Step 2: My students were intrigued to learn even more about kindness, so they researched how kindness can affect the brain. After delving into the topic, they were psyched up and wanted to create a momentum of goodness.
Step 3: We spent a week participating in Kindness Quest activities, such as:
- Students wrote uplifting messages on the bathroom mirrors with erasable markers.
- They wrote messages with sidewalk chalk near all the entrances to our school.
- In the mornings, they greeted administrators, teachers, and students who were entering the building with cheers and high fives.
- They designed Kindness Cards, which were handed out throughout the week to classmates who they saw being caring to others.
Step 4: While the Kindness Quest was ongoing, I sought to keep the students reflecting by having them complete a vocabulary word map on kindness. (See format example below.)
Step 5: Students researched an article about performing acts of kindness and its effect on the brain. After, they summarized the article with a partner by answering the 5Ws & 1H (who, what, where, when, why, how), using the key ideas from the article to complete a written short summary (format example below).
Example: The Short Summary
Read the article, identify the key ideas by answering the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why) and 1 H (how) in 5 words or less. Then write a summary of the article by including all the information below.
Author's Purpose (include title of the article, author, publication and publication date):
Written Summary - include any direct quotes from the article:
Step 6: After the week of activities, my students debriefed about how it went and discussed plans for future events. Below is a list based on their reflection of the lesson and ideas for looking ahead:
- Kindness recognition increased kind acts in the school
- The school appeared to be uplifted and positivity permeated the halls.
- Continue the momentum throughout the year
- Plan weekly positive, uplifting announcements in the morning to start off the day.
- Design a "Random Acts of Kindness" bulletin board and post pictures of acts of kindness so everyone can be a part of it.
- Branch out the Kindness Quest to beyond the school walls.
- Promote the positivity on social media.
So it appeared that kindness was contagious, planting seeds of goodness that sprouted throughout our school and beyond left an impact on all of us that we will never forget. The serotonin was definitely flowing. Mission Positive was a success!
More Choices Resources for Teaching Kindness and Improving School Climate: