This week our class pondered the question, “What is empathy?”  We discussed that empathy means understanding how someone else is feeling.  We also discussed that when you are showing empathy towards others, you are being empathetic.

In our first lesson, we discussed that we can show empathy towards others with our words.  We discussed scenarios and tried using language that showed empathy toward someone who was upset, angry, sad, or even someone who may be annoying or speaking unkindly toward you.  We modeled questions such as:

What’s wrong?

Is there anything I can do to help you?

Are you ok?

Do you want to talk about it?

We also discussed the language we can you to let others know that we are acknowledging their feelings, such as:

I understand you’re feeling ___________.  Is there anything I can do?

You seem very ______________.  Take a deep breath.  Can you tell me what’s wrong?

Lastly, we discussed what we found to be the hardest scenario, which is when someone is doing something that is disturbing or bothersome.  We talked about how sometimes others simply want our attention or need our assistance, but perhaps are not using the appropriate means to get it.  For example, we talked about common responses we may be naturally inclined to give, such as:

STOP!  That’s so annoying!”, or, “Just get away from me!”, or the infamous, “I’m telling! “  Instead of using such harsh language, we discussed saying the following:

Please stop ________.  I don’t like ________.

Is there something you need?

Can I please just get a little space/time?  I need to be alone for a little bit.

It’s not right to _________. You should be kind and respectful to me/others.

Do we need to talk something out?

Did I do something to offend you?

In our second lesson, students discussed that we can use what we call facial recognition to know how someone is feeling.  We looked at several pictures of kids whose faces looked sad, upset, scared, disappointed, and bored.  We discussed what we could say to someone who looks that way.

Lastly, we discussed that a third way to show empathy is through shared experiences.  We discussed that many children have life experiences in common, which can create an understanding of how someone is feeling because they have also lived through a similar experience.

After discussing what empathy means and ways to show empathy, we read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown.

The Important Book talks about what is most important about many familiar things — like rain, wind, apples, and daisies.  Students used this book as a mentor text and then wrote their response to “The important thing about empathy is…”  We are creating a digital version of our responses, which we will post soon.