empathy,  kindness,  social emotional skills

Crumpled Hearts

On Monday I posted that I have been having a lot of issues with empathy and children who are generally unkind in the classroom. One of the ideas that I had found was an activity where children crumbled paper to see how their words and actions affected others.  This was an idea that I was really excited about trying with my class, so I wanted to share how it went.

I wanted to make the meaning of this activity as obvious as possible, so I started by cutting each piece of paper into a heart. Then I wrote each child’s name on one of the hearts. During circle time I gave each of my kiddos a heart with someone else’s name on it. I explained to them that they were holding their friends’ hearts.

They were slightly confused, but I continued, encouraging them to look at the hearts, noticing that they were clean and smooth.  Then I went through a list of scenarios; Pretend that you laughed at your friend when they fell down, pretend that you told your friend he could not play with you, pretend that you pushed your friend on the way to get in line, pretend that you took a toy that you knew your friend wanted to play with.  I specifically included many of the scenarios that we have had problems with in the classroom.  After each scenario I told the children to crumple up the heart, and waited patiently as they slowly and carefully opened them back up.  After we had gone through at least ten different scenarios I asked them to lay their hearts on the floor and try to get all of the wrinkles out.

As they were doing this I explained that even though they were being nice to their friend now (as they attempted to smooth out the wrinkles), those wrinkles were still there, and they wouldn’t go away.  We talked about how everything that we say and do to each other impacts our feelings, and sometimes we don’t forget those feelings.

This activity really impacted my student. It gave them a visual reminder of the affects that their behaviors had on each other.  For the rest of that day, and now two days later, I can look at them and say “are you being kind, or are you crumpling hearts” This stops them in their tracks and I can see the remorse in their eyes. I know that they are visualizing that crumpled heart.  While it isn’t going to change everything, it was a very powerful place to start, and I’m so thankful that I did this with them. In fact, it may become one of the activities that I regularly do at the beginning of the school year, because I really think that the visual reminder is a powerful tool.  It has also started to build a sense of community because it has given the children common vocabulary to use with each other to let others know that their feelings have been hurt.

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