*Originally published on Becker’s Insights on Early Learning blog.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.

~Aristotle

Kindness can be taught. In the early years, students are just discovering how to learn, play, and work together in the school setting. And while most schools don’t have a “kindness curriculum” per say, kindness is still a skill that can and should be cultivated just like reading, writing, and math.

It takes real, strategic efforts to grow happy, caring kids. Here are 10 tips for incorporating kindness into the classroom:

  1. Model, Model, Model: Show and discuss with students what kindness looks, sounds, and most importantly feels like. They will likely follow suit!
  2. Morning Meetings: Facilitate daily morning meetings to create a strong sense of community while reinforcing social-emotional skills. Responsive Classroom meetings consist of four components including a greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message. Students love to give and receive compliments during share time!
  3. The Mulligan Rule: If a student says/does something hurtful to a classmate, talk it out with them and ask both students if they’d like to press the rewind button and try again “the kind way.” This encourages self-reflection and often makes both parties feel better. Focus more on repairing the relationship than disciplining. See Restorative Practice Ideas for Your Classroom.
  4. Tell Me Something Good: Are there certain times/places that are more challenging than others? Recess? Lunchtime maybe? Flip the script by asking students to tell you something good that happened. They’ll start keeping an eye out for these things, as well as practicing them!
  5. Kindness Counts: Collect or visually display the number of times students are “caught being kind” by you or each other. Kindness jars, paper links, or sticky tab shout-outs work great!
  6. Mindfulness Matters: How can we expect students to be their best if they’re stressed? Incorporate mindful practices to help them channel their inner peace! GoNoodle offers some excellent breathing, yoga, and reflective brain break videos, too! Also, here are 51 Mindfulness Exercises for Kids in the Classroom.
  7. Kindness Constitution: Create a kindness pledge during interactive writing time. Have each student sign it afterward! Be sure to post it in your classroom for easy reference.
  8. Make Connections: Have students reflect upon/relate to various scenarios played out in books or movies. Allow them to roleplay through the characters’ dilemmas. Here are 24 Picture Books to Teach Students About Kindness.
  9. Speak the Language: Have students participate in the Kindness Rocks Project or write messages on cards to be hidden throughout the school. On a sunny day, take students outside to decorate the sidewalk with positive affirmations.
  10. Service Learning: Find ways for the students to address community needs while integrating the curriculum. Doing something as simple as having the kids write/decorate “Be Brave” cards for children in the hospital can make a lasting impact. See this Service Learning Toolkit to Grow Kindness to gather a plethora of ideas!

How do you cultivate a culture of kindness in your classroom?

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