Practicing Empathy in Language Arts

6th, 7th. and 8th grade took a pause today to practice empathy through writing and appreciating the many things they enjoy.  We examined photos of children and their toys from around the world today. Some affluent, some, shall we say, less so.  As part of a lengthy journal entry, they were to first observe the photos and make any and all observations based upon what they saw.  Everything counted. From where the children were photographed to what their toys looked like to what look they had on their faces.  They made some excellent conclusions based on this information and were able to make some truly insightful inferences about these children who lived in vastly different conditions from their own.

Next they were asked to compare and contrast the children in the photos to each other, and then to themselves.  The result allowed the students to pause and reflect on the conditions that other children live in where they lack even their most basic human needs. The students were able to draw parallels between themselves and the way the children were dressed, what access they may have to technology and education, and even to the water they drink.

Ultimately, the students had a great take away of how to appreciate the life of another, count the blessings in their own lives, and gain empathy not only for real people but for fictional characters as well, which can open them up to any number of wonderful connections to the characters we will read about in upcoming fiction, novels, and non-fictional writings. It is my hope that they students left class today with just a little deeper understanding of themselves and eyes a little bit more open to the rest of the world. Ask them what they are grateful for today.  I doubt they’ll struggle to come up with something. : )