Resources to integrate compassion into every classroom, every day.
Building SEL (social and emotional learning) skills such as compassion requires face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, compassion is "the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering."
While some tools focus specifically on compassion, the websites and apps you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote concern for others. You don't have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating compassion and life skills-building into your content classroom.
It's important to understand the distinction between "empathy" and "compassion." Empathy allows us to sense other people's emotions, like grief or joy, and imagine what someone else might be feeling. Compassion is similar but also involves a desire to help the person. Going further, compassion can lead to altruism, where people behave and act in kind and selfless ways. In a Chicago school, students felt compassion for their teacher, a survivor of cancer, and followed up with a thoughtful act. (Click the link to watch them surprise her with a song that illustrates emphatic understanding and profound care.) The difference between feeling someone's pain (empathy) and having an urge to help (compassion) is transformational and is an important part of teaching in our classrooms. Research suggests that children younger than 2 exhibit greater happiness when giving rather than receiving. With that foundation in place, teachers can incorporate compassion to create a culture of students who are one step closer to making real, positive change in their communities.
- Pay close attention to signs that a student is struggling with a problem; let them know you're available to listen.
- Model compassion by providing thoughtful, caring feedback on student work and in conversation.
- Take a stand against cyberbullying. See our Teachers' Essential Guide to Cyberbullying Prevention for helpful tips and resources.
- Make sure the technology you use doesn't take the place of, but instead supplements, face-to-face interaction.
- Visit our SEL in Digital Life Resource Center for quick activities by grade, movie guides, and more!
- Visit some other excellent SEL resources, including CASEL, Character Lab, Edutopia, and Ashoka.
- Think about the digital tools you're already using in the classroom. Can you find a creative way to use them to model compassion? Check out our suggestions below!
Directly target compassion
See our Tech for Cultivating Compassion list for more tools focused on compassion.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Use this meditation companion to reflect on your feelings and state of mind. Have students focus on easing the suffering of a loved one, themselves, a rival, and then people in general to promote a mindset of caring and affection.
This global site promotes action and empathy. As students submit community-minded creations, the Wondermeter rises higher. Once at the top, community projects are funded by an outside donor. Students get to be part of a real cause.
Inspire compassion in all subjects
For ELA classrooms
Use Newsela to find leveled, high-interest news stories. Challenge students to find an article where people are showing compassion and one where they're not. Act out the scenes and compare how word choice and tone change with our feelings.
Write the World
With this global writing community, kids submit work and get peer feedback. Kids can search for a person whose writing they connect with and want to improve. After editing, have students reflect on why they felt compelled to care for a person and help them.
For math classrooms
Peg + Cat: The Tree Problem
Students play spatial-reasoning games, building bridges and stairs to save a cat from a tree. As students see how math can solve problems and is integral to life, have them brainstorm other real-world ways good measurement might help people.
Set up your classroom so students add the points they earn at this adaptive math site to a community-based charity like Boys & Girls Clubs of America. As they persevere in math, students will learn how good it feels to give to others.
For science classrooms
Build compassion by showing communities on the site that are affected by climate change. Then, using evidence from the Time Machine, students can justify the need to design solutions such as energy plans for schools or desalination systems.
With this catalog of diversity, students can investigate data on endangered organisms. Then, they can find patterns in the data and create an infographic or video showing the school community or local leaders why they should feel compelled to help.
For social studies classrooms
BrainPOP Jr. contains tons of interactives and videos. Students can explore the Biographies section and write an alternate history of someone like MLK Jr., describing how events might have been different if he hadn't shown compassion.
Immersive 3D videos engage students in human-interest stories, such as one where people are displaced by war. They can then create mock-ups of a 3D film about the historical struggles of their community, devised to elicit empathy and compassion.
For all classrooms
Kids play the part of writer, actor, and director in this storytelling tool. Have students research current events and then construct a cartoon of what our world would look like if everyone practiced empathy and compassion.
With this versatile movie maker, students can go out into the community and interview people, documenting examples of compassion and altruism. Watching together, student groups can discuss how kindness could improve life at school.
- Explore our Movies That Inspire Compassion and TV That Inspires Compassion lists to share with parents.
- Parent questions? Point them to our Character Strengths and Life Skills page for answers.
Get more SEL tips, tools, and teaching strategies.