5 Ways to Teach Empathy In School & Home

teach empathy in school and for homeschooling social emotional learning

Are you looking for ways to teach empathy and compassion in school or at home? To teach our Learning Journeys within your classroom? Not sure when or how to teach empathy in your busy school or home learning day? This is the post for you!


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teach empathy in school and for homeschooling social emotional learning

5 Ways to Teach Empathy In School & Home

teach empathy in school and for homeschooling social emotional learning

Looking for ways to teach empathy in school within your busy schedule?


Time is a precious part of every educator’s day, and it can be hard to fit one more thing within an already packed schedule! Maybe that is why even though it’s so important to teach empathy in a meaningful way, it is so often overlooked — due to the constraints we face as teachers to fulfill our academic curriculum needs in school.


That’s why Better World Ed’s humanizing stories are designed to be flexible and adaptable for every school and home classroom, weaving together empathy, math, literacy, and more. Teach empathy in school and home in a meaningful, human way.


Our empathy learning journeys consist of a 2-6 minute wordless video, written narratives with embedded discussion questions, writing exercises, and math problems, and different engaging lesson plans to guide you through both the video and story.



With Learning Journeys, you can choose to use only the video or just the story within your class period, and still have engaging experiences with your students in a short amount of time. You can build your social emotional learning (SEL) competencies, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills all at once! Let’s explore some organic ways to teach empathy within the busy school day you’ve got.



Teach Empathy During School Morning Meeting

Time estimate: 5 – 8 minutes

Set the climate of the school day by practicing important skills. Ask empathy questions. Ask students how they are feeling today, and then encourage them to reflect on a BIG question from one of the lesson plans, like “What does gratitude mean to you?” From there, you can have students watch the wordless video and then circle back to the big question to discuss as a class.


Then, wrap up the meeting by making a personal connection to your students, by asking an empathy question like “What are you grateful for today?” To save time, you can have students talk in pairs or small groups and then highlight two or three responses that you heard!



Teach Empathy In School During Center Time

Time estimate: 20 – 30 minutes


As a reading center:

Students within their reading groups can participate by reading a written story of their choice (provide only a few choices at a time to ensure new stories are read in the future!). Or, you can choose which story is in that center for a given day or week (depending on how frequent your center rotation is!). If an iPad or computer is available and the group read the same story then have the students watch the video together.


Fun group idea:

You choose 1 story to focus on for that day or week. Have a cup or bag full of popsicle sticks indicating different Learning Journey “Roles,” like a discussion leader, a reader, a video player, and time-keeper. This helps with accountability and making students feel more in control of their learning. Then, with their given roles students can facilitate the story:

  • The video player will start the video 
  • The discussion leader will be in charge of asking the discussion questions and any additional (that you might create) comprehension questions with the group. 
    • Sample video comprehension questions might include questions such as:
      • What other questions do you have?

      • What does this video make you think about?

      • How was ___ feeling when ___ happened?

      • How would you react if you experienced the same thing? Why?

      • Why did ___ act a certain way?

      • What was interesting to you?

      • What did we learn from this video?

These questions could also be written out on popsicle sticks to make it more fun, and the Discussion Leader can pull one out at a time!

  • Next, the reader will read the story out loud as the group follows along. At the discussion points, the discussion leader will read the questions and ask the group to talk about what they think.
  • Students can close the center by writing their own reflections or answers to the discussion questions in a reflection notebook.


Fun individual idea:

Have a few different stories available in printed packets and allow students to first pose questions and any assumptions they may have about the story by filling out a Know-Wonder-Learn (KWL) chart. Then, they can read the stories on their own and answer the questions independently. After they are finished reading, have them watch the video on an iPad or computer.


To reinforce comprehension, they can add to the ‘Learn’ section of the KWL chart. As a wrap-up, have students write out a reflection in a journal or have them discuss what they learned about the individual in their story with the group.



As a math center:

Similar to using a Learning Journey within a reading center, students can also use the stories within a math center!

You can have multiple stories that target math concepts relevant to your age group and academic level. A great idea is to mix some topics that connect to what you are currently teaching in math and some that are from previous lessons — reinforcement activities are always a great way to scaffold centers and help students practice new and previously learned skills!

Students can read the stories and then using the context of the story, they can answer the math questions embedded within that story. Your students can then share with each other what the problem was in the story, how they solved it, and why it was important to the person in the story.


Then, to teach empathy and make a connection between the person in the story, the math they are doing, and their own life have them to share or record on a piece of paper how they might use math in a similar way in their life. It may be a good idea to have a way for students to time themselves in a non-distracting manner to ensure everyone in the group has a chance to share.



Create a weekly “theme” to teach empathy

Time estimate: 10 – 15 minutes

You can choose one Learning Journey and spread it out across a week to have themes that connect back to the story, like “Gratitude,” “Empathy,” or “Compassion.” Spreading the story across multiple days allows students more time to think about what they learned in the story, the video, and from the class discussions.

One way to spread it out is by following a schedule that will help you and your students to remember what “day” it is. If it’s video day and you aren’t watching a video, your students (as you know so well) will most definitely ask you why! 



Monday – Theme intro and video day

Introduce the theme for the week by saying something such as, “This week we are going to be talking about and practicing empathy.” Have a piece of chart paper to record initial answers to guiding questions like “What does this word mean to you? When do people show empathy? Why is empathy important? Do you think you can learn empathy?” (Question prompts such as these are also included in the accompanying lesson plans.) Then, watch the video and have students write down any questions they have to discuss in school on Wednesday.



Wednesday – Read the story day

Review the main theme from Monday’s lesson and reinforce what Empathy or that particular theme means and looks like. Next, have students share what some of their questions were from Monday after they watched the video. Record common themed questions (ones that multiple students had) on another piece of chart paper. Read the story as a whole class.

If students see the answer to a question they posed during the reading, have them make a sign or raise their hand and share. Read the story as a whole group and also answer the discussion questions embedded within the story. Tie the story back to the theme for the week, and have a class discussion about what they learned and how they can apply it to their own lives.


Friday – Discuss and reflect

Practice real-world math and do the reflection activity. After spending a few days getting to know the individual in the story, students are ready to solve some math problems! Go back to the story and review any key details they learned, then have students work independently or in groups to solve the real-world math problems integrated within the story.

Review the answers as a whole group and discuss how solving the math problem is helpful for the person in the story then connect it back to how it relates to their own life! Finish off the week by doing the reflection activity suggested at the end of the story or coming up with your own!




Teach Empathy During Closing Circle

Time estimate: 10 – 15 minutes

Similar to Morning Meetings, you can make sure your students leave your classroom feeling uplifted and inspired. During the last 10 or 15 minutes of the school day, have them gather as a group to build empathy and learn about a person from another place in the world. You can decide ahead of time which video to watch, or get students engaged in the decision process by allowing them to vote on a region of the world to focus on!

Watch the video with your class and use the discussion prompts in the lesson plan to talk about different aspects of that person’s life and how it relates to your students’ own lives. Encourage them to do the reflection activity at home and bring it in the following morning to share at your Morning Meeting (or another time!).



Teach Empathy Within Any Core Subject (Even Math!)

Time estimate: 30 – 45 minutes

Our approach includes tying multiple standards into one lesson, so if you want to use a Learning Journey within a core subject learning block, you can easily do so! Common Core aligned math problems are included in every story and lesson, making it easy to use within your math block. As the stories take place around the world and have themes addressing issues such as clean water, renewable energy, and health, you could also use them during your social studies or science blocks.




There are countless ways to seamlessly integrate and teach empathy in your school day, week, or month!


If you have been using empathy curriculum in another creative way, please share! Let’s inspire educators and parents eager to teach empathy in school and at home!

5 Ways to Teach Empathy In School & Home

teach empathy in school and for homeschooling social emotional learning

A resource to teach empathy in school & home:

Try this lesson plan on bridging the empathy gap! Teach empathy in school and home with stories from around our world.


Better World Kids Learning With Better World Ed. Better World Education Through Wordless Videos & Human Stories. Shared humanity. Humanize Learning. Teach Empathy In School & Home.

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