Thursday, March 8, 2018

Classroom Kindness Series Week 2: Modeling & Role Playing {FREE Printable}

Hey friends! I hope you enjoyed last week’s post where I shared some of my favorite books for teaching kindness. Today I would like to share with you some strategies for modeling and role-playing kindness in the classroom.

Kindness is like a muscle. The more you practice being kind, the better you will become at it and the easier it will become. As a parent and a teacher of young children I think we have to remember that children are learning SO much every single day. They really do not know or cannot remember that some things they do or say are unkind. In many cases, children are totally going off of impulses, which may or may not be a good thing.

Just like children need to be taught their letters and numbers, they need to be taught what kindness looks like and how they can show kindness. Thanks to mirror neurons children also mimic what they see. The more they see others around them exhibiting kindness, the more likely they are to exhibit kindness themselves. Unfortunately this also works the other way. The more they see unkind behavior, the more likely they are to mimic that.

Modeling Kindness

As teachers and parents it is crucial that we model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit…no pressure, right? Here are some simple ways you can model kindness for your kids.

1. Share and show ways that you have been kind. Kids love to hear about your life outside of the classroom…it’s shocking to them that teachers have lives outside of school isn’t it? I know that many of you volunteer or help friends and family members in need in various situations. On a Monday, maybe during morning meeting or whatever sharing time you have, share photos of you being kind to others. For example, if you volunteer on a Saturday for Habitat of Humanity show students the pictures you took. Most of us take photos on our phones all the time. Your children would love to see their teacher being kind to others and this is a great way to lead by example.

You can also point out ways you are kind during the day. Say, “Boys and girls, I want to practice kindness so I am going to stand here and wait. I am going to let the other class go first this time.” Another example could be if another teacher asks you to watch their class for them for a minute. You could say, “Boys and girls, Ms. Smith needs for me to watch her class for a minute. I am going to practice being kind and help her, can you practice being kind and finish your work quietly while I watch both classes?”

2. Think Aloud throughout your day about ways you could show kindness. As situations arise, you could model your thought process aloud to the kids. They need to hear these decision-making steps so that they can piggy back off of you.

An example could be, “Boys and girls, I see that Ms. Smith left her clipboard and whistle out here on the playground? How could I show kindness to Ms. Smith?”

They may suggest that you take the whistle and clipboard back to her. Normally, you would probably just do that and not make a point to talk about it. In this case, it would do your students a lot of good to stop and talk with them about what you’re doing and why.

3. Use the Same Language throughout the day. If you talk about kindness and then you say “be nice” or “be good”, it can be very confusing for kids. The idea of kindness is already very abstract to young children. The more consistent you can be with your language, the more they will understand the language and the more likely they are to use it correctly themselves . If you are going to use kind, then use kind all the time. If you are going to use nice, then use nice all the time.

Role Playing

Role playing is another strategy you can use to teach kindness. Like I said earlier, thanks to mirror neurons, children mimic what they see more than what they are told. This is why the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do” is not effective and is not supported by science. Here are some role playing strategies:

1. Anticipate Problems Before They Start by role playing possible scenarios before games or center time. Let’s say you are teaching them a new math station. Take time BEFORE they begin playing to play out each and every possible scenario. For example, if you know that students struggle with grabbing things out of the hands of others…role play that happening and what can be done to make the situation better.

You might say, “Boys and girls, I’m playing with John. He just snatched the game piece out of my hand. What are some things I can do to show kindness but also help solve the problem?” Discuss how we can kindly (but assertively) tell John, “That was my game piece, please give it back. I don’t like when you grab it out of my hand.” In this scenario you are showing students how to be kind yet still stand up for yourself and get a problem solved. 

2. Review Things That Have Happened and discuss how we can incorporate kindness here. After you observe a scenario play out in your classroom, discuss the scenario with the whole class. Refrain from calling students out by name, as you don’t want to embarrass them. You may say something like, “Boys and girls, I noticed during math stations that we had some unkind behavior going on. I saw ______. How do you think we could add some kindness into that situation?” Let children discuss possible ways to include kindness.

3. Use Role Playing Scenario Cards. In addition to practicing real things that have happened in your classroom, use cards like these to give your students more practice. Show students the picture on the card and discuss what they see. Read aloud the short scenario and let students discuss if the children in the photo are showing kindness or if they need some more practice.

It’s best to create an anchor chart or pocket chart display with the cards. This will give children a reference in the classroom. Throughout your day you can say, “Boys and girls, remember this card? Remember what happened? We decided that was not kind. How are some ways we could include kindness in this situation? Do you remember?”

You may pick up the scenario cards here, they are free for classroom use.

Bottom Line: Children need to practice kindness on a daily basis until it becomes a habit. Just like practicing their sums of ten, their alphabet sounds, rhyming words…kindness is a skill.

Let’s help our children by treating kindness, and other social emotional skills, as a concept we need to teach, not something we expect them to already know

Do you have any tried and true strategies for teaching kindness in your classroom? I would love to hear them!

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