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5 minutes


Primary / Junior / Intermediate


Post-it Notes or cards


To help students build empathy and compassion by noticing good qualities in others and reinforcing that kindness so that their peers feel valued

Review and model what a positive affirmation looks like.

  • Include examples of affirmations, such as: “You are so patient. You took the time to show your friend how to solve the math problem when he wasn’t getting it.”
  • Add notes of affirmation on lockers, desks, cubbies when you notice or are thinking of someone.
  • Use Post-it Notes or cards. If students receive a positive message, it should prompt them to give one too, to pay it forward.
  • Read: There are a variety of storybooks available on this concept (by authors such as Carol McCloud et al. or Tom Rath).
  • Students can make ‘buckets’ and notes are dropped into the buckets.
  • Create a pay it forward bulletin board where students can post thank you notes when someone does a kind deed for them, or when they witness another student performing a random act of kindness.
  • For older students: Ask students to reflect on a vision of the world if everyone worked to “pay it forward” whenever they could. This could be done as a journal writing activity.
  • To extend the practice, ask students: “How did it feel to give positive comments? How did it feel to receive comments?”

Encouraging students to notice kind actions and appreciate their peers contributes to an emotionally positive and safe climate in the classroom, which allows students to stay connected to school (Blum & Libbey, 2004), regulate emotions, and effectively focus on academics (Eisenberg, Fabes, Guthrie, & Reiser, 2000).

Blum, R. W., & Libbey, H. P. (2004). School connectedness – strengthening health and education outcomes for teenagers. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 231-232. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2004.tb08278.x

Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Guthrie, I. K., & Reiser, M. (2000). Dispositional Emotionality and Regulation: Their Role in Predicting Quality of Social Functioning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 136-157. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.78.1.136