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5 minutes




Materials Video (optional) (see “Supplementary resources”)


Purpose To help students identify ways to be more understanding and compassionate towards others

This practice builds on the “Active constructive listening” practice.

  • Provide context to build empathy by first demonstrating what empathetic listening and consideration might look like. Consider:
    • showing Brené Brown’s video on empathy
    • reading “How would you feel?”
      (See “Supplementary resources”).
  • Students discuss and identify the key elements of empathetic listening and how these supports someone to feel heard.
  • Provide phrases that are shortcuts to validation (e.g., “I can see how that makes you feel because…”, “That must be hard for you…”, “I hear you saying…”).
  • Students brainstorm additional validation ideas and select one or two, two-sentence stems to practice in the upcoming weeks.
  • Follow up with the class to discuss/reflect on the effectiveness of the practice.

Invite students to create an empathy journal where they can take notice when others are being empathic towards them, or they have intentionally been empathetic towards someone else. Can be a daily or weekly journal.

Understanding our differences, and the unique perspectives others bring to situations is highly related to empathy, and quality peer relations (Caputi et al., 2012). Students who are taught to attend to, and value these differences are more proficient in regulating their own emotions, so they can respond to peers with compassion and empathy (Barnett et al., 2008).

Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008). Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum: A randomized trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299-313. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2008.03.001

Caputi, M., Lecce, S., Pagnin, A., & Banerjee, R. (2012). Longitudinal effects of theory of mind on later peer relations: The role of prosocial behavior. Developmental Psychology, 48(1), 257.