Teaching and developing kindness, in a way that children will understand and internalize, is an essential part of educating our students. Hillel Torah’s second-grade general studies teachers, Ms. Alison Fink and Ms. Katie Goodman, are doing just that with their innovative Random Acts of Kindness initiative.
The second graders are learning about and practicing using kind words and actions, being inclusive, celebrating each other’s differences, and solving problems in an appropriate way. Books, magazine articles, role-play, written activities, and videos are all being used to teach this important interpersonal skill.
To help spread kindness in and out of the classroom, the students are asked to notice and write down acts of kindness. They understand that kindness can happen during any part of the day in any place in the school. When a student observes an act of kindness, either done for them or for someone else, he/she writes an anonymous note and places it in the classroom “kindness jar.” On Fridays, Ms. Fink reads the kind notes out loud to the class, to much excitement.
In addition to the kindness jar, the second graders are part of the Kind Kids Club! Each day, club members are tasked with a different “random act of kindness” to complete. Examples of random acts of kindness include: giving a compliment, putting things found on the floor back where they belong, including someone new at recess, picking a partner who you usually do not partner with, and so many more. The second graders are already realizing how strong an act of kindness can be, as one of the students said: “Being kind will make everyone’s day and the whole world happy.”
One of the kindness activities that the students have most enjoyed is when Ms. Carly Krawetz, School Social Worker, led a session on the importance of using kind words. She first read a book called Andrew’s Angry Words by Dorothea Lachner, which illustrates just how powerful words can be and how your words affect others. Working in pairs, the students then squeezed out a tube of toothpaste and using a plastic knife attempted to get all the toothpaste back into the tube. The students quickly learned that it’s impossible to put back all the toothpaste. This directly relates to the concept in the story–once hurtful words leave our mouth, we can’t take them back. The activity emphasized how important it is to use kind and friendly words that will make others feel good instead of “spreading” unkind and unfriendly words that will leave others upset.
Some of the second graders’ favorite books about kindness are: The Invisible Boy, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Day, Each Kindness, Those Shoes, The Jelly Donut Difference, and The Sandwich Swap.
The second-grade classroom has been overflowing with so many amazing acts of kindness throughout each day and the idea is really resonating with the students. When asked about kindness, here are some of the student responses: Danella-“It makes me feel happy when I give compliments or get compliments.” Hailey-“Kindness is an important part of the earth.” Livia- “It is important not to make people feel invisible.” Kindness is one of many social/emotional units that will be taught in second grade this year, and it will continue to be emphasized throughout the year.