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Teaching kids about Perspectives and Empathy

Last blog post I shared an activity I use to teach kids about having a Growth Mindset, Teaching kids how to Struggle. I was blown away by the response, it has been read over 20,000 times.

This post focuses on an activity I use to teach kids how our experiences shape our perspectives, and empathy is the key to understanding.

Here is how I do it:

1. Get a large box. I use a cube about 30cm tall.

2. Print off some very different pictures and stick them to five sides of the box (you won’t see the bottom). You can download the images I use here or use you own.

I love the “Heart/I Hate You” image because visually it has two meanings, and the clown image because they evoke such different emotions (I’m certainly not a fan of clowns).

3. While your students are out of the room place the box in the middle of a room and cover it.

4. Ask the students to enter the room and spread out. Encourage them to be at different angles and distance from the covered box. Ask them then to stay in their spot.

  5. Tell your students you’re going to remove the cover, and silently they have to think about how what they see makes them feel If your students are easily influenced by their peers you may get them to write down what they feel in one/a few word so they don’t alter it.

via GIPHY

6. After they have had time to think/write down, go around the room and ask them to share their feelings.

7. Each students feelings will likely be very different depending on their distance and angle from the box.

This is a great way to introduce your students how their point of view on anything is shaped by our relation to it. Our relation to anything is determined by our experiences. Some are effected by things on a personal level (close to the box) and thus may have a “deeper” understanding, while others have only heard about things second hand (far away from the box) and as a result have a more “shallow” view.

I then get students to move around the box and so they can better understand why others described their feelings the way they did. This is great if you use the “Heart/I hate you” image.

We then come together and discuss:

  • How our distance/experience with something shapes our perspective
  • How when we move to a different angle/distance we are better able to understand things from someone else’s point of view. (The idea of empathy)
  • How sometimes we can be at the same distance and angle, but have different feelings about things (eg the clown)
  • Is someone’s opinion more valid/true if the hey experience something from a closer perspective?
  • Is there a right and wrong opinion?
  • How can you convince or tolerate a person who has a completely different opinion to you?
  • How can your view of something be influenced by others?
  • How do stereotypes relate to perspectives?

I then get my students to try and put themselves in other people’s shoes in relation to ANYTHING. I do a few examples with them (below) then I let them choose their own.

 

Here are a few example to get the kids minds ticking over about what they could choose.

  • camping
  • reality television
  • refugees/migration
  • school
  • dancing
  • air-conditioning
  • Collingwood Football Club

I hope this blog post give you a few ideas. If you put it into action please send me an email or leave a comment below.

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Tim is a passionate educator. At times has been labelled a "Maverick" (amongst other things). He is also the founder of Class Creator and author of "88 Ways to Teach Effectively" (Out mid 2016).