One of the keys to a caring classroom is encouraging students to act kind and helpful toward each other. And not just encouraging it but demonstrating it yourself — in the way you treat your students, your colleagues, and yourself.
Here, TpT’ers weigh in on classroom routines, resources, and even the smallest little actions — all of which help create an environment of kindness and respect and play a key role in building character.
Doing Good Feels Good
Around the World Learning recounts, “I used to work with an organization that paired inner city schools and rural schools. The schools would meet for a week at a camp in Connecticut and do team-building and diversity lessons. One activity that got students connected right away was when they had to find three things (not physical appearance) that they had in common. Other activities included sharing details about heritage and culture. They also did low ropes obstacles.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing I experienced while there was when students had to climb on a tire swing and swing to the other side as part of an obstacle. It came time for an Indiana-Jones-obsessed boy with Asperger’s to give it a try. He was scared and stood there saying, ‘I can’t.’ I tried to encourage him, but it wasn’t working. Then this beautiful little girl from the other school looked at him and said, ‘Listen to your heart, Indie! Listen to your heart!’ That was all he needed. Next thing I knew, he was swinging on the tire swing.”
“I found a way to work social-emotional learning into what I did in class every day,” explains Rainbow City Learning. “It took no extra time away from the standards and curriculum I had to cover, but it did produce kind and respectful students who were a pleasure to spend my days with! I wrote a guest post for Minds in Bloom on how I made it work.
From Pathway 2 Success: “My favorite way to model and encourage kindness in the classroom is using ‘Acts of Kindness Slips’ or ‘Kindness Shoutouts.’ The sheets are left out in the classroom so that anyone can fill them out — both students and adults. The slips can be filled out when someone witnesses kindness in the room. It can be anything from helping with a math assignment to loaning a pencil. Sometimes we do ‘shout outs’ with these and read them aloud. They’re all put into a bin for a contest at the end of the month. One is randomly picked for a special prize.
It’s nice to make the person feel good who has done something nice, but you also feel good recognizing others’ acts of kindness. It’s a kindness win-win. Here’s my Classroom Kindness Kit.”
Math Mojo says, “Shelley from Lolly’s Locker has a wonderful ability to see each student for who they are and celebrate it. It sounds simple, but in an age where we often look at children based largely on test scores and academic ranks, it’s refreshing to see the students through her eyes. It has made all the difference with how the children treat one another, respond to school, and generally live life in our classroom. I recently wrote a blog post about ‘finding the wonderful.’ Take a look.”
The ESL Nexus explains, “In my middle school ESL classroom, I modeled respect every day by saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ whenever I asked students to do things or whenever they did something for me. I also reinforced the idea that respect was important with the behavior chart I used in the last two years I was a classroom teacher. (Interestingly, they asked for it the second year; I hadn’t been planning on using it again!). Any time students did something helpful or nice for their classmates, they could raise their clip up higher, which got them closer to earning a small prize. I wrote about this in a blog post here.
I also modeled respect by doing my best to speak to the families of my students in their own language; or, to be more precise, by saying a few words in their language. Most of my students were native Spanish speakers and I only know some school-related words and phrases in that language. But whenever we had conferences, I made a point of using what little Spanish I did know to help the families feel more comfortable. Showing them that I was attempting to communicate in their native language was one way of showing that I respected them and their culture. I also created a form to keep parents informed of how their kids were doing in my class and sent it home every Friday. It included space for comments not just about classwork, participation, and homework but also about behavior and attitude. And it was also in Spanish. It’s available in my store here. My students got a kick out of seeing me trying to communicate in Spanish, but they also saw that I valued and respected their parents, something they should also do.”
“We have a Kindness Counts jar and every time we see an act of kindness in our classroom, that student puts a fuzzy in the jar,” explains Silly Sam Productions. “We will have a Kindness Celebration when we fill the jar. We also start the year with our classroom Bill of Rights and Constitution program. Students have the right to be safe, to learn, and to be happy. Our Class Constitution has rules to protect each right, like ‘Including — Not Excluding.’ We refer to our posters regularly. Respect and kindness are always modeled, acknowledged, and celebrated.
Scipi – Science and Math says, “I truly believe it’s what’s the students see that counts. Therefore:
1. When a student holds the door open for me I say, “Your mother taught you well. Thank you.”
2. I never allow my students to talk down to anyone in the class because I want that class to be a community.
3. I do not allow any type of swearing. That shows respect for each other and for me.
4. Please and thank you are expected at all times.
These are just four of the things I do. Students, even at the college level, appreciate this kind of classroom environment. Last semester I had a student who was deaf, and our class even learned some sign language because I wanted the student to feel included as well as valued.”
From Ellen Weber – Brain based tasks for upper grades: “My students develop and use specific ‘kindness’ criteria as part of required learning tools. In return for earned points, they love to show evidence of ‘kindness skills’ as an exit from class. They also enjoy seeing the relationship of respect or caring to their mental well-being — and the connection is huge:-)
Like all great learning, students gain more from doing. And this is why I designed a page they pick up on their way in and submit on their way out. It’s one of the components of class they enjoy most — because it gives autonomy and builds a culture they (and I) value.
I use these specific mental traits as a way to enhance learning and build community, which is also my approach to their managing their own participation grades. They love it, it doubles as attendance, and everybody wins!”
“I am constantly promoting kindness and respect in my speech and language therapy group,” says Speech Time Fun. “I work with elementary speech and language students, and they benefit from kindness and respect as a part of the routine. I’ve been working hard with my students to teach them to listen to each other and build upon each others’ responses rather than criticize each other. I make it a serious part of my routine in the beginning of the school year, which helps. My students now understand that they should help each other rather than make fun of others for getting answers wrong.”
And be sure to check out the Character Education – Social Skills Packet from Penelope’s Portfolio. It’s filled with lessons for teaching about respect. “It includes suggestions for teachers, parents, and specialists such as SPED teachers, speech therapists, social workers, and counselors. It’s great for classroom management,” she says. And here’s her great blog post on respect.
Penelope’s Portfolio, along with so many other TpT’ers, believe modeling kindness and respect is a key component to kids learning how to be this way themselves. Tracy Smith – Smith’s Safari Adventures says, “Without a doubt… model, model, model! Some kids haven’t ever really seen what kindness and respect look like. Show them, and they will want to join in.”
“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” -Barbara de Angelis