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April 29, 2015 Pay It Forward Every Day By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Beyond academics, schools are the perfect place to spread random acts of kindness and teach our students the value in how we treat others. Last week, my school celebrated “paying it forward” and it was a huge hit with endless possibilities. On April 30, people the world over will be celebrating and practicing paying it forward, but more importantly shouldn’t we be aiming to do so EVERY DAY? See how easy it can be to start a random acts of kindness revolution!



    “International Pay it Forward Day is back for another year, on the last Thursday in April. Inspired by the book and movie Pay it Forward, it involves people performing acts of kindness for others without expecting anything in return. Instead, recipients are asked to ‘pay the kindness forward’ to others in need, essentially creating a positive ripple effect of giving.” - International Pay It Forward Day website

    Check out the official International Pay It Forward Day website and Random Acts of Kindness Week headquarters to learn more about this initiative; download free information, promotional materials, and more; and learn how to get your class and school more involved in this do-good, feel-good movement.  


    To help your students better understand the concept of random acts of kindness and “paying it forward,” choose what works best for your class from these three videos. From cartoons to tear-jerking movie clips, to the ever-humorous Kid President, no matter the age of your students, at least one of these short clips is sure to get the essential message across!



    Use favorite picture books to teach and promote acts of kindness throughout this week and the entire school year:

    See all books at Coffee Cups and Crayons.

    Each Kindness at Scholastic

    The Lion and the Mouse at Scholastic

    A Sick Day for Amos McGee at Scholastic



    Perhaps the best aspect of this initiative is that anyone can share random acts of kindness and paying it forward. There’s no act too small to make a difference to someone else. Simply smiling at students as they pass in the hallway or saying thank you to the custodian can cause a ripple effect of happiness and passing along kindness to others. After introducing my students to the concepts, we brainstormed simple ways we could spread joy and pay it forward. Have fun doing the same with your class!



    Maybe you need more inspiration to get started on this endeavor, or perhaps you’re a “pay it forward veteran” looking for new ideas. If you need some ideas for yourself or to expand upon your student-generated list, don’t miss the ideas collected on these random acts of kindness (1)(2) Pinterest boards to take your RAK-ing to the next level.


    Also, be sure to stop by the Scholastic Top Teaching Blog to see this collection of blog posts centered on the theme of spreading kindness and joy. Whether it’s holiday time or a random Thursday, these articles have some great ideas and tips for keeping your RAK-ing efforts going strong all year.



    Beyond the obvious social/emotional emphasis of these efforts, as teachers we can facilitate countless academic connections to our random acts of kindness. These are just a few ways to extend the learning from paying it forward in your classroom:

    • Sort the student-generated list of ideas into categories.

    • Write about RAK ideas, implementation, and impact.

    • Write letters to others as one type of RAK.

    • Searching for and identifying the themes of gratitude, kindness, and service within picture books and novels.

    • Raise money or collect donations for a good cause (TONS of math connections).

    • OUR FAVORITE: Using the pay it forward model (one person starts by paying it forward to three people, who pay it forward to three more, and on, and on), students will see not only a great way to practice exponents, but will also gain a clear illustration of their impact if they spread joy to two versus three versus five, etc. people!

    How do you pay it forward to colleagues, students, and parents? Is your class starting (or continuing) a RAK-ing revolution? Please share your ideas to "pay it forward" and spread the news about how contagious kindness can be. Thanks for reading and see you next week!


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