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December 17, 2018

Spreading Kindness: Teaching SEL with Scholastic News

By Jennifer Belcher

A little appreciation can go a long way.

Grades 3–5

    Key Takeaways:

    • Even the smallest members of our society are capable of making a HUGE impact in our communities through acts of kindness. What inspires your students to pay it forward?
    • Reading multiple short articles in this double issue of Scholastic News allows students to practice the skills of summarizing, main idea and cause and effect.
    • Using the printed issue along with the online resources provides a rich opportunity for students to engage in and synthesize information from various media formats.

    “Be kind, be kind, be kind.” In our third-grade classroom, this phrase, which we developed at the beginning of the school year, is our most treasured agreement. Every day, we try to be mindful of how we are showing kindness and giving back to our school and local community. The idea of kindness lives in our classroom every day in small ways as we focus on being empathetic, caring and principled to all members of our classroom community. In addition, my students have engaged in broader acts of kindness, such as helping support a coat drive for a local charitable organization.   

    When the December Scholastic News issue with the headline “It’s Easy to Be Kind” arrived in my mailbox, I was elated thinking about the powerful connection my already philanthropically minded class would be able to make. I also found it fitting that this was a special double issue. If any topic deserves more coverage, it is the power of acts of kindness and empathy. As a teacher responsible for growing both academic knowledge and social awareness, I was pleased to have the opportunity to deepen my students’ understanding of ways in which they can make a difference and pay it forward.

    Build Background and Pre-Teach Concepts

    Using the issue’s online resources, we watched the video “Caring Counts” and previewed the Words to Know vocabulary slideshow. These activities helped students prime their brains by building background knowledge and pre-teaching important concepts we would read about in the articles. In third grade we work on a reading standard that addresses students’ ability to gather information from digital media sources. The online resources available for each article have been so helpful to me in addressing and assessing this standard.

    Read, Summarize and Identify Causes and Effects

    After looking at the resources and previewing the text, students broke into groups and read the article that they were most interested in. I asked the students to summarize the article and come up with a one-sentence main idea. We then gathered together on the carpet so that groups could share the message of each article about one kid who made a difference.

    Download Free Resource

    When I was examining the magazine’s online resources, I noticed a graphic organizer called “Showing Empathy” that would help me use the issue to teach cause and effect. We discussed what had caused each kid to become motivated and the effect that it created in the form of an act of kindness. This was the perfect segue into a discussion about ways in which we could continue to show kindness in our school and local community.   

    Inspire Kindness in the School and Community

    The room was buzzing with rich conversation about projects the students could take on to give back. Over the course of 10 minutes, one idea kept coming up that seemed to really resonate with my students. Many of the students felt that several people who work in our school building are under appreciated, especially at a time of year when teachers are often doted on and given gifts and tokens of love. The class decided that creating an initiative which showed love to these individuals was the best way that they could spread kindness in our school.

    First, students made a list of all the staff members that they felt are sometimes overlooked. This list included our door people, security guards, kitchen chefs, school nurse, school psychologist, receptionist and cleaning staff.   

    Next, the students decided on a three-step approach to showing these individuals appreciation. I was blown away at how inspired and creative their ideas were. They developed the following plan:

    • All individuals would be given holiday cards before break.
    • Shout-out posters would be created and displayed around the school building acknowledging the individuals and the hard work they do.
    • A student-created school newspaper would be written to showcase these individuals.

    Students then got into small groups to divide and conquer each of the components.  After the cards were made, they were delivered to the staff members, and each individual was encouraged to be on the lookout for future shoutouts acknowledging all of their hard work.

    As educators, we often become overly focused on our students’ academic development and forget about the importance of their growth as individuals. We must also prepare our students to be active and kind members of society. Whether or not your students have experiences with giving back, this special issue of Scholastic News provides the perfect jumping-off point for conversations about ways kids can contribute to our larger society.   

    To try Scholastic News free for 30 days, click here.

    “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  —Dr. Seuss

    Books About Kindness



    —Jennifer Belcher teaches third grade at Léman Manhattan in New York City.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Even the smallest members of our society are capable of making a HUGE impact in our communities through acts of kindness. What inspires your students to pay it forward?
    • Reading multiple short articles in this double issue of Scholastic News allows students to practice the skills of summarizing, main idea and cause and effect.
    • Using the printed issue along with the online resources provides a rich opportunity for students to engage in and synthesize information from various media formats.

    “Be kind, be kind, be kind.” In our third-grade classroom, this phrase, which we developed at the beginning of the school year, is our most treasured agreement. Every day, we try to be mindful of how we are showing kindness and giving back to our school and local community. The idea of kindness lives in our classroom every day in small ways as we focus on being empathetic, caring and principled to all members of our classroom community. In addition, my students have engaged in broader acts of kindness, such as helping support a coat drive for a local charitable organization.   

    When the December Scholastic News issue with the headline “It’s Easy to Be Kind” arrived in my mailbox, I was elated thinking about the powerful connection my already philanthropically minded class would be able to make. I also found it fitting that this was a special double issue. If any topic deserves more coverage, it is the power of acts of kindness and empathy. As a teacher responsible for growing both academic knowledge and social awareness, I was pleased to have the opportunity to deepen my students’ understanding of ways in which they can make a difference and pay it forward.

    Build Background and Pre-Teach Concepts

    Using the issue’s online resources, we watched the video “Caring Counts” and previewed the Words to Know vocabulary slideshow. These activities helped students prime their brains by building background knowledge and pre-teaching important concepts we would read about in the articles. In third grade we work on a reading standard that addresses students’ ability to gather information from digital media sources. The online resources available for each article have been so helpful to me in addressing and assessing this standard.

    Read, Summarize and Identify Causes and Effects

    After looking at the resources and previewing the text, students broke into groups and read the article that they were most interested in. I asked the students to summarize the article and come up with a one-sentence main idea. We then gathered together on the carpet so that groups could share the message of each article about one kid who made a difference.

    Download Free Resource

    When I was examining the magazine’s online resources, I noticed a graphic organizer called “Showing Empathy” that would help me use the issue to teach cause and effect. We discussed what had caused each kid to become motivated and the effect that it created in the form of an act of kindness. This was the perfect segue into a discussion about ways in which we could continue to show kindness in our school and local community.   

    Inspire Kindness in the School and Community

    The room was buzzing with rich conversation about projects the students could take on to give back. Over the course of 10 minutes, one idea kept coming up that seemed to really resonate with my students. Many of the students felt that several people who work in our school building are under appreciated, especially at a time of year when teachers are often doted on and given gifts and tokens of love. The class decided that creating an initiative which showed love to these individuals was the best way that they could spread kindness in our school.

    First, students made a list of all the staff members that they felt are sometimes overlooked. This list included our door people, security guards, kitchen chefs, school nurse, school psychologist, receptionist and cleaning staff.   

    Next, the students decided on a three-step approach to showing these individuals appreciation. I was blown away at how inspired and creative their ideas were. They developed the following plan:

    • All individuals would be given holiday cards before break.
    • Shout-out posters would be created and displayed around the school building acknowledging the individuals and the hard work they do.
    • A student-created school newspaper would be written to showcase these individuals.

    Students then got into small groups to divide and conquer each of the components.  After the cards were made, they were delivered to the staff members, and each individual was encouraged to be on the lookout for future shoutouts acknowledging all of their hard work.

    As educators, we often become overly focused on our students’ academic development and forget about the importance of their growth as individuals. We must also prepare our students to be active and kind members of society. Whether or not your students have experiences with giving back, this special issue of Scholastic News provides the perfect jumping-off point for conversations about ways kids can contribute to our larger society.   

    To try Scholastic News free for 30 days, click here.

    “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  —Dr. Seuss

    Books About Kindness



    —Jennifer Belcher teaches third grade at Léman Manhattan in New York City.

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Susan Cheyney

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