When students are kind to one another and show respect to you and their classmates, those acts of kindness reverberate both inside your classroom and in the community, too.

Your classroom library is an excellent resource to help students understand just how important it is to be nice to one another. Social-emotional learning helps students learn how to cope with their own emotions and practice empathy towards others. 

Cultivating a community of kindness leads to a positive classroom environment. Here are five books — plus fun and engaging activities and discussion prompts — to inspire kindness in your classroom.

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1. The Friendship Tree

In Clark the Shark Dares to Share, Clark learns that sharing is caring, but his teacher doesn't seem to appreciate it when he tries to share his new dance moves, and his teammates aren't impressed when he tries to share his reef-hockey skills. Eventually, Clark’s friends have to teach him to how to share.

After reading the book, encourage all of your students to recall a lesson they learned from a friend or loved one. Then, use a Friendship Tree to share those lessons with the whole class. This is how it works:

  • First, create a tree on a wall in your classroom with branches that are easily accessible for your students.

  • Next, cut out a paper heart for each student and yourself, and write everyone’s names on it.

  • Model the activity by sharing a lesson you learned from a friend, then sum up that lesson in a few words on your paper heart before placing it on the Friendship Tree.

  • Call on students one by one and have them share their lessons. Sum each lesson up and give them their paper hearts to place on a tree branch.

2. Looking for the Good

In Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, nothing seems to go Pete’s way until he starts rocking a pair of magic sunglasses from Grumpy Toad. The following activity is a spin-off of Pete’s adventure and will encourage your kids to see the good in the world, even if they aren’t donning a pair of shades:

  • Ask each student to imagine they're putting on a funky pair of sunglasses. 

  • With their "sunglasses" on, instruct each student to look out into the classroom, find something good they may not have noticed before, and share it with the class. (Really encourage them to be creative!)

  • Record the good each student noticed and tell them to practice this every day. 

3. A Few Encouraging Words

Short and clumsy are just a few words readers can use to describe Molly Lou Lemon. But thanks to a few encouraging words from her grandmother, Molly Lou is able to stand up to the class bully and finally stand tall among her friends. Reading Stand Tall, Molly Lou Lemon is a great way to kick off a lesson on the importance of encouragement and the power words have in our lives.

  • Create a circle and share a few words of encouragement you received from a friend or family member. How did those words make you feel?

  • Next, have students pair off and share similar stories of their own with classmates, noting the specific words and phrases that made them feel motivated.

  • Bring everyone back together to share those words of encouragement with the whole class and write it down for the “Words of Encouragement” wall display.

4. Every Day Is Friend Appreciation Day

Encouraging students to show their appreciation for their friends is a great way to keep those friendships healthy and strong. At least that’s how the dinosaurs do it in How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends?  If it works for dinosaurs, it can work for kids, too! Here’s a simple way for your students to express their appreciation and gratitude for one another:

  • Create an appreciation box to keep in the back of the room. Next to it, stock sticky notes and a few pens.
  • Tell students they can express their appreciation for their friends and classmates by writing down thoughtful examples and dropping them into the box.
  • Every couple of days, bring the box to the front of the class and read the notes aloud to the class, which will motivate students to write more and more as the school year progresses.

5. Golden Rule Writing Activity

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners is a fun read that teaches students the importance of manners inside and outside the classroom. It’s also a great lead-in to a writing activity about the Golden Rule. Here are a few prompts you can share with your students to get them started:

  • What’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you and how did it make you feel?

  • What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done for someone and how did it make you feel?

  • Each student writes down one nice way they treat people and one nice way people treat them. Compile all the pages into a classroom golden rule book. 

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