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When your students are kind to one another, it not only makes teaching easier for you, it makes learning easier for your students. Their confidence and self-esteem increases, and the positivity your young learners experience in school will have resounding effects outside their classroom, too. These three books and activities are a great way to encourage random and not-so-random acts of kindness in your classroom and ensure your students experience all the amazing benefits of learning in a caring classroom.

Plus, inspire kindness, compassion, and gratitude with these three bucket-filling books and activities.

The Three Questions + Kindness Q&A
In this tale of kindness and compassion based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, young Nikolai turns to his friends for answers to his three questions. But when their answers fail to satisfy him, Nikolai sets out in search of Leo, the wise turtle, who he finds working in his garden. Nikolai offers to help. When they’re done for the day, a storm moves in, but as Nikolai makes a break for Leo’s cottage, he finds a panda injured by a fallen branch. He carries her to Leo’s house and tends to her leg. After getting her to safety, Nikolai rushes back out to save her baby. The next day, Nikolai discovers the answers to all three of his questions.

After reading, invite students to pair off and ask one another the same questions Nikolai asked Leo:

·       What is the best time to do things?

·       Who is the most important one?

·       What is the right thing to do?

If they paid close attention, they’ll understand that the time is now, that their partner is the most important one, and that the right thing to do is to do something good for their partner. Next, encourage each pair of students to reflect on a small act of kindness they can do for one another. Whether it’s a smile, drawing a picture, listening to a story, or helping practice letter sounds, this activity is a great way to show your young learners that small, simple gestures can go a long way and have a profound effect on those around them.

Those Shoes + Wants vs. Needs Writing Exercise
In this relatable story of childhood desire, your students will learn the important distinction between “wants” and “needs.” Like most children his age, Jeremy wants the same pair of shoes all his classmates are wearing. There’s only one problem: he can’t afford them! But it doesn’t take long for Jeremy to realize that the things he already has, like a pair of warm boots, a loving grandmother, and the opportunity to help out his friend Antonio, are all he really needs.

After reading, encourage your students to choose a few things in their life they truly appreciate—their needs—and write about why they’re so important. Next, instruct students to reflect upon and write about any “wants” they have in their life right now and why they believe they need them. Finally, ask students to devise a plan for helping out a friend or family member using Jeremy’s and Antonio’s story as inspiration.

Wings + Standing Up for Friends Class Discussion
This inspiring story of flight and standing up for our friends is the perfect book for inspiring acts of kindness in your classroom. While reading, your students will meet Ikarus Jackson, a brave boy with wings who is ridiculed by classmates. He does have one friend, though she’s too shy to speak up and share how beautiful she thinks Ikarus’ wings really are. But when his classmates’ taunts become too much and Ikarus drifts away, his friend finds the courage within herself to finally stand up for her pal. 

Everyone has a story to tell about a time they failed to speak up and stand up for a friend or classmate. After reading, bring your class together and share a similar story from your own life, focusing on how it made you feel and what you could have done differently to stand up for someone. Next, share an experience where you spoke out in support of a friend and the feelings that were evoked. Invite your students to share similar stories if they feel comfortable doing so.

Encouraging even the smallest acts of kindness will have a huge impact. With these books and activities, your students will quickly learn that being kind to one another not only makes their classroom more caring, but will have a profound effect at home and in their community. For more books and activities to inspire kindness, compassion, and gratitude in your classroom, check out these essential classroom materials from Scholastic.

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