“Thanks to a challenge from the Dalai Lama, a number of preschools are trying to teach something that has not always been considered an academic subject: kindness… preschoolers are introduced to a potpourri of sensory games, songs and stories that are designed to help them pay closer attention to their emotions.” R. Schiffman, New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Can Kindness Be Taught? By Richard Schiffman New York Times
“Can you look inside yourself and tell me what you’re feeling?” Danielle Mahoney-Kertes asked a class of prekindergarten students at P.S. 212 in Queens recently.
‘Happy,’ one girl offered. ‘Sick,’ said another. A boy in a blue T-shirt gave a shy thumbs down. ‘That happens too,’ Ms. Mahoney-Kertes, a literacy coach, reassured him. The exercise was part of the Kindness Curriculum, developed by the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison…’Our world is kind of a scary place,’ Ms. Mahoney-Kertes said. ‘We can’t always control what is happening outside us. But what we’re teaching them is that they can control how they respond.’
P.S. 212, is in a neighborhood in Jackson Heights that is home to many new immigrants…’A child can come in and say, ‘My father was deported last night.’ How do you deal with that?” said the school’s principal, Carin Ellis. ‘We give them tools to cope with their hurt and pain.’
Ms. Ellis believes the Kindness Curriculum has also helped kids manage the stress of standardized testing and cut down on interpersonal conflicts…Richard Davidson, the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, believes that ancient Buddhist wisdom provides clues. He was inspired, he said, by a request from Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who asked him to take insights from contemplative practice out of their religious context and use them to develop strategies to help improve people’s lives... On “Sesame Street,” the characters model a variety of kind actions. For example, Big Bird’s friends help him conquer his stage fright; Elmo patiently waits as Zoe learns to use his scooter. The program then cuts to its ‘kindness cam,’ which shows real children engaging in similar behaviors… Ms. Mahoney-Kertes points out, however, that, educators must practice what they preach for their lessons to be truly effective.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic (kindness). Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The Dalai Lama presented the challenge.
- Preschoolers are introduced to a potpourri of sensory games.
- The Kindness Curriculum has also helped kids manage the stress of standardized testing.
- We give them tools to cope with their hurt and pain.
- The Kindness Curriculum is part of a growing global movement.
- Dr. Davidson said he used the Buddhist concept as the basis for teaching children.
- Children are able to empathize with the feelings of others.
- Sesame Street’s own research prompted its focus on kindness.
- The period between ages 4 and 7 is a critical developmental window when the brain is reorganizing.
- Youngsters who received the kindness training become more altruistic as they grew older.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
One ___working on ___with older ___ the Los Angeles-based ‘Kind Campaign’, founded in 2009, organizes middle and high school that ___the problem of ___between young women. The girls are ___to write a ‘kind apology’ and___it to who they have wronged.
WORD LIST: somebody,students,bullying,hand, program, kindness,target, assemblies, invited,
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- The exercise was part of the Kindness Curriculum.
- The Kindness Curriculum was an natural fit.
- When you’re unkind to another, it’s usually about how we are feeling.
- The program strengthened children’s ability to focus.
- They may also fare better later in life.
- The Kindness Curriculum is part of an growing global movement.
- Richard Davidson believes that ancient Buddhist wisdom provides clues.
- The program encourages children to identify there feelings and to put a label to them.
- On Sesame Street, the characters model a variety of kind actions.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
The articles states, “Another group, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, has developed lesson plans for all age groups through high school. Students are guided in classroom discussions and asked to come up with positive actions, like sitting with someone who is alone in the lunchroom and writing imaginative thank you letters to their future selves.”
- Can you think of a time during your life when you were taught to be kind to others? Share your experience with the group.
- In your opinion is this a good curriculum for all students? Explain why or why not.
- With your group create a list of activites for young children that will teach the ideas of kindness, sharing and caring.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.