Lesson plan

The Compassionate Classroom

In this lesson, students will discuss compassion, hear from a local nonprofit about their compassionate work in the community, and design a compassion sculpture made mostly out of recycled materials.
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Students will be able to define the word "compassion" and discuss ways the class may live with more compassion for each other and in their community.

(10 minutes)
  • Join students together in a circle, either seated or standing.
  • Ask students to pair up with another person.
  • Say, "Describe one person in your life to your partner who you know to be caring and understanding of others. What do they do that shows they care?"
  • Give students 2–3 minutes to share their answers with partners.
  • Ask, "Who would like to share with the class the characteristics of someone who is caring and compassionate?"
  • Ask, "What is compassion?"
  • Write "compassion" on the board.
  • Write the students' definition for compassion on the board. Build on their answers and be sure to include "concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others" in the definition.
(15 minutes)
  • Ask, "What are some organizations in the community that show compassion for others?"
  • Place students in groups of 3–4.
  • Assign each group a local organization, and have them use computers to research how the organization engages in compassionate acts.
  • Once students learn more about their assigned organization, share that they will be creating a sculpture to represent the compassionate acts the organization engages in.
  • Optional: Instead of having students research community organizations that engage in compassionate acts, invite a guest speaker from a local organization dedicated to compassionate acts (e.g., homeless shelter, senior center, etc.) to talk about their work and what it means to be compassionate. Have students write down one question they have connected to compassion for the guest speaker. Invite students to ask the speaker their questions on compassion. Sample questions might include:
    • What does compassion mean to you?
    • How have you shown compassion to others?
    • How can our classroom be more compassionate with each other?
    • How can our class support the local organization that the speaker represents?
(5 minutes)
  • Share a model sculpture you make ahead of time. For example, you could sculpt a dog if the organization you highlighted is your local chapter of the humane society.
  • Ask if they have any questions.
(15 minutes)
  • Hand out materials to create sculptures, and have students create a sculpture that represents the compassionate acts the organization they researched engages in.
  • Dismiss students to go back to their seats to work on their sculpture. Check in with every group to see if they need support.

Enrichment: Ask advanced students to write a thank you letter to the nonprofit speaker.

Support: Work one-on-one or in small groups with some students who are having difficulty with the questions and sculpture during independent work time. Practice proximity if there is any off task behavior.

(5 minutes)
  • Walk around the room and check student comprehension of compassion during group work.
(10 minutes)
  • Bring students back together in a circle with their questions and sculptures.
  • Give each group time to read their answers and to show the class their sculptures.
  • Write the ideas students have on the board for supporting a compassionate classroom.
  • Explain to students that the compassion sculptures will be on display in class as a reminder of the ways we may have compassion for others in our class, school, and community.

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