12 Ways to Promote Kindness in the Classroom this Year

Whether your school year has already started or you're still enjoying the last days of summer vacation, it's never too early to start thinking about how you can make your classroom a more caring and compassionate place.

If you're drawing a blank on where to start, we've got you covered. As part of generationOn's Rules of Kindness Campaign, we've partnered with experts like Ashoka's Start Empathy and Dr. Lynne Kenney to come up with 12 ways to make sure kindness has a seat in your classroom:

1. Be a model of kindness. With all the negativity in the news and in our own world, it can sometimes be hard to focus on the good. Teach your students to be givers of kindness by being a model of kindness through small acts. Whether it's complementing students or promoting positivity, being the one to show kindness will help them see it in action, learn gratitude and see how they can be kind through regular, small acts.  

2. Lay the foundation. For some students, school can be intimidating any day of the year, not just on day one. Reflect on ways you can help your students feel welcome and comfortable in the classroom, and encourage other students to do the same. You can find ideas for self-reflection in the toolkit we developed in partnership with Ashoka.

3. Give your students chances to help each other. Partners for classroom assignments? Cleaning up after an activity? There are so many ways students can help each other throughout the day! Give your students a chance to help each other with school work, play or cleaning up. The added responsibility will teach them to care for their peers, their supplies, and the classroom itself.

4. Read "How Full Is Your Bucket?" Read the book "How Full Is Your Bucket?" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer to your kids or have teens read excerpts aloud in class. The book talks about how everyone has a bucket that gets filled when we experience positive things, but empties when we experience negative ones. Discuss the importance of building each other up with your students and why they should all be "bucket fillers."

5. Talk with your students about what kindness means to them. It can be easy to think that everyone has the same definition or understanding of kindness, but that isn't always the case! Challenge your students to think about all the kindness and compassion in the world. Once students have an idea, write it down to have a definition of kindness for your classroom!

6. Create Rules of Kindness for your class. Get your class together and create your Rules of Kindness! Take the time to make rules for how kindness will be used in your class. Whether it's really listening to what others have to say or helping in the community, there's no limit to the ways you can create a culture of kindness in the classroom! You can use the ideas in this list or the project guides on our website to help you get started.

7. Have students show appreciation for others. Students don't always remember that there are people who come in long after they leave to make sure the school is ready for them the next day. Have your class write notes to leave for the janitors or other helpers in the school so that they know their work is appreciated!

8. Have classmates celebrate a "Student of the Week." Each week, pick one student from the class to be the "Student of the Week." Have everyone else in the class write a positive statements about this person (e.g. "I like Susie because she walks with me to class" or "Nathan always makes sure we have enough snacks for everyone") and collect them to be read aloud. Each student will get to hear how he or she is making a positive mark on his or her classmates!

9. Create a kindness board or chain. If you have an extra bulletin board or wall in your classroom, create a space with kindness reminders to reference throughout the year! By having a visible dashboard of ideas, students can visualize various ways to be kind in the classroom and can use those tools outside of school as well!

10. Organize class service projects. Giving back is beneficial in so many ways. Organize a class project that mobilizes your students to give back to the school or their communities. By letting the students plan, organize, and run the project, they will have a chance to see how their efforts can make a difference, and get out of their usual bubbles to build friendship, collaboration and create a culture of kindness!

11. Take time to help students reflect. Kids and teens have so much going on these days, they're often jumping from one task to the next. Encourage students to take time to reflect on how being kindness makes both them, and the recipient of the kindness, feel. You can use our reflection guides to come up with questions that help students get to the heart of kindness and develop empathy.

12. Hold a No Bully Peace Summit. School is already stressful enough, with standardized tests, homework, sporting events and more. When you start to add the social aspect of being a kid or teen and possible bullying, it takes stress to another level. Holding a No Bully Peace Summit can bring together students and help them to see past differences and increase inclusion. You can use this project guide to learn how to get started.

The generationOn Rules of Kindness campaign, sponsored by Hasbro, aims to challenge kids and teens to build empathy, be kind, and show they care! We've partnered with experts in the youth development space, including Ashoka's Start Empathy to develop a Rules of Kindness Toolkit and No Bully, to help educators and youth development professionals to develop steps to help create a culture of caring.

You can participate and be entered for a chance to win awesome grants and prizes by going to www.rulesofkindness.generationon.org, sharing your rules and creating a plan to put them into action, and uploading a photo and story!