Overview: Designed to accompany the film Pay It Forward or during National Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th, the lesson invites students to practice random acts of kindness, which they record with observational research and data collection.
Subject: 21st Century Skills: Social-Emotional Learning, Research Process;
English Language Arts: Writing
Grades: 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Duration: 8 days (1 instruction day, 7 research days)
Related Concepts: Research Projects, Random Acts of Kindness, Empathy, Scientific Process
Students will be able to:
Evaluate the ideas of empathy and acts of kindness by conducting a short qualitative research data collection cycle.
Essential Questions: How can small acts of kindness affect my community?
Vocabulary: empathy, qualitative data, observational research
Common Core Standards Addressed:
- ELA: Writing
- Chart paper
- Organizers for research collection
- "Mission Possible" letters
- Internet access
- Projection system
- Student computers/tablets
Project an image that will evoke an emotional and possibly a compassionate reaction from students (you can choose recent photograph or find historical examples here.)
Ask students to describe what they see in the image and how this picture makes them feel either in a written response or discussion prompt.
Watch We Are Built to be Kind. After the video, lead students in a classroom discussion with the following prompts:
- When have you experienced a random act of kindness from someone you knew or a stranger?
- How did it make you feel?
- When have you done an act of kindness for someone you know or for a stranger?
- How did it make you feel?
- Do you agree with the researcher's claim concerning an empathy deficit? Why?
- Do you disagree with the researcher's claim concerning an empathy deficit? Why?
Explain the concept of qualitative research. (You can find possible points here.)
Create an anchor chart as a class with definitions of empathy and kindness that students can use to evaluate the claims made in the video that we are made to be kind. Brainstorm with students how they can determine the effects of empathy and kindness.
Discuss examples of acts of kindness, such as doing something kind for someone without expecting a reward, doing something anonymously, helping someone the way they need help instead of the way you think they need help, etc. Looking at the anchor chart, have students help you determine how they can research this and keep track of the results. Create an observational log format that would have dates, people, descriptions of events, research reflections, and any other information they should track.
Project the following instructions on the board, or pass out the instructions on a class worksheet.
"Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to secretly conduct acts of kindness. Your goal is to impact the trajectory of your immediate sphere of influence. During the next seven days you will perform acts of kindness while remaining anonymous. First, pick your target (the person who will receive your act of kindness). Then decide on a kind deed or kind act to perform for each target. Record each act on your observational log."
Provide a due date for the data form, as well as possible examples:
- Do a chore for a family member without them knowing.
- Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them and give it to them secretly.
- Secretly clean out your mom or dad's car.
- Write a note to another teacher; tell them you appreciate the work they do for you. Then secretly leave it on their desk.
- Clean your room without being asked.
Include some other ideas based on brainstorming from students or your own ideas.
Send students home with the observational logs for the next seven days. Check periodically on progress over the research period.
On Day 8, assign learners an expository essay where they explain their findings and reflect on the process. Have them use their observational logs as evidence, and collect all materials on the essay's due date.
Have students write an exit ticket each day that describes one of their acts of kindness.
- Assess correct completion of the task card assignment.
Frontload domain-specific vocabulary for English learners and struggling readers.
Provide a graphic organizer for lower-level learners instead of having them create their own.
Vary the length of the essay for students of differing writing abilities.
Have students create paper chains, one link for each act of kindness, to drape around the room or school.
Students could include a PowerPoint presentation or video that includes the qualitative research they just conducted.