Empathy Lesson

Do you have students that find it difficult to put themselves in another’s shoes and see things from someone else’s perspective? Have they ever judged someone without really getting to know them? My guess is you have; we all have! This lesson explores empathy as students practice applying empathy skills in order to strengthen their emotional intelligence which will help them as they move forward in life.


  • Explain the quote:  You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960
  • Share explanations and ask students what the term is that this quote is referring to… sometimes students get the term EMPATHY but a lot of times not.
  • To illustrate this show the YouTube video called Perspectacles.
  • Discuss: Sometimes we judge someone without thinking about what’s really going on in their life.  Being empathetic often alters how we respond to someone.  It can help us think about how we might feel if we were in the same situation.



  • Ask students if they are empathetic?  Have them take the survey from Teaching Tolerance and find out. 
  • If students answered mostly “yes,” they probably do a good job of showing empathy toward other people. The statements with “no” responses are things that could be done to be more empathetic.
  • Share this EMPATHY Acrostic Poem with students and ask and discuss the following question: Who do we depend on to teach or show us how to be empathetic?  (A lot of people can fill this role:  parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, religious leaders, children, and even strangers.  These individuals can be our role models that we mimic our behaviors from.  Modeled often enough, these become habits.)
  • Think about what it actually would mean to be in their shoes, live their lives, endure what they do and hear each and every day.  To illustrate this have students participate in the “Hat Activity”. 
  • Hat Activity:  Ahead of time put labels (see attachments) on baseball hats and randomly put on students’ heads. (You could also make labels into necklaces that hang down the backs of each student. Make sure they do not see their label; they can only see others’ labels and treat them accordingly.  For example, labels might include:  ignore me, laugh at me, say unkind things to me, compliment me, ask me to do things with you, bully me, be sarcastic with me, call me names, be impatient with me, etc. You decide the labels to use based on the students you have.
  • After they’ve put themselves in this position, ask them to share how this activity made them feel.  How did it feel to treat others the ways their labels said to?  How did it feel to be talked to the way you were based on your “label”?
  • So…what do we do?  Think about the golden rule?  Do you know what this means?  Why is it so important?  (Golden Rule:  Treat others the way you want to be treated.)  How might this make you feel? 
  • View the following YouTube clip (Heartwarming Thai commercial …must read subtitles) and be able to share how the young man felt along the way, especially at the end, how bystanders reacted, and how individuals he helped felt/responded.  What did he get out of all of this?  Why did he do it?
  • How do we practice being empathetic? First, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, think about how they are truly feeling. Secondly, truly listen to them, with eye contact and without interruption. Third, respond with empathy and understanding by asking more questions, offering help and really trying to get the other person’s perspective.
  • Share the below scenario (from (Common Character Blogspot) and have students practice being empathetic with their shoulder partner.
I am a baby and something’s not right so I’m going to the Doctor. I haven’t been sleeping well so I’ve been kind of fussy lately. It could be that I’m cutting some teeth, but mom’s not sure. She wants me to stop cry-ing but it’s really hard. I’m too young to explain how I’m feeling because I don’t talk yet. What do you think I need? What do you think my mom needs? How are we feeling? How can you tell? How could you help us? 
  • Have students write scenarios like this example based on the age/stage and event they receive (see attachments).  Then have students share scenarios with a partner and practice being empathetic, using the strategies discussed in class. Students will write a script of their dialogue to turn in for a grade or they can record their dialogue using the Flipgrid App.
  • Why is it important for parents to teach children empathy?  It teaches them to be emotionally intelligent which will further help them in life with personal, work and relationship skills by knowing how to respond to others.
  • Extension–Optional:  Students could research answers to the following prompt:  Why Practice Empathy? And write their specific responses on strips of paper to put on a bulletin board surrounding the prompt and a picture illustrating empathy.


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