Teaching empathy to middle schoolers can be challenging due to the changes in emotions and friend groups. However, expressing and understanding empathy is incredibly important as kids get older and interact with new people.
These 20 videos and activities are great resources to help your students make sense of empathy.
1. Inside Out and Discussion Questions
Disney Pixar's Inside Out shares the creative story of Riley, a young girl whose emotions are changing as she moves to a new city and grows up. In the film, Riley's emotions come to life and help her come to terms with understanding them. This film is great to play for middle schoolers and then lead a discussion on the film's connection to empathy.
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2. Arrival and Discussion Questions
In the film Arrival, an alien life form comes to Earth. Scientists struggle to determine the aliens' motive. Throughout the film, scientists learn the true cause and see that by having a culture of empathy, they can move forward. This film would pair well with discussion questions on empathy.
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3. Under the Surface and Discussion Questions
Expressing empathy can be a complex skill for students who struggle with understanding the emotions of others. The video, Under the Surface, is a beautiful resource to help middle school students view the perspective of another person. This video could be paired with an empathy exercise of expressing stories to other students and finding commonalities.
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4. Freaky Friday and Activity
Students can read the definition of empathy but still not truly understand it until they watch others experience it themselves. In the film Freaky Friday, a girl and her mother switch places after both thinking the other has it easier. Ultimately, the characters learn that you should never assume the experience of others. Challenge students after the video by having them imagine swapping bodies with a classmate.
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5. Walk in Someone Else's Shoes Activity
In this empathy worksheet, students practice the social skill of expressing what they have experienced and making promises about what they want to do differently. Students can monitor their empathy progress over time.
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6. Active Listening Game
7. Peacemakers Game
In this game, students practice communication skills. They also practice making eye contact and resolving problems. This is a great activity for students who show a gap in empathy.
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9. Feelings Detective
10. The Empathy Game
Middle school students who struggle expressing empathy or do not show benefits from empathy worksheets would benefit from this card game. This activity for students has them make choices about showing emotions and social skills.
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11. Dr. Playwell's Caring About Others Game
A school's environment is incredibly influenced by the way students interact with each other and the classroom mood. Caring About Others has students consider everyday life activities and helps students grow their capacity for kindness.
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13. Empathy Bead Bracelet
In this activity, students can express both negative and positive moods by labeling different colored beads with different traits and then creating a bracelet to express themselves. Students can share emotional learning and express themselves to their peers through the use of color.
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14. Kindness Jar
If you're looking for a wonderful idea for great classroom empathy activities, look no further! In this activity, students who have a gap in empathy will practice acts of kindness by putting nice notes in their peers' jars. You can set a class goal of a certain amount of notes or acts per week.
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Knowsy is a choice board game that teaches real empathy. In the game, students learn the benefits of empathy and create a classroom for empathy. This game is a beautiful resource to teach students about empathy in everyday life.
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16. Sticky Note Empathy Activity
In this activity, students write unkind things that were previously said to them on a sticky note and then put them on a poster or bulletin board. Students will begin to see the social life aspect of showing kindness and empathy as they witness shared experiences. This collaborative campaign will teach students how to have a capacity for empathy.
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17. The Social & Emotional Competence Game
In this board game, students evaluate each component of empathy to develop a better sense of how to be empathetic. This is a great way for children to learn with their fellow students and learn about empathy over longer amounts of time.
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This inspiring resource tool will teach students about emotions in daily life. The game has character cards with character traits to help students learn about different emotions.
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19. Holes and Discussion Questions
Louis Sachar's Holes is an award-winning novel that will have your chatty class silently engaged. After reading the novel, have students discuss how their frame of mind changed and how they now plan to empathize differently than before.
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20. Fish in a Tree and Activity
Fish in a Tree is a novel that many middle schoolers will be able to relate to. The main character Ally has learning differences and struggles to feel understood. After reading, hold an activity on how to create a school environment where everyone feels welcome!
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