The Shape of Kindness

Creating a Culture of Kindness

The Shape of Kindness

By: Anita Meinbach  |

Kindness can become a way of life. The stories, videos, songs, activities and websites suggested will involve students in grades K-7 to a host of people who have, in large and small ways, changed the lives of others through acts of kindness.

For additional information resources on the Jewish value: G'milut Chasadim

Music: Kindness Playlist

The Science of Kindness:

Life Vest Inside: See how one act of kindness leads to another

Kindness Through Their Eyes -Children were asked a simple question: What is kindness?

Kid President - How to Change the World with Kindness:

Out of the mouth of babes-great advice for "students" of any age. (i.e. "Love changes anything, so fill the world with it.") --Check out the kid president's new book: Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome- by Robby Novak and Brad Montague
1. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig PreK-Grade 2 
"...Even the teacher has no time for "invisible" Brian, as she is busy dealing with the noisy children in her class…. When new student Justin arrives, Brian befriends him when the others don't, and they become buddies and even add a third boy to become a trio…. The joyful last pages show Brian with the children playing happily in real and imaginary activities. "Questions for Discussion" in the back matter provide guidelines for teachers and parents." --Lolly Gepson -Booklist 


 2. How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box: And Other Wonders of Tzedakah by Linda Heller PreK--Grade 2 
Though there may be joy in receiving, Dalia's story serves as a powerful reminder that the greatest joy of all comes from giving generously to others. 
"Is Dalia's little blue box magic-or is the real magic the generosity that helps her fill it? 
When Dalia learns about tzedakah, the Jewish tradition of charity and caring, she creates a tzedakah box where she can keep the money she's saved to help those in need. Her little brother Yossi is curious about the Hebrew letters painted on the box. "Are those letters magic?" he asks. They must be because Dalia tells him she's putting a big yellow comforter, a butterfly bush, and a banana cream pie inside of it! How ever will she do it?

--Create a class "Tzedakah" box in which students can bring well-loved books throughout the year to donate to foster homes or other community agencies. 

3. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (A Coretta Scott King Honor Book and Winner of the Jane Addams Peace Award) K-Grade 3 
"…When a new student arrives midterm, head down, with broken sandals, she sits right next to Chloe, an African American girl. The teacher introduces the pigtailed new student as Maya, but hardly anyone says hello, nor does Chloe give a welcoming smile... With growing income disparity, and bullying on the rise, this story of remorse and lost opportunity arrives none too soon." Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York Cityα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, 

--As in the book, involve students in throwing pebbles in water to symbolize an act of kindness that has been shown to each. Discuss the "ripple" affect" of each. 

4. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson K-Grade 3 
It was going to be a great summer! At least that's what he thought until Jeremy Ross moved into the neighborhood and became Enemy # 1. Since he never had an enemy before, he turned to his father for help. His father had the perfect remedy: "enemy pie," an old secret recipe that helps eliminate enemies. Jeremy ultimately discovers that the true recipe for getting rid of an enemy is to turn him into a friend! 

--Involve students in creating a "welcome wagon" for new students who join the classroom later in the year. Fill it with helpful ideas, suggestions to help them fell "at home" and brainstorm ways they can make new kids feels more comfortable in their new school (i.e. during lunch, recess, etc.) 

5. The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth K-Grade 3 
In this classic tale for children, three important questions are answered: "What is the best time to do things?" "Who is the most important one?" "What is the right thing to do?" We all want to be the kindest people we can be, and with help from the wise old turtle Leo, Nikolai learns the answers to these essential questions. 
--Provide time for students to think about these questions-discuss them at home-and create a class "collage" with their responses. 

6. Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae K-Grade 2
Gerald the Giraffe loves to dance-until he is teased by the others animals living in the forest. Ultimately Gerald learns that "Sometimes when you're different you just need a different song." He begins to hear the sounds of nature all around him and moves a new beat. We all can dance he realizes, "when we find music that we love." 

--Put on music-let them all dance to the beat! 
--Provide opportunities for students to share things they enjoy doing! 

7. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White Grades 3+ 
This beloved classic tale of Wilber the big and Charlotte the spider remind us all how a single act of kindness can transform lives and an allegory to the importance of accepting others and finding what is special in each. --Charlotte told Wilbur, "You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing." Create a "friendship mural with students words, thoughts, original quotes and pictures on "Friendship." 

BOOKS:  Grades 4-7 
1. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli ( Newbery Award Winner) Grades 5-7(Ages 11-13)
"Jeffrey Lionel 'Maniac' Magee confronts racism in a small town, tries to find a home where there is none and attempts to soothe tensions between rival factions on the tough side of town. Presented as a folk tale, it's the stuff of storytelling"...
--Create an award at your school to recognize kindness. [For more, information, read about " The Maniac Magee Award for a Legacy of Kindness" See our April Courage to Care Resource Blog in early April]

2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
"August Pullman is a 10-year-old boy who likes Star Wars and Xbox, ordinary except for his jarring facial anomalies. Homeschooled all his life, August heads to public school for fifth grade and he is not the only one changed by the experience something we learn about first-hand through the narratives of those who orbit his world. August's internal dialogue and interactions with students and family ring true, and though remarkably courageous he comes across as a sweet, funny boy who wants the same things others want: friendship, understanding, and the freedom to be himself. 'It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.'" From The Little Prince and R.J. Palacio's remarkable novel, Wonder.--Seira Wilson
--Grand Conversations: As students read the story, have them place small post-it notes on pages with quotes that resonated with them. Provide the opportunity to select one of these quotes and discuss with the class or in small literature groups.
-Toward the end of the book, Augie acknowledges, "We all deserve a standing ovation at least once in a life." Who in their lives deserves a standing ovation? Why?
--Meet a Real- Life child with Treacher Collins Syndrome, like the character Augie Pullman:

3. Hoot by Carl Hiassen (Newbery Honor Book)
A book that inspires people to stand up for what they believe is right."Roy Eberhardt is the new kid--again. This time around it's Trace Middle School in humid Coconut Grove, Florida. But it's still the same old routine: table by himself at lunch, no real friends, and thick-headed bullies like Dana Matherson pushing him around. But if it wasn't for Dana Matherson mashing his face against the school bus window that one day, he might never have seen the tow-headed running boy. And if he had never seen the running boy, he might never have met tall, tough, bully-beating Beatrice. And if he had never met Beatrice, he might never have discovered the burrowing owls living in the lot on the corner of East Oriole Avenue. And if he had never discovered the owls, he probably would have missed out on the adventure of a lifetime ." Jennifer Hubert
--Encourage students to research animals facing extinction. What can they do to help?

4. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova - Grade 5 and up
"…Flawed protagonist Peppi is fantastically imperfect in this middle school graphic novel. She is the new girl at Berrybrook Middle School and is having a hard time fitting in because of her struggles with social anxiety….Diversity is reflected in this average middle school setting, and there are characters from a variety of ethnicities and are differently abled…. Readers will connect with the relatable, complex characters…-Julie Zimmerman, Brooklyn Public Library - on Amazon

Additional resources for educators and parents:
Their mission is to "inspire measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities throughout the world."
"10 Ways to Foster Empathy in Kids" Washington Post, August, 2016
"Cultivating Kindness and Compassion in Children" (read what the research found)Dec. 2015
"Building Empathy and Understanding -" Lessons that provide approaches that help your students understand empathy and how to consider other points of view that may differ from their own. Explore them today and see how you can create a more compassionate world with your students." Lessons from Facing History and Ourselves (Grades 6 and up)

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