"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
- Dalai Lama
In our seventh grade English classes, students read The Diary of a Young Girl (the diary of Anne Frank) in our unit on Perspectives and Voices from the Past... this leads to some pretty grim discussions about the Holocaust, and some connections to modern horrors in the world. So, at our school, we have the students try and inject some good into the world... through an Acts of Kindness project!
Here's the intro to the project:
"As you are all already aware from our 3rd unit of study, there could certainly be more good in the world. Even after such horrors like the Holocaust, Jim Crow, and other, more recent acts of violence in our world, not everyone cares to try to improve the world around us, but the truth is, it will take a combined effort to make a change in the world. This will not happen overnight, but it can eventually happen. As such, each one of us should do everything we can to make a positive difference in the lives of others. I want all of us to consider our role in the world and the well-being of those around us -- after all, each one of you can touch someone's life in a positive way. It won't be too difficult, and hopefully this won't be the first or last time you'll complete acts of kindness!"
Of course, given that they're seventh graders, I worry that since this is a graded assignment and the seventh grade required task that earns them SSL hours, they'll end up with all these extrinsic motivators for their acts of kindness, and somehow forget that you should just do kind things for the sake of kindness.
So I try to combat that by really talking to them about the value of doing kind things for the sake of doing kind things... and fortunately, most of these kids are getting that message in other places than just from me, but I still like to make sure they're clear that this assignment should not be the only time they do nice things.
Besides, this assignment is a much more conscious, intentional approach to doing acts of kindness. They probably already do plenty of kind things, and many of them would already probably plan to do more kind things without it being a requirement. But to make it more of a conscious, active effort on their part, we have them reflect thoughtfully on what they do. See below:
You will be required to complete a reflection sheet after each act of kindness -- please be thoughtful in your responses. Each sheet must be initialed/signed by an adult or a witness to the act of kindness. If you talk to Ms. Rice shortly after the act of kindness, she can be your signer. When you have completed all five random acts of kindness, turn in all of the reflection sheets (you can turn it in early if you want). Complete the attached packet thoughtfully.
And here's how we explain grading:
This is an English class, so your responses to each question should be in well-written, complete sentences, and they should be thoughtful. I will be evaluating the impact of your acts of kindness as well as the quality of your reflection.
Completion of this assignment, aside from improving the lives of those around you, will earn you your required SSL hours for 7th grade and earn a grade for English class.
Please feel free to download our Acts of Kindness Project to use it with your own students (or your own children) if you want to! This packet, which was mostly put together by my buddy Ms. Medland, has been formatted for our students, but please feel free to modify and adjust things as needed. If you do, please share a link to your version in the comments below so I can share it with my teacher colleagues as well!
Click here to download the project packet PDF file.