Exploring Compassion through Kind Words

What does compassion look like and how do we explore it in authentic, meaningful ways? This question led me towards developing a lesson with my Grade 8 advisory group in which we used the video game Kind Words as a vehicle for demonstrating kindness to others. At this point in the trimester, we had been exploring the topic of compassion using curriculum created by the SEE Learning program. Students understood what compassion was through collaboratively defining the term and identifying acts of compassion through scenarios. As a finale to our compassion unit, we explored using Kind Words to write kind letters to real people.

 

What is Kind Words?

Kind Words is a game about writing kind letters to strangers on the internet. While that sentence might arise concerns about child safety, the community on Kind Words is generally friendly and willing to offer advice. In addition, the game takes many precautions in warning its players to not share personally identifying information and instituting a one-way mode of communication. Players can cycle through letter requests written by other players until they fine one they’re interested in constructing a reply to. Upon choosing the letter request, the player is created with a digital paper on which they can craft a letter to the requesting player. As an added bonus, you can include stickers and as you play, your collection of stickers grows as other players gift you their delightful decals.

 

The Least Favorite Friend

After scrolling through a list of letter requests, that I had prescreened to ensure there was nothing I wouldn’t want my students seeing, we arrive upon a request from a player asking for help opening up to their friends group.

“Why do I always end up being the least favourite friend out of all of my friend groups? Also, I wish I could open up to them about my insecurities but I’ve only ever memed around so it’s hard to suddenly be serious.”

We now had to construct a response as an advisory group. As we discussed how to respond, I made sure to ask follow-up questions to have students contribute more detail and facilitated discussions around powerful ideas around relationships. “I would just tell him to leave this friend group because if your friends don’t see you as the favorite, you can just find another friend group who will.” one student stated. This turned our discussion towards value.

How do the friends in our lives add (or remove) value through our relationship with them? We spoke about the need for friendships to feel like they are a “two-way” relationship in which each person takes turns contributing value to the other through celebration, sharing, collaboration, and giving feedback. Good friendships require a value add on both ends the majority of the time and it’s ok if a friend subtracts value as long as they apologize and try to do better. 

“I think they should just tell their friend group how they feel and see how they respond.” another student contributed. “But that’s so scary!” responded a more introverted student. This turned our discussion towards strategies for making difficult discussions less scary. We discussed the solution of writing letters or text messages, recognizing the appeal but also noting that those can be shown to others which might be embarrassing. The choice everyone agreed was probably the best one in this situation was to identify the friend in the friend group that this person was the closest to then open up to that person. 

The consensus we finished the letter with was that communication is the most important aspect of friendships and relationships. Whether you are scared or not, having a conversation in the least intimidating way is the only productive path to resolving conflicts between people. At the end of the day, if the person doesn’t listen to you, they are probably not the type of person you are looking to be friends with because friends care about and value you as a person.

 

 

COMPASSION IS WEAKNESS!

One of the other students in the class felt that compassion was a sign of weakness because you open yourself up to people manipulating and taking advantage of you. Our group discussion shifted to vulnerability and how without it, you may succeed in keeping yourself safe but risk missing out on positive experiences as well. We decided to use this topic as a letter request:

“I have a student in my class that believes that compassion and trust are weakness. What do you think”

Within 10-15 minutes we had three responses from other players. Each response offered a unique perspective into how compassion and trust make you stronger as a person. The final letter we received was the most well received because the writer told us about how they used to thought this way in middle school and now regret it later in life. My students were amazed that someone would share their lived experience and that it actually aligned with their current age group! (They were also super excited to receive the cat face sticker.)

This lesson was pretty impactful and brought out a lot of interesting conversations that might have been difficult to discuss while doing a normal classroom activity. The discussion and perspectives shared were higher in quality because we were authentically constructing a response to help a real live person based on our experiences. I’ve always felt that video games were excellent teaching tools.

Posted: August 30th, 2020
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Maker Activity: Cardboard Automata

This video is part of a series of tutorials for integrating Maker Activities created by myself and John Kilbane at the American School of Bombay.

In this Maker Activity join me in creating your very own moving automata out of nothing but recycled materials. This is a great activity to introduce any age student to mechanical engineering concepts such as axles, gears and cams and can be scaled to show different forms of energy by adding a motor and a solar panel.

Supplies Needed:

  • Tape
  • Straws
  • Wooden Skewers
  • Cardboard (along with something to cut it)
  • Glue Gun or Tape
  • Markers (Or anything you want to use to decorate your display)
  • Something To Poke Holes With (I use a screwdriver)
Posted: February 22nd, 2016
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