This school year started like no other. As we transition through these challenging times, it is important for everyone to show a little more compassion and empathy towards others. It is important for us, as teachers, to begin fostering these qualities in students at the beginning of the school year to help establish a healthy classroom environment and a positive classroom culture. Compassion and empathy encourages prosocial behaviour and ethical citizenship, which helps to build strong communities. Establishing a strong classroom community at the start of the year sets your students up for a successful year.
Within a busy school day filled with meeting curricular outcomes, fostering empathy and compassion can sometimes be challenging. However, there are ways to boost character in students while meeting curricular outcomes. For instance, choosing good books is a great way to explore character and the use of literature to develop empathy is well-documented. Stories engage students’ imagination. They allow them to identify with the characters and assume their thoughts and actions. That’s where AnimalTales comes in. Each book focuses on animals or our relationship to them, and deals with a variety of topics – from the importance of being kind and compassionate to every living thing and responsible pet ownership, to handling pet loss in a healthy manner and bullying. Through sharing and discussing stories, as well as having meaningful reflection, students can build on their sense of compassion and empathy which they can apply in the classroom, school, home and community
For those who don’t know, AnimalTales is a free book lending program that is mailed right to your school. Available in grades Kindergarten to Grade Six, these grade specific packages come with four books, a teacher’s guide, as well as online resources (smart board activities, podcasts, videos, etc). Included in the teacher’s guide are discussion questions, and pre and post reading cross-curricular activities tied to the Alberta Programs of Study. The activities are easily adaptable to suit your classroom and students and can be done in class or virtually. For more information on what to expect with AnimalTales, check out this past blog!
AnimalTales is available to request for this school year with new measures implemented to ensure the safety of you and your students in response to COVID-19. AnimalTales can be requested to arrive at your school as soon as possible, or you can schedule it to fit into your year plan. Teachers who complete the program can have their class added to the Kindness Map and will receive a class set of bookmarks!