Every trimester, I like to change up my daily routines a little. Membean Monday, Explosion Wednesday, and Finishing Friday are all year-long, so I make Tuesday and Thursday something different.
For T3, the English skills are around persuasive writing and speaking. But something I've noticed all students need is empathy. So how do you build empathy into a course?
I tried two things. First, I added "Thankful Thursday" to the rotation. I give every student a post-it note, and ask them to write a note to a classmate, thanking them for something. Then we watch a video for "Random Video Thursday" and we discuss the topic of the video. The topics are things like brain science, friendship, music and anything else I feel like would make good conversation.
Those are the students' favourite parts of the week.
But it wasn't enough.
I want students to really understand what empathy means and I want them to actually be empathetic people.
So I added another weekly routine: EQuesday.
I take a question from Ask Metafilter, make it grade-level appropriate and anonymous, and ask the students to write a letter to the OP, or original poster. This is a sneaky way to get them to practice letter format, as well as supporting opinion with specific details.
To make it fun, I write my own response and mix it in with actual responses to the original question. After students write their own letter, they read the responses and choose their own Best Answer. Then I have them guess which one I wrote. After voting, I ask students to justify their answers - why they chose that particular answer, what made it the best answer, etc. Another sneaky way of practicing the skill.
But there is also another purpose to adding my own answer to the mix: they get used to reading my writing, and they also get to learn about me. I don't share overly personal details, but in an answer about Spoon Theory, I disclosed that I have serious chronic heath conditions. In an answer about Instagram, I talked about how I manage my own technology.
Today, I added another layer. After the discussion spiraled out into a conversation about the differences between gender, the meaning of friendship, and their experiences with both, I realised that some students needed to talk and we didn't have enough time to hear them all.
So I posted a question to Google Classroom and let them talk to each other that way. Some really special things happened. Here's one of them:
The second one is from one of her tablemates. This girl is already a deep thinker, and she makes connections like crazy. The students who responded to her are not close friends, and in fact function in very different circles socially.
I wish I could tell you all of the reasons that those specific students are exhibiting something amazing in their posts here.
But what I can tell you is that they're getting it. They are actually BEING empathetic. They know what that word means. They are internalising it and using it in their interactions with others.
That's the kind of thing they won't forget, even when they leave my class.
If you are interested in my questions/responses, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm more than happy to share.