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TEACHING ABOUT KINDNESS
Listening to the Gospel of the Second Sunday of Luke recently, we got inspired to plan a lesson on kindness and caring; this important theme is always relevant, and it can also be a great introduction to teaching about the Beatitudes, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, or Great Lent.
Naturally, this is a very popular topic not only in religious education sources but also in secular ones, so material about it abounds – both online and offline. In this page, we have collected a variety of Orthodox-specific activities created by us, complemented by external resources that we find useful in our own classrooms. They can be mixed and matched to offer a comprehensive learning experience for a variety of age groups. In our classroom, we decided to accompany this lesson with a long-term kindness project to help the children – and ourselves – work on trying to be consciously kind in our everyday lives. Therefore, we are also offering printable files to help plan a similar activity.
At the end of the lesson, younger children should be able to:
- Explain that our Lord Jesus Christ is asking us to be kind, caring, and forgiving. This can sometimes be very hard, but we must really try.
- Explain that our Lord’s friends, the Saints, have taught us by example about the importance of being kind and caring.
- Mention some ways of demonstrating kind behavior in everyday situations.
- Express a commitment to making an effort to show kindness to others.
In addition to the above, older children should also be able to:
- Recite a verse from Luke 6:27-36. Our favorite one is verse 31, “The Golden Rule”: “Do to others as you want them to do to you”.
- Retell a Saint story that demonstrates kindness.
- Discuss a saying by an Orthodox Saint on kindness.
Planning the lesson
Using our material and external resources, a lesson on kindness could go as follows:
Introduce the theme
Introduce the theme by reading a kindness-related book. Don’t go through the whole story, only get to the part where the problem is being presented; then stop, and have a discussion with the children: What is happening? What are the main characters worried about? What are the others doing? Is it right? Is it wrong?
(Please note that we do not receive any financial compensation for mentioning external resources; we are only including them to share our experience).
- Be Kind, by Zietlow Miller. This book is very helpful for a variety of ages within the age group we are interested in (Preschool to early Elementary). Even though it is a picture book, it contains many practical examples of how one can show kindness to others, so it can be useful for older children as well.
- I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët. The interesting part of this book is that it has no narration – the story is told through images alone. This makes it especially helpful in sparking a conversation by asking the children what they think is happening.
- Stories from the Gerontikon by Christos Gousides. This Orthodox-focused comic book is one of our absolute favorites. It is mostly useful for older children, as the concepts can be a little complex for the younger ones. However, some of the stories are very good for introducing the topic of kindness.
Present the Gospel reading
The teacher can read it him/herself directly from the Bible; it is not as difficult for the children to understand, and the length can be varied depending on the age group. Another option would be to use the Gospel reading offered in the “Let Us Attend” series of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, 18th Sunday after Pentecost. They are offering audio files: Gospel reading for younger children, and Gospel reading for older children. (In addition to the audio files, they are also offering a printable packet containing the Gospel reading for different age groups and additional activities).
Finish the introductory story
After the Gospel reading, the attention can be turned back to the introductory story. What could the characters do to follow our Lord’s commands? How could they help the person in need? Complete the story and discuss, placing an emphasis on practical ways in which the children can show kindness themselves.
The Saints are examples of kindness
Our Lord’s friends, the Saints, have always striven to follow our Lord’s commands. If a secular book was first used to introduce the theme, it would be good to also present a story of a Saint that exemplifies the concept of kindness. The Synaxarion books by Potamitis Publishing can be very helpful.
In our printable packet, we are offering:
- A worksheet to help the children explore specific ways of being kind in everyday situations.
- An activity for learning the Bible verse: Luke 6:31.
- Activities to explore the teachings of Orthodox Saints about kindness – simple and more complex, to cater to different age groups.
A treasure of kindness – Long-term project
In our classroom, we came up with a long-term project to finish off this lesson. The object is to encourage the children to strive for kindness in their everyday life.
You will need:
The relevant pages from our printable packet. Print out the cards and coins, cut out and laminate. Store the cards inside a bag or box. Store the coins inside another bag or box. Print and cut out the label, then glue it onto a large jar, box or other container. This will hold the Treasure of Kindness.
How to do the project:
- Each child picks a kindness card. It is read aloud and discussed, then it is placed back into the storing box or bag. The mission until the class meets again is for each child to perform the act of kindness mentioned on the card they chose. It is even better if the teacher also picks a card and gets assigned a task him/herself.
Write down the missions somewhere inside the class where they are very obvious. It is also helpful to let the parents know, possibly by giving them a note, so they can help out. It can be additionally helpful to remind them by email or text message when the next class approaches. We want to do our best to make sure the child performs the task.
- At the next lesson, explore the assigned missions with the children. Every child that actually accomplished the task (hopefully all of them did, and the teacher as well) picks a coin and drops it into the Treasure of Kindness container. If a child didn’t accomplish the task or was previously absent, offer a lot of encouragement – there is always the next time; kindness is constantly possible. Then the children pick a new card each, and are assigned a new task in the same way as before.
- At the end of the year – or any other designated timeframe – open the Treasure of Kindness container and count the coins together with the class. Praise the children for being able to collect such a great treasure – the treasure of kindness! Then turn this treasure into one final act of kindness: For every coin, collect a real amount of money of your choice, either by asking the parents to contribute – possibly with a part of the child’s allowance – or by the teacher donating it him/herself. Suggest some charity options to the class, and let the children decide together which one the Treasure of Kindness will be used for.
* The activity can be easily adapted to a homeschool setting as well.
Helpful external teaching resources
We have found the following resources helpful for teaching this theme. However, when using a non-Orthodox resource, one must always make sure that the parts one chooses to use are in line with Orthodox teaching. If unsure, the advice of a priest can be enlightening.
- Free lesson plans for Grades K-5 by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. This free – non-religious – resource is helpful in making the concept of kindness more concrete for children. One can scroll through the lesson plans and pick and choose some ideas to explore. They are also offering a series of cute printable posters than can be used to help the children better understand real-life examples of kind behavior.
- Free Kindness Lapbook, at the blog “Homeschool Share”. A wonderful teaching resource with a Christian (non-Orthodox) theme.
- Object lesson on kindness by the blog “Meaningful Mama”. A fun approach to presenting the theme of kindness to children using toothpaste.
- Kind words sensory lesson friendship activity by the blog “Preschool Powol Packets”. Another fun and memorable approach to exploring the contrast between caring and hurtful behavior using cotton balls and sandpaper.
- Guess Who Game by Friendzy.co. A variation of the popular game that can help members of a group better connect and be kinder to each other.
The virtues – Kindness by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Orthodox Church in America.
Perfecting Holiness and Loving Our Enemies: Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Luke and the 17th Sunday After Pentecost in the Orthodox Church, by Fr. Philip LeMasters, Ancient Faith Ministries blog.
3 Men and a Bible #12 | 2nd Sunday of Luke, YouTube Bible study video by the Youth and Young Adults Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.