Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Upper Elementary Morning Meetings: Compassion Theme
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Upper Elementary Morning Meetings: Compassion Theme

How do we teach our students to become more compassionate towards others? Today I'm sharing with you some of the lessons and ideas I've used in my upper elementary morning meetings during my compassion theme unit. These activities have helped me have conversations with my 4th and 5th grade students about compassion, empathy, and ways that we can show more concern for others.

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

I think it is so important to teach students to think outside of themselves, to become more aware of the needs and feelings of others, and to be able to relate to others on a deeper level. This endeavor is one of many reasons why I devote time to Community Meetings.

Not only can I impact students personally and socially, I am able to teach many of my literacy standards through theme-based morning meeting routines. Read on to find out how I focus on compassion.

First, introduce the theme topic and definition:
To launch my Compassion-focused Morning Meeting Theme Lessons, I define compassion for students as "having understanding or empathy for the suffering of others." From the Latin language, compassion means "co-suffering."

Read Aloud Each Kindness
Next, I read Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson as my key read aloud. Most likely, my students have already been exposed to this book during my "kindness" themed morning meeting lessons.

If you are unfamiliar with Each Kindness, you are going to want to grab a copy for your class. If you've ever read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, it has almost the same story line but in a picturebook format.

In Each KindnessChloe and her friends refuse to play with the new girl, Maya. Maya reaches out to Chloe's group again and again at recess and in the classroom trying to befriend the girls. We can tell from the author's details and the descriptions that Maya is poor and does not have proper winter clothes or ever wear new clothes. The girl's jokingly nickname Maya "never new." Abruptly, Maya moves again. Chloe is left with the guilt of knowing that Maya was lonely and trying to make new friends and that she continually pushed Maya away.

Although Each Kindness is a story about kindness, I think it's really more about having compassion and the consequences and guilt that are associated with not doing what is right and not having compassion for another human being.

How I turn this read aloud from Kindness-Focused to Compassion-Focused:

I like for each of my morning meeting read alouds to have a few key questions that get to the heart of what I want to discuss with students. For Each Kindness, we delve into the following key question:

How would this story be different if Chloe or her friends had demonstrated empathy and compassion? (Students jot their thoughts in their community meeting notebooks and then we discuss their ideas).

We focus on the quotation "Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering." I ask students:
If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
  • Did Chloe and her friends see that Maya was suffering?
  • Did they care that she was suffering?
  • What kept them from feeling compassion towards Maya instead of pushing her away?

Rewrite the Story with more Compassion {Day 2}
During our next morning meeting lesson, I put students into groups of three and have them revise parts of the story with Chloe showing more compassion towards Maya.
If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
I choose four pages of the book where I thought Chloe was the least compassionate. As students discuss the story's events more deeply and collaborate to rewrite a few scenes in the story, they get closer to the details of the text, the way Chloe treated Maya, and Maya's emotional responses as she tried to reach out. I think this rewriting activity really helps students "walk in the character's shoes" and realize that although Chloe was never outright mean or even bullying Maya, she was also never kind and never showed compassion for Maya's situation.

To close up this lesson, I allow students to share their rewrites of the story with the rest of the class. You can do this through a quick gallery walk, too!

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.Morning Meeting Discussions to Deepen Understanding {Day 3}
Now that students have a deeper understanding of compassion, I use my whole-group discussion journal page to have students brainstorm a few ideas about compassion. They focus on:
  • Ways We Can be More Compassionate
  • Verbalizing Why it is Important to try to Understand Others
  • How Being More Compassionate Can Improve our World
  • Create an illustration to represent compassion
I choose 1-2 of the journal prompts to discuss in whole group and create an anchor chart for. With this anchor chart, we can keep adding big ideas as we discuss the topic. At this point, I like to set a shared compassion goal as a class and have students set a personal goal for being more compassionate. {They have another journal sheet for this where they can record their goal for the week and reflect on at the end of the week.}

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.I also love that at anytime, I can pull this anchor chart back out and have students reflect on previously learned themes.

Compassion and kindness are not topics that I can just talk about for a few days and then expect students to perfectly behave with compassion. I like to spiral back to these themes during my morning meeting again and again. As a follow up question for a later meeting, you could ask "Has anyone found a new way to show more compassion? to be more compassionate?"

Build the theme with Additional Read Alouds, Video Resources, and Related Songs {Days 4-5+}
After introducing a morning meeting theme, I like to continue building the theme with additional read alouds and any online video resources I can find.

Other great read alouds to use in your Upper-Elementary Morning Meeting Compassion Themed Unit:
1) A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead

This video from Dr. Brene Brown is SO PERFECT and illustrative! However, it was created for adults and at 1 minute 56 seconds, it mentions miscarriage and divorce. If you can play up until that point, students can relate to the comparison of empathy versus sympathy. Students will even get a lot of benefit from watching the video without the narration. At the end, she has a perfect response when you don’t know what to say to someone’s situation, “I don’t even know what to say, but I’m so glad you told me.” You may want to fast-forward a few seconds and let students watch the end. Preview this video to see if it works for your needs, but I just could not leave it off of the suggested ideas list!

I also LOVE to use songs during my morning meeting lessons when I am able to. I think Bill Withers' Lean on Me is the ULTIMATE theme song for compassion! You know your students will be singing and humming along in no time and sharing the song together really creates a bond in the classroom. You can discuss how the song relates to compassion by having students write a quick text to text response (perhaps comparing the song with the definition for compassion) or by pulling out examples that shows the singer is compassionate towards their friends.

Incorporate Quotation Analysis into your Discussions! {Last day of theme reflections}

 Morning Meeting Compassion Theme SetI'm also a quotation lover and always incorporate at least two key quotations and some quotation analysis lessons into my morning meeting plans. The quotations, "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." and "You never really understand a person..." from To Kill a Mockingbird are two of my favorites for this theme unit.

Responding to a quotation is the PERFECT way to close up your theme study before you move on to your next theme. I LOVE using a response to quotation as a reflection and assessment opportunity to see how much students have thought about and learned during our compassion-themed discussions.

These quotation reflections can also offer you some insight into what themes you should plan to teach next and what ideas you want to come back to as you spiral back with similar themes like kindness, belonging, accepting others, etc.

Want more ideas? 
 Compassion Themed Morning Meeting Lessons for an Upper Elementary Morning Meeting Routine
If you are looking for other ideas and activities to spark discussions with your students about compassion and to encourage them to find ways to be more compassionate, I have additional ideas in my Upper Elementary Morning Meeting Made Easy compassion theme set. You can compare and contrast the words "empathy" and "sympathy," create a recipe for compassion, generate compassion synonyms (and discuss their nuances), and more!

This theme set also includes key vocabulary and materials for creating your own morning meeting theme bulletin board display, student journal pages, and more video and resource links to help you plan for your compassion theme unit.

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.
I highly recommend getting this theme in the bundle that includes 4 other themes: belonging, kindness, conflict resolution, and perseverance theme materials, but you can click here if you just want to grab the compassion theme set.

Can't get enough of literature theme-based Upper Elementary Morning Meeting Ideas? {Believe me, I'm with you!}

I've written a few other blog posts about my morning meeting lesson plans that you may also be interested in:
Integrity
Belonging

And if you are just getting started with morning meetings, I highly recommend reading these posts:
Why I Devote time to Community Meetings
4 Reasons I LOVE a Theme-Based Morning Meeting
Ideas for What to Do if you Feel like You Can't Squeeze in a Morning Meeting

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.

If you plan to do upper elementary morning meetings in your classroom, you're going to love the ideas presented in this post! Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will be exposed to a literature-rich environment that encourages personal improvement, character development, community building, teaching themes in literature and ELA skills. Suggested read alouds/books, materials, and activities will engage your students in compassion related lessons. Used by classroom teachers or counselors to promote character education.

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