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How The Great Kindness Challenge Fosters Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the Busy Classroom

Great Kindness Challenge, January 23–24, 2023

As more and more research surfaces demonstrating the importance of social and emotional learning, teachers are facing mounting pressure to integrate SEL into an already-packed curriculum.

Enter: The Great Kindness Challenge. Taking place in schools nationwide from January 23–27, 2023, The Great Kindness Challenge provides a golden opportunity for schools to seamlessly integrate SEL into the curriculum through kindness activities. Although The Great Kindness Challenge lasts only one week, the impact on schools lasts well into the future — uplifting students, staff, and transforming school cultures for the better.

To help your school integrate SEL and The Great Kindness Challenge into its busy schedule, we’ve broken down a few Great Kindness Challenge activities across multiple subject areas. Read on to discover how your classroom can foster a kinder community with these simple activities (and sign up for The Great Kindness Challenge if you haven’t already):

English Language Arts — One of the simplest ways to integrate SEL into the classroom is through literature. Books are a natural platform to introduce students to new perspectives and help them build empathy and compassion for others. Teachers should strive to select books with a variety of social and emotional themes, such as friendship, bullying, self-discovery, and identity. After reading, students can discuss with their peers or write about how the characters exemplify (or lack) kindness and compassion. Students can also practice building self-awareness, a key component of SEL, through journals or writing prompts — allowing them to reflect on the text and connect it to their own emotions and experiences. For more reflective writing and reading activities, check out these free SEL resources!

Math — While it may seem like SEL principles and STEM subjects are incompatible, nothing could be further from the truth! With a little creativity, even math teachers can incorporate SEL and The Great Kindness Challenge into their curriculum, boosting student math positivity and achievement as a result. Younger students can practice their numbers by tallying up their random acts of kindness throughout the day (i.e., smile at 25 people, or pick up 10 pieces of trash around the schoolyard). Older students can take this a step further and use the data they collect to create informational graphs and calculate statistical distributions. For a bit of classroom fun, teachers can also incorporate math games or puzzles. Not only can games teach students math skills, but SEL principles like good sportsmanship, teamwork, and fair play.

Art — In past years, one of the greatest byproducts of The Great Kindness Challenge has been the artwork! Students can channel their boundless creativity into drawings, paintings, and posters centered around spreading kindness and love. To show kindness to others, students can create appreciation posters for custodians or cafeteria workers that thank them for their service. To practice self-love and care, students can create and decorate “I Am” posters. To make a poster, students must complete the sentence “I am…” using a positive adjective. Once completed, teachers can hang the posters up in the classroom so that every student has a positive reminder of self-love for the week.

Global Language — Thank you! Gracias! Danke! Xièxiè! No matter what language(s) you speak, it’s important to show thanks and appreciation to others. Whether at home or abroad, students of all ages will benefit from learning a few keywords about kindness from around the globe. In concentrated language classes, consider delving into not just the language, but the customs and practices of the cultures at hand. For English as a second language (ESL) classes, try asking students (if they are comfortable) what words or phrases they use to show appreciation in their native language.

Physical Education — A huge component of The Great Kindness Challenge is being kind to yourself. Exercise — whether a vigorous game of soccer or a short walk — is a great way to show self-kindness and get endorphins flowing. For a more laid-back approach, PE teachers can lead class breathing exercises to help students ground themselves and stimulate feelings of comfort and calmness within the body. This is a great option for students with physical disabilities or illnesses that prevent them from participating in strenuous physical activities.

Don’t forget to sign up for The Great Kindness Challenge this year if you haven’t already! With print, virtual, hybrid, and at-home checklists, The Great Kindness Challenge has the tools to help every classroom celebrate kindness.



Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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