Students hugging

Building Empathy Through Inquiry

Teacher Background

In this lesson, students will assess other perspectives and build their own idea of empathy toward others through inquiry.

Vocabulary

Empathy: The ability to understand the feelings of others

Notes for Teacher

The desire to help others usually involves empathy. It moves a student’s inquiry beyond communicating conclusions to taking action. Creating empathy often involves understanding another person’s situation. Use the empathy exercise to help students see why something that might not be important to them might be very important to another person.

Think Deeply

  • What does empathy mean?
  • How can I make a difference?
  • How can I persuade people to help?

Well-Being

How do you feel when you see someone else with a problem?
What do you want to do when you see someone trying to solve a problem?
What role does your empathy play in your decision to help others or not?

Let’s Write

Write about a time when you faced a problem in your life. What steps did you take to solve the problem? How did you communicate your solution?

Lesson Plan

1. Write “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” on the board. Ask students to discuss this. They should decide what it means.

2. Discuss their ideas together as a class.

3. Explain the quote to students if they don’t understand it. Then, have students read the first two paragraphs of the article (see below). At this point, stop and discuss the question: However, does that give us the right to say whatever we want without consequences? Explore the different opinions in the class without judgment. Help students see that people can have different opinions.

4. Continue reading the rest of the article. Explain to students that when we try to see things from other people’s point of view, it helps us understand how they feel.

5. Have students read and discuss the empathy map in pairs or small groups. Ask if they can add anything to the lists.

6. Discuss their ideas as a class.

7. Students will complete their own empathy map. Before class, think of an issue or problem that will resonate with the students, perhaps an issue in your classroom, at school, or in the community. Set up the issue. Have students work in groups. Each group should take on a different role (e.g., teacher, student, principal) to complete the organizer. Have students use the Empathy Map: Put Yourself In Their Shoes graphic organizer (see below) and fill in the role they are playing.

8. Students will complete their own empathy map. Before class, think of an issue or problem that will resonate with the students. This could be a problem a person faced in history, or perhaps an issue in your classroom, school, or community.

9. Set up the issue, and create a working description of it together. Have students then work in groups. Each group should take on a different role (e.g., teacher, student, principal) to complete the organizer. Have students use the Empathy Map: Put Yourself In Their Shoes graphic organizer and fill in the role they are playing.

10. Remind students that empathy is being able to see another person’s perspective, and it helps us become willing to take action and make a difference for others.

Materials Used

Individual copies of the Empathy Map: Put Yourself In Their Shoes organizer.

Graphic Organizers

3-5 Empathy Map: Put Yourself In Their Shoes organizer
K-2 graphic organizer:

Recent Posts

studies weekly primary sources

See Our Primary Source Media Online

As a social studies teacher, it’s often difficult to instill an appreciation for historical events in young students. While most people over 25 can remember