How to Teach Perspective Taking and Empathy Skills at the Elementary Level

Perspective taking and empathy are essential life skills. As school counselors this is a topic we can introduce in class lessons and something we can explore deeper in individual and group counseling sessions.

Teaching Perspective Taking and Empathy in Tier 1 Classroom Counseling Lessons

Before students can understand others’ perspectives and develop empathy they first need a basis of emotional recognition. Start with a lesson introducing the different emotions and try using a circle to have students share how they are feeling and why. I love to use a feelings poster to show this. Download my free feelings chart here!

Once emotional recognition is established, you can teach a more direct lesson on empathy.

Empathy Whole Class Activity Ideas

  • Scoot Game - Students “scoot” around the room determining if examples are empathetic or not.

  • “What would you do?” scenario cards - Students discuss how they would respond with empathy in certain scenarios.

  • Social Story - Students put themselves in the other person’s shoes to perspective take.

  • Video and discussion -Students watch a video of other kids discussing real life implications of empathy (I like this one!) or watch a cartoon and follow up with a discussion on how they would feel if they were that student. I like to use clips from Inside Out for this one.

  • Role Play - Students act out scenarios and practice perspective taking and showing empathy.

  • Sides of the Room - Students play this fun icebreaker to show their preferences (chocolate vs vanilla) thus practicing empathy with their classmates.

  • Get to know you BINGO - Students walk around the room getting to know and better understand their classmates with this BINGO icebreaker.

Looking for an editable class lesson? Try this one. Want something digital and zero prep? You’ll love this one. Looking for a lesson with data tracking tools? Check this out.

Teaching Perspective Taking and Empathy in Tier 2 Small Groups

The nature of a small group in itself promotes empathy and understanding since students are in a safe space sharing vulnerably with each other. Regardless of the topic, empathy is fostered in the small group counseling setting. But for students who need more support in this area, try an empathy small group!

Empathy Small Group Activity Ideas

  • Role Play - Again role play scenario cards are great in small group settings to practice and develop empathy!

  • Journaling - Students can reflect on how they’ve demonstrated and received empathy in their own lives.

  • Discussion Games - Students share their thoughts on empathy and perspective taking.

Looking for middle school empathy resources? Check out this small group.

Teaching Perspective Taking and Empathy in Tier 3 Individual Counseling Sessions

In an individual setting you can personalize the activities to represent the daily challenges of students. With tailored lessons to fit their unique needs, students can reflect on empathy and perspective-taking in their own life.

Empathy Individual Counseling Activity Ideas

  • Role Play - You as the counselor can join the role play fun in a one-on -one session!

  • Dice Discussion - Students will open up more without the fear of their peers opinions. Individual sessions are great for discussion.

  • Empathy in Action Challenge - Challenge students to make a plan for demonstrating empathy at school, at home, or in the community.

  • Social Story - Read and discuss a fictional character with similar challenges to those of your student. It’s often easier for them to hear what to do when giving advice to someone else.

  • Matching Game - Students match the emotions with the scenarios.

  • Boom Cards - Digital no prep games are a great way to review empathy in one-on-one scenarios. You can even assign the cards for kids to play at home.

Download my individual empathy counseling curriculum here.

I hope these activity ideas help you feel equipped to help students with empathy and perspective-taking across each tier!

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