Improve life outcomes

Jumpstart: Empathy - Universal

Jumpstart Universal SEL

CASEL Competency Focus: Responsible Decision Making
Time: 20-30 minutes
Materials: Read Aloud (link provided) Empathy Scenario Cards (Included)

1. Identify if empathy was displayed/demonstrated in presented social scenarios.
2. Define empathy in his/her own words.
3. Use rehearsed phrases that demonstrate understanding and practice of empathy.

Common Core Standards addressed (Speaking and Listening):

  • Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others.
  • Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.
  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Lesson Procedures

Definition of Key Terms: Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings of another person. Empathy means you try to understand how someone is feeling and you try to see a situation from their point of view.

Introduction: Start the lesson by posing these questions, “Have you ever felt sad when a friend or family member was feeling sad?” “How did it make you feel when they were sad?” How does it make you feel when you’re laughing and other people are laughing with you? Now think about how it would make you feel if they weren’t laughing with you. Have you ever heard the expression “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes?” What do you think this phrase means?

Game Time: What Would You Do?

  • Primary Game and Secondary Game: For this activity the teacher will draw and read aloud an empathy situation card (Included). Have students respond orally. For secondary students, have them work in groups or individually to create a scenario where empathy is needed.


Share with the students the book, We're All Wonders, by RJ Palacio. After reading or listening to the story, lead the students in a discussion about these key points:

  • In the story, the young boy shares some ways he is the same as other kids. He also shares that he doesn’t look like other kids. Some people make fun of him because he doesn’t look like other kids. Have you ever been hurt by someone making fun of you?

Try it out!

Primary and Secondary: Volunteer (secondary)! Encourage students to contribute in some way to a cause they feel passionate about. This could be volunteering for a local organization or donating personal items. Have primary draw pictures or create cards for military personnel, nursing home residents, etc.