Teaching About Empathy


Empathy is a word that the majority of students have most likely heard before, but it is not one that many fully understand. Psychology Today defines empathy as “the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own.” Having empathy is an important trait for any person to possess because it helps us to understand one anothers’ experiences and communicate effectively with others. Teaching students about empathy will be extremely beneficial for them (and the rest of the world) in the long run.


There are many resources available on the internet for teaching students about empathy and bringing the concept of empathy into schools without necessarily implementing a new curriculum. Though empathy seems like a skill that shouldn’t need to be taught, talking to students about what empathy is and why it is important is instrumental in making positive change in the unfeeling world of technology.

Lesson Plans

  1. Academy 4SC: Find videos related to empathy at Academy 4SC, like Harlow’s Rhesus Monkey Experiments: Monkeying Around With Love, Moral Luck: Who’s to Blame?, and Anthropomorphism: Human Traits for Non-Humans?, among others. Teachers have access to resources like worksheets, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more included in each topic’s lesson plan. Explore Academy 4SC’s full library of applicable content under the tag Empathy.
  2. Leaders 4SC Forces: Leaders 4SC provides a variety of Task Forces that provoke students to think critically about key issues as they roleplay as decision-makers and brainstorm well-detailed solutions. Each Task Force comes with step-by-step instructions, Google slide templates to be used with virtual breakout rooms, and topic-specific questions to get students started. The activities can be completed either individually or as part of a group. A fun Task Force is Anti-Bullying Policies in Schools That Work.
  3. Developing Empathy: Teaching Tolerance provides a lesson plan that “helps students gain a deeper understanding of empathy and how to put it into practice.” The lesson includes objectives, essential questions, vocabulary, an overview, a list of materials, activities, and an extension activity. Students will learn whether or not they do a good job showing empathy or if they could be more empathetic, and they’ll have the opportunity to practice being empathetic listeners in pairs. By the end, the class will gain an understanding of empathy and apply their new knowledge in a controlled situation.
  4. Top 7 Best Empathy Lesson Plans and Why You Need Them: This write-up, from Applied educational systems, discusses the reasons why schools need to teach students empathy in the age of technology and offers seven of the best lesson plans with corresponding explanations. Lessons from Teaching Tolerance, The Teachers Guild, Hasbro & Ashoka, Preventing Bullying, Brookes Publishing Co., and more are reviewed. There’s something here for every teacher to utilize in their classroom!
  5. 40 Kindness Activities & Empathy Worksheets for Students and Adults: This article contains tips on how to teach kindness, seven kindness activities for elementary students, preschoolers, and middle schoolers, world kindness day activities, information on how to teach empathy, four empathy worksheets for students and adults, fun empathy exercises for the classroom, a take-home message, and references. PositivePsychology.com gives a lot of great classroom activities, worksheets, games, exercises, and information for use!


  1. Teaching Strategies: The Importance of Empathy: TeachHub.com published a piece talking about how empathy equals intelligence and teaching strategies that include empathy in the classroom. This article does not include a lesson plan but rather gives teachers tips on how to incorporate empathy into their classes without actually setting a day aside to teach a class on the subject. Tips, including being a good example, sharing stories, working on communication, and offering collaborative group tasks are covered. 
  2. How To Teach Empathy: teachthought issued an article about how to teach empathy to students. The author, Terry Heick, explains the difference between empathy and sympathy, differentiates between the two different types of empathy (affective and cognitive empathy), and addresses how exactly one can teach a class about empathy.
  3. Why the World Needs an Empathy Revolution: This article, from Greater Good Magazine, describes why the world needs an empathy revolution. Jill Suttie, the writer, starts off with discussing The Empathy Effect by Helen Riess and her research on empathy, particularly in health care. Suttie discusses the science behind empathy, the fact that empathy can be taught with Riess’s new program called EMPATHICS, and taking empathy beyond health care. This is a great source of information!

Informational Sites

  1. Empathy vs. Sympathy: How to Practice Empathy and Fuel Connection: This site outlines one of the most important things to understand when learning about empathy: the difference between empathy and sympathy. sixseconds also offers a humorous video about empathy vs. sympathy before jumping into discussing listening vs. fixing, the ‘at least’ trap, validating vs. reassuring, and an empathy vs. sympathy experiment. In all, this website is perfect for both students and teachers to learn how to be empathetic (instead of sympathetic) and to recognize the dos and don’ts of empathy.
  2. Empathy: Psychology Today gives a quick run-down on the definition of empathy and whether a person can be too empathetic. This website is ideal for teachers who want to give their students a bit of information before jumping into lessons!
  3. There Are Actually 3 Types of Empathy. Here’s How They Differ–and How You Can Develop Them All: This informational website helps readers to understand the three different types of empathy (cognitive, emotional, and compassionate) with the hope that they can develop them all. The author describes how to build these three various types of empathy so well, which makes it a great resource for students to take a look at!


Empathy is one of the most important traits to have when building both long-term relationships and friendships, but it is often overlooked. Still, it is crucial to learn how to be empathetic—to be able to understand, communicate, and share experiences with people of different backgrounds who have different stories—in a world with so much hardship and disaster. Teaching (and learning) about how to develop empathy in a class is not an easy feat but is definitely worth it in the end.

Additional Resources

  1. Importance and Benefits of Empathy: This article talks about a few topics relating to empathy that are extremely beneficial for students to learn about. verywellmind goes over the types of empathy, the neuroscientific, emotional, and prosocial reasons human beings feel empathy, the benefits of empathy, factors that play a role in a person’s tendency to show empathy, and why people lack empathy. It’s a great read!
  2. Understanding others’ feelings: what is empathy and why do we need it?: This informational site discusses the three ways one can look at empathy, the reasons empathy is necessary, how empathy is measured, and if empathy can be selective. The Conversation uses this introductory ssay to help readers better understand others’ feelings.