Overcoming Obstacles

Standards Addressed

  • Students will reflect on findings to build understanding and determine next steps.
  • Students will determine appropriate tools and develop a plan to communicate findings and/or take informed action.
  • Students will read and respond according to task and purpose to become self-directed, critical readers and thinkers.
  • Students will recognize, respect, and appreciate individual differences.
  • Students will respect alternative points of view.


  • Students will be able to understand what empathy means.

  • Students will be able to explain why it is important to be empathetic toward others.

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of ways they can show empathy toward others.

  • Students will be able to express how someone would feel in various presented scenarios.


  • “6 OR 9?” and “5 Steps to Empathy” activity sheets for each student (“We Do”)

  • “Empathy Scenario Cards” and “Empathy Scenario Analysis” activity sheets (“You Do”)

Starter (5 minutes)

Walk to the front of the classroom to address the students and, while doing so, dramatically trip, stumble, and almost fall to the ground. Take some time to regain your composure, and perhaps say something like, “I could have fallen and really hurt myself! Gosh, now I’m so embarrassed...” Then, look up at all the students to see their responses or reactions. Tell students that you feel really embarrassed that happened to you. Then, ask students, “Do you know how I feel? How would you feel if something like this had happened to you?” After a few students respond, explain that if they know what you must feel like after that incident, then they are feeling empathy. Then, tell the class, “Today, we are going to learn about empathy and what it really means.”

Teacher Presented Knowledge/I Do (5 minutes)

Ask students if they have ever heard of empathy before today. Listen to a few students’ responses and then say, “Empathy is understanding or knowing what another person must feel or think, even if you are not the person experiencing what they are going through. You can do this by thinking of a time that you were in a similar situation. Or, if you cannot picture a time like this, then you must try to imagine what it might be like to be in that person’s position.”

Guided Student Practice/We Do (15 minutes)

Show the class the “6 OR 9?” activity sheet. Tell the students to take a minute to look at the picture. Then, have the students talk about the picture with a partner. After the students have had enough time for a discussion, ask them, “Why are the two people in this picture arguing? If the two people put themselves in the other person’s place, do you think it would help them to understand better?” Identify the five steps to empathy using a chart or a student handout (see “5 Steps to Empathy” activity sheet). Then, tell the students that they are going to be given a scenario card and they will be asked to put themselves in the place of the person on their card by using the five steps to empathy.

Student Independent Practice/You Do (20 minutes)

Give each student a scenario card. (You may create your own empathy scenario cards that relate to the needs of your classroom. Alternatively, you can use the scenarios provided in the “Empathy Scenario Cards” activity sheet.) The same cards can be used with several students because they will be working on this independently. Instruct students to read their cards and put themselves in the other person’s place. Remind students of the following questions: “How do you think the person in this scenario feels? How would this situation make you feel? If you observed this situation in real life, what could you do to show empathy?” Direct students to answer the questions on the “Empathy Scenario Analysis” activity sheet.

Closure (5 minutes)

Call on a few students to read their scenario card and share what they wrote down on their worksheet. Then remind students, “Showing empathy for others is an important part of a classroom community. When classmates are upset or experiencing challenges, it is important that we put ourselves in their place in order to support them and make them feel accepted and cared for. Using the Five Steps to Empathy will help you be more compassionate and empathetic.”

Student Assessment

  1. What does empathy mean?
  2. Why is it important to show empathy for others?
  3. How can you be more empathetic toward others?

Extensions for Lesson 2: Empathy

Drama Extension

Have students form small groups and then perform short role-plays showing what empathy looks like.

ELA Extension

Have students write thank-you notes to their family, their classmates, or the school faculty and staff as a small act of kindness to build empathy.

Literature Extension

Read the book One, by Kathryn Otoshi, to the class. Then, ask the students to raise their hands and explain what happened in the story. Give students time to respond, and then, tell students that in the story, One had empathy. Discuss with the class how One stood up to Red. Ask the students questions such as, “How did Red make the other colors feel? Did the other colors like Red? If not, then why did they do what he said? How did One stand up to Red? After One stood up to Red, what happened? Why wasn’t One mean to Red?” Guide students to understand that One cared about the others’ feelings. He cared about the colors that were getting bullied and the color doing the bullying. Explain that One knew what it was like to get bullied, and he was not going to do that back to Red.

Literature Extension

Explain to the students that you have a great picture book to read to them that they can relate to, and the title is Stand in My Shoes, by Bob Sornson. Pause throughout the reading to ask engaging and critical-thinking questions about the character and her feelings of empathy:

Pages 4–5: How does Alicia define empathy? What is she asking Emily to do? Why?

Pages 6–9: Why is Emily’s dad stressed and in a hurry? How does Emily empathize with him and show him that she understands his feelings?

Pages 10–11: What happens to Rosie? How does Emily “stand in Rosie’s shoes” and help her out?

Pages 16–17: How does Emily help Tommy to “stand in Samantha’s shoes”? What happens when Tommy does empathize with Samantha’s feelings?

Pages 22–25: Who always notices how you feel? What are some ways you can be empathetic toward your loved ones?

Pages 26–30: What did Emily do throughout this book? What did she learn after her day of caring for others’ feelings? What does “standing in another’s shoes” truly mean?

Music Extension

Create a song, chant, or cheer about the “5 Steps to Empathy.”

Service Learning Extension

Have students participate in a Service Learning project. Students can do things such as visit a senior citizen home, collect clothes or food for a homeless shelter, serve food at a shelter, or write letters to essential workers.

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