LESSON

What is Compassion?

In this lesson, students will explore the ways people with a critical health condition or disease might feel, as well as various ways they can support and show compassion toward those who are living with an illness.
Grade Level
K-2

Objectives

Activities will help students:

  • explore how people who are seriously ill might feel
  • identify appropriate ways to treat people with diseases
Essential Questions
  • How should we treat people who have serious health problems?
Materials
  • construction paper
  • markers and/or crayons

Overview


Say the word disease and a lot of people cringe. Sometimes people are so afraid of disease that it causes them to shun others who have a critical illness or treat them like they are less than human. This can lead to feelings of isolation during a time when the person who is ill might already feel fairly alone. How can we support our friends who have a critical health condition, such as diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS or cancer? What can we do to encourage others to act with more compassion toward peers with illnesses?

In this lesson, students will explore the ways people with a critical health condition or disease might feel, as well as various ways they can support and show compassion toward those who are living with an illness.

 

Vocabulary

compassion [kuhm-pash-uhn] (noun) a feeling of wanting to help someone who is experiencing misfortune, such as illness 

dignity [dig-ni-tee] (noun) worthiness; the quality of being worthy of respect

disease [dih-zeez] a sickness, such as asthma, cancer or diabetes, that causes the body not to work normally 

empathy [em-puh-thee] (noun) the understanding of or the ability to identify with another person’s feelings or experiences 

stigma [stig-muh] (noun) a negative and often unfair belief commonly associated with something, such as disease

sympathy [sim-puh-thee] (noun) the feeling of being sorry for someone else’s misfortune

 

Procedure

  1. Listen to a description of a girl named Marla.
  2. (Note: Read the following paragraph aloud.)
    Marla is an elementary school student. Like a lot of kids her age, she loves to play with her friends and listen to music. Marla is tall, has big eyes and always wears a smile on her face. Along with pretty clothes, Marla wears a handkerchief on her head to hide the fact that she is bald. You see, Marla has cancer, and the medicine she takes to make her better caused her hair to fall out. Sometimes she misses school because the medicine also makes her stomach feel gross. A few of Marla’s classmates will not play with her at recess because she has cancer.

     

  3. In what ways is Marla like you? In what ways is she different? (Note: You may wish to record student answers in a T-chart or Venn diagram on the board or on chart paper.)
  4. How do you think those differences might make Marla feel?
  5. Think about the way your actions toward Marla can affect the way she feels: Can the way you act toward Marla hurt her feelings? How? Can the way you act toward Marla make her feel better? How? (Note: You may wish to create a T-chart, listing positive behavior under a smiley face and negative behavior under a frowning face.)
  6. Draw a picture that shows a good way to treat Marla and other people who may have a critical health condition or disease like her. Then share your picture with the class.
Extension Activity

Make a card to brighten the day of someone who is seriously ill. With your class, mail the cards to your local hospital.