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An Early Years reflection: Can kindness be taught?

The short answer is yes. The more interesting answer is that our 1st graders led a general unit of inquiry called “Who we are” to the specific quest “How can we become better friends?” and explored ways to be kind. So, is this inquiry-based learning at its best? We talked with Early Years teacher Judith Quin.

“The units of inquiry are broad, so the lines of inquiry can go in many directions. During this unit, the children talked about their likes and dislikes, their interests and personalities. The more we inquired into who they were as individuals, the more they discovered what they had in common. Towards the end of the unit, we asked them to reflect on the things they had learned, and what they wanted to do about this understanding. What’s fascinating is that they were the ones who suggested that they wanted to do two things: to become better friends and to be kind to one another. The next step for us was to find ways to guide their inquiry. We explored what it meant to be kind. They made kindness goals and we held a kindness party at the end of the unit.”

Have the children talked about it since then?
“Just the kindness. Every time they notice that someone did something kind on the playground, they will share it. When they come back to class, I ask them how their playtime was. And they will say so-and-so invited me to play with her and that was very kind of her. Or he helped when somebody was upset and that was a kind thing to do. Or if they notice the opposite, something unkind, they will also talk about it. So they use the vocabulary they used in the unit.”

Are you going to revisit that topic?
“Not in a formal way, but it's still going on. This is what’s great about the units of inquiry: If you involve the children, if you give them voice, choice and agency, it’s more authentic to them. It becomes a part of their learning and creates memories that are meaningful to them.”