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"Pay It Forward" Writing Project  Lisa Kihn

5 - 8 grades

Several years ago the movie "Pay It Forward" was released. The basic premise of this movie was that if you did a good deed for someone and asked them to do three randomly good deeds for someone else, then you could change the world for the better. I asked my sixth grade class that year if they thought it was possible to do. They agreed to give it a try. Over the winter holidays they were assigned the task of doing three spontaneously kind things for three people among their family or close friends. Then they were to ask each of them to do the same. The students were asked to keep a journal to record what they did and their observations as it was "paid forward." This led to some very interesting insights into kindness and behavior. When class resumed after the winter break, I asked them to write about their findings and reflections in an essay format. Everyone shared their writings and as a class we decided to pursue more kindness avenues in the school.

On another day we discussed examples of random acts of kindness. I shared with them the story of when my two year old son was in the hospital and how scary it was for him. There was an older boy in the room next door and one day the nurse came in with a stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear and said that the boy next door thought that my son would like it. I never saw the boy who bestowed such a thoughtful gift but it made my son's day. To this day he still sleeps with this bear that he is convinced made him better. I explained how this boy did such a thoughtful gesture, never expecting anything in return and how much it meant to my little boy.

Students gave examples of shoveling walks for elderly neighbors and not ever letting them know who did it. They also had all sorts of stories about spontaneous "chores" they did at their house without ever being asked and how it really helped their parents. They wrote letters to long lost friends and relatives and made cookies and other treats for friends, and in some cases neighbors, who they did not know.

When they followed up with writing about how their acts were "paid forward," they had some unexpected surprises. Many of them had parents or brothers or sisters who did something nice for them.

Another year I worked with an elementary school on Acts of Kindness. We did this around Valentine's Day. Each student was given a cut-out paper heart and asked to look for acts of kindness around them. If they caught someone being kind, they were to give that person the heart. The kind person then wrote what it was he/she did on the heart and it was then posted in a hallway in the school. Soon there were 550 hearts with kind acts written on them for the school to see.

A group of students wrote this project up and asked the mayor to proclaim Kindness Week in our city. A copy of proclamations from other cities is on the website. It was easy to create one for our city and the mayor and city council were thrilled to do this. The students made a presentation at the city council meeting that was televised in our city. The students at that school really seemed to be extra aware of kindness and took pride in leading the city to do the same.

A very good website that offers all sorts of lesson plans and ideas for kindness is www.actsofkindness.org.

 

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