Teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic brought about all kinds of challenges. My colleagues and I were relieved when we could go back to in-person learning, but it quickly became apparent that our students seemed to be missing a lot of important social-emotional skills. Unfortunately, the lack of socialization opportunities over the past two years and trying to re-learn how to engage in school left them falling behind in this area.
We needed a solution. We needed to help them learn to be kind, be a problem-solver, work well with others, and be overall well-rounded individuals…all while working with a budget of $0.00.
It was difficult to know where to turn when we had no money to spend and very little time to vet and familiarize ourselves with a new curriculum. Meanwhile, we had a building full of students who desperately needed high-quality social-emotional instruction and interventions.
Thankfully, Random Acts of Kindness has met this need with their Kindness in the Classroom curriculum. This curriculum is free, evidence-based, and very easy to implement. 'Random Acts of Kindness' emphasizes equity, teacher self-care, and digital citizenship and ties it all together with a simple yet powerful theme: kindness.
According to several independent researchers who have studied and tested the Random Acts of Kindness curriculum using randomized groups, teachers using the curriculum report feeling more connected to their students and seeing more kindness in their classrooms, halls, and playgrounds. They reported that their students overall demonstrated more empathetic and caring traits. Teachers also observed improved trust, fewer referrals to the office, more respect between students, and an overall more positive school and classroom culture.
Notably, The Equity Project examined Random Acts of Kindness for:
They awarded the curriculum a rating of “Excellent,” stating, “This rating expresses our confidence, using our criteria, in applying an equity lens in the development of curriculum. The curriculum met the criteria for each of our four (4) equity lens indicators and effectively demonstrated the interrelatedness of the four indicators.”
The independent researchers that reviewed the curriculum included SRI International, CASEL, The University of British Columbia, Standards Mapping Report (2019), Focus Group Report (2018), and The Equity Project.
Teachers using the curriculum report feeling more connected to their students and seeing more kindness in their classrooms, halls, and playgrounds.
It is recommended that teachers work through the Random Acts of Kindness lessons with the whole class (Tier 1). Teachers can then meet with small groups of students identified as needing extra support. This would typically be a group of 3-5 students that meets for an additional 60-90 minutes outside of the core instruction each week (for example, this could be two or three 30-minute intervention periods). While working in these groups, teachers can provide more explicit instruction, more encouragement, specific feedback, positive reinforcement, and careful scaffolding.
Some suggestions for further supporting Tier 2 groups:
There are two ways that you could choose to implement the ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ curriculum—either as a year-long curriculum, teaching each topic and lesson in order, or by using the topics individually as needed to meet the needs of your students at a specific time.
This makes it easy to locate the unit that will be most beneficial to your class or group of students.
For example, if you are looking for a lesson on self-awareness for a group of 3rd-grade students, you would select the K-5 support card titled “Random Acts of Kindness: Self-Awareness,” and there you would see how each unit on the Random Acts of Kindness website ties to self-awareness. You can read the card and see that the caring unit works on themes such as identifying emotions, recognizing strengths, empathy, self-motivation, and accurate self-perception. If that aligns with your needs, you can select the support and add it to your group's plan. The support card will have all the necessary links and includes step-by-step instructions for accessing and using the materials with your group or class.
Even though we’re more removed now from the “newly back to in-person learning” stage of the pandemic, many students are still being impacted by their time in remote learning or may struggle with kindness and empathy for other reasons. Whether you choose to use the lessons in order as your Tier 1 SEL curriculum or you utilize the lessons as a topic-based intervention, Random Acts of Kindness is a great resource. It can go a long way toward closing any gaps you might be seeing concerning social-emotional learning.
Access the Random Acts of Kindness curriculum website HERE. If you’d like to know more about how to assess the social-emotional needs of your students, check out the on-demand webinar below.
Best Practices for Assessing Students' Social-Emotional Competencies within an MTSS Framework
Related resources you may find helpful:
|ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Communicating SEL Initiatives and Programs with Communities|
|Improving School Climate to Support Academic and SEL Development|
|ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Best Practices for Behavior Progress Monitoring in MTSS|
|6 Steps To Using Data To Develop Classwide SEL & Behavior Strategies|
Interested in Learning How an MTSS Platform Supports the Whole Child?
Branching Minds makes MTSS easy, efficient, and effective by bringing together all of the components of MTSS so teachers can collaboratively problem-solve and support all students’ holistic needs. Our system-level solution helps schools improve students’ outcomes across academics, behavior, and SEL equitably.
Advancing Dynamic Solutions. (2019). Random Acts of Kindness Standards Mapping Final Report. Advancing Dynamic Solutions. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/lesson-plans/reports/RAK_Standards_Mapping_Final_Report.pdf
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (n.d.). Kindness in the Classroom - CASEL Program Guide. Pg.casel.org. Retrieved January 5, 2023, from https://pg.casel.org/kindness-in-the-classroom/
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1): 405–432.
Random Acts of Kindness. (2018). Focus Group Feedback from Elementary and Middle School Teachers. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/lesson-plans/reports/RAK_Kindness_in_the_Classroom_Focus_Group_Report.pdf
Schonert-Reichl, K., & Whitehead Arruda, J. (2016). UBC Summary Report of Research: Preliminary Findings. The University of British Columbia. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/lesson-plans/reports/RAK_UBC_Executive_Summary_Report.pdf
The Equity Project LLC. (2019). Random Acts of Kindness Rating Report. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/lesson-plans/reports/The_Equity_Project_LLC_Excellent_Rating_Report.pdf
Woodbridge, M., Rouspil, K., Thornton, N., Shechtman, A., & Goldweber. (2014). Random Acts of Kindness Foundation Evaluation of Grades K-8 Kindness Lessons and Activities. SRI International. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/lesson-plans/reports/RAK_SRI_School_Pilot_Study_2013-14.pdf
Rachel Butler is the Content Specialist for Branching Minds. Rachel is a former Chicago Public Schools middle school special education teacher and case manager. She has experience with school leadership, intervention implementation, and working with a team of stakeholders to ensure each student receives the support they need. Rachel is passionate about social-emotional learning, school-based behavioral health, and providing all schools and students with access to high-quality resources.