Teacher Talk: 4th Graders Participate in a “Broken Heart” Lesson about Tolerance and Empathy

January 4, 2016

“Before you speak,
Think and be smart.
It’s hard to fix
A broken heart.”

Students in 4th grade participated in a lesson about tolerance and empathy, which correlated with one of Mater Christi School’s six core values – concern for human dignity.  Students learned how words can have a deep impact on other people. The lesson started with a story about a little boy who was hearing “put-downs” from everyone in his life. Each time the little boy was insulted, or “put-down”, a 4th grade student ripped a piece of paper from the paper heart. By the end of the story, the entire heart lay in pieces on the floor.

This broken heart lesson demonstrated to students the permanency of hurtful words. Students discussed the importance of saying kind things to one another instead of something hurtful to make sure they don’t have a “broken heart”.

“You can take out the nails, but the holes are still there.” -4th grade student

Students were posed questions about how the boy was feeling and how he probably perceived himself after hearing these comments all day. The focus was switched as the story was read for a second time. Instead of reading each “put- down”, the children were challenged to come up with a “put-up”, that the characters could say instead. As the students gave positive comments to replace the previously negative comments in the story, a 4th grade student brightly colored a new heart to replace the broken one. Students reflected on the different outcomes, noticing the colorful heart was healed with kind words. The class discussed how “put-downs” can result in the loss of friendship.

In a follow-up to the lesson, the students asked if they could give “put-ups” to one another. They spent 30 minutes thoughtfully writing “put-ups” for each person in the class that were personal. They then used these to construct posters to hang throughout the classroom.

Jenelle Dumas
Guidance Counselor