SPARKLERS / Kindness & friendship

The Empathy Effect

Demonstrating how our actions impact others more than we think.
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Print me

You will need to firstly print the Empathy Effect Worksheet onto cardboard and cut these out.

You will also need a ball of wool or string!

Why we love it

This activity helps tamariki to understand the interconnectedness of our communities, and through this, the power that our actions (both good and bad) can hold.

Tikanga tips

We have chosen for this a name that is quite uncommon amongst school children these days (Jill). If, however, you do have a student in your class called Jill, we recommend choosing another name.


Remember your ball of string (or two!) and the Character Cards!


We’re going to have a quick look at the impacts of our behaviour.

We all have the ability to be kind, don’t we?

And we also all have the ability to be unkind.

Let’s play a quick ‘pretend’ game…

What to do

Read tamariki this story, being clear to say that this is just a story and completely made up:

The school bell rings to end school time. The teacher says goodbye and says that they look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow.

All the tamariki rush to their bags, there is some giggling as they arrive. Jill isn’t sure what’s up, but on approaching her own bag sees it’s been written on with black vivid pen. In big capital letters it says ‘ JILL’S A WEIRDO!!’

Jill snatches up her bag and immediately leaves the school to get home, running to hide her embarrassment and the hurt she is feeling.

Her school bag was new. It was a birthday present from her grandma just the week before. While part-running she desperately attempts to rub away the words, it’s impossible.

Feeling frustrated and upset, she biffs the bag and all of its contents down the bank and into the stream. She walks home with nothing, concocting a story to tell her parents and her grandma about losing her bag.

Ask tamariki to get into a circle - as the teacher, you can be Jill or you could use a teddy or puppet - whichever you feel comfortable and best suits your tamariki and class.

Move into the middle of the circle and give out the character cards to individuals. It won’t matter that not everyone has one, they can still contribute by offering ideas.

Explain - that it’s important that we can empathise with Jill. Each of your characters will be affected by what’s happened to Jill. If you have a character, think about this ‘impact’.

Let’s start with Jill - take the ball of wool into your hands, holding the end (or wrapping this around the puppet/teddy).


How does Jill feel? And what does she do?

  • Embarrassed
  • Ashamed
  • Has to lie and continue lying
  • Scared
  • Hurt
  • Sad
  • Doesn’t want to go to school tomorrow

While still standing in the middle of the circle, pass the ball of wool to someone holding a character card (make sure not to let go of the end of the wool when you do this) - you’re going to create a big tangled web to visually show the connections and impacts (to more than just Jill).

The next person holding the ball of wool then shares how the situation affected their character (make it up as you go) and how this has made them feel. Eg, Jill’s friend might notice she is ‘not her happy self’ and while she tried to figure out what was going on, Jill wouldn’t say (but maybe she did! Tamariki and you can decide along the way). If tamariki are stuck or it’s too challenging to answer the question, keep throwing the question out to the group and add in your own thoughts and comments too. You’ll know from a teacher’s, principal’s and maybe BOT perspective, more than tamariki.

Once done, they keep holding a part of the wool and throw the ball to a different character for them to share their role.

The string should be forming a ‘web’ – it doesn’t have to be neat! You might chose to wind the string around tamariki rather than ask them to hold it, but the important thing is it’s ‘messy’, complicated and shows clearly the many people impacted by one unkind act.

It’s not necessary to complete the story here.


  • What does this tangled web say to you?
  • What could some of the characters have done differently to be an Upstander in the situation?
  • What actions could you have taken to make the web look different and less tangled?


Now we are going to read the second part of the story, and make another web – but this one will be a bit different! Give the character cards out to different tamariki if this will help keep them engaged.

It’s now a few days after the incident. Jill is still feeling a bit hurt, and she worries about what her classmates think about her – is she really a weirdo? It’s the end of the school day and the bell rings. As usual, the teacher says goodbye and thanks the class for working well today.

All the tamariki rush to their bags, and Jill feels anxious, remembering what happened to her. Jill isn’t sure what’s up, but notices that some of her friends are smiling at her when they see her coming. When she gets to her bag, she notices a note that's been stuck on it. It reads: “Jill, you are one of a kind, and that kind is super cool!”

Now replay the game. Jill begins by explaining how she feels and how she reacts. She then passes the ball of wool to someone else, who explains how her reaction impacted them, how this felt, and what they then did as part of the story. The story continues, showing how kindness spreads and grows! This time, make the game fun, really positive and again engage as many people as possible to highlight the connections and impacts of being kind.

Let tamariki know that our actions are choices. Sometimes the impacts are greater and affect more people, but these impacts can be negative, or they can be positive.

As a quiet reflection:

Ask tamariki what are three things you have learned from this activity?

What next?

Try other kindness activities from Sparklers.

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