I wanted to share a really awesome lesson and activity that I did with my 8th graders. Our entire English Language Arts theme for my 8th graders is empathy. Our main novels and literature (To Kill a Mockingbird, “Flowers for Algernon”, and The Diary of Anne Frank) are all linked to the theme of empathy, and we constantly tie in the theme, short stories and articles that tie into the theme.
One of the first activities I do with my students in order to introduce the theme is, “Walking in My Shoes.” I introduce the infamous Atticus quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Here, I teach “Perspective-Taking Empathy”, which is the ability to put oneself into a person’s “shoes” and see things from his/her perspective.
From there, I introduce my shoe activity. On the front side of the shoe, my student write down ten things that people would not know about them unless they told you. This ranges from sports, passions, interests, favorite movies, broken bones, and other interesting facts. On the back of the shoe, I have my students choose a line from a song that best represents him/her (I assign this as a homework assignment, and students are instructed to bring in the song lyrics to school, so they are able to write.) You would be amazed at the lyrics the students use to represent themselves. They range from popular pop songs to 70’s rock!
In addition to them choosing a line, the students have to explain why they chose the line. The students have to give a detailed and thorough analysis of the line and relate it to their life. I am usually blown away by the amount of perseverance and strength many of the students have and how much they are willing to share with me regarding some of their struggles, obstacles and future goals.
For the final presentation of the two-part activity, the students get to choose their shoe template on which they want to complete their final piece. On one side of the shoe, the students write their ten things about themselves, and on the other side of the shoe, they write their song lyric paragraph. The students love coloring in the shoe, and they are usually very creative with them. As you can see from above, the shoes come out a-mazzzzzzing! After I grade the shoes, I hang them up in my room in a “walking” pattern.
I absolutely love this activity, and I hope you do too! The students really enjoy this activity, and they are always awfully proud of their shoes.
If you are interested in the full lesson and activity, here is a link to the product in my store!
If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me!