Empathy Project

EMPATHY PROJECT


Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand someone else’s feelings.

 

The goal of the “Empathy Project” is to encourage students and teachers to practice empathy and consider how it can lead to greater understanding of others. The following includes activities, song lyrics, and links to music and video files for two John Farrell songs that deal with the topic of empathy.

“How Would You Feel If That Happened to You?”

Song and Activities
Grades K-3

“If I Wasn’t Me I Might Be You"

Music Video, Song, and Activities
Grades 4 and Older

Please send comments, suggestions and questions to John Farrell at hoperivermusic@yahoo.com


How Would You Feel If That Happened to You?

Grade Levels: Grades Pre-K to 3

Topics: Empathy Feelings Bullying and Teasing Kindness

Before Listening: (Notes from John Farrell)

I wrote this song after a teacher friend of mine asked me if I had any songs about teasing and bullying. The first two verses are events from my childhood. In the first I am the one who is bullied by two “big kids.” In the second verse I was one of the ones who was teasing another boy because he was “different.”  The third verse tells a familiar story of being the last one chosen for a team. The final verse portrays someone choosing to do an act of kindness to make another child feel welcomed.

Read the lyrics provided in the link below to the students before listening to the song.

Listen to the song on the web site from the following link or on the CD:

“How Would You Feel If That Happened to You?”

To view and print song lyrics so your class can perform the song click here.

To view and print sheet music so your class can perform the song click here.

After Listening: (Responding, Activities and Curriculum Connections)

 

Language Arts Activities:

  • Ask students to think about times when they were either teased or bullied, or times when their actions hurt someone else. Talk about how it feels.
  • Have students tell about times when acts of kindness made them or others feel good. Is there an example of acting kindly in the song?  (When the girl says, “I asked her her name and said, ‘I’ll be your friend.’”
  • Talk about how it feels to be welcomed or invited into a new situation.
  • Write your own verse or verses for the song. Perform the new verses.
  • Have students write or tell a story about someone who has been teased, bullied or mistreated in some way.

The stories can be based on the students own experiences or can be complete fiction. Do not use actual names in stories. Have students tell the story from the “point of view” of the person being treated unkindly or unfairly.

 

Art Activity:

  • Ask students to draw or paint a scene that shows a situation where their feelings were hurt, or a situation that made them feel good.

 

Social Studies Connection:  Citizenship / Immigrants / Prejudice

  • Talk with students about what it means to be a good citizen.
  • Ask students if they believe that every person has the right to be treated fairly. Make a list of the rights and responsibilities of being a “citizen.” This may be written on an “Our Class Citizenship Chart,” and displayed.

CHART of “RIGHTS” and “RESPONSIBILITIES”

  • Write the word “Immigrant” on the board. Ask students to talk about what they think that word means. Explain that an immigrant is someone who moves to a new country where the languages spoken and customs practiced may be different from where they used to live.
  • Read the lyrics of the fourth verse to students;
One day at school a new kid appeared
She dressed sort of strange and she talked really weird
You could tell she was scared but she tried to pretend
So I asked her her name and said, “I’ll be your friend.”


Explain that the girl in this verse may have been an immigrant because the lyrics say that she “dressed sort of strange and she talked really weird.” Talk about how we are sometimes afraid of people who speak another language or wear different clothing.

  • Write the word “Prejudice” on the board. Ask students if they know what this word means. After listening to responses explain that the word prejudice means to “pre-judge” or make up your mind before you learn about someone or something. When people are mean or hateful toward someone because they are different that is an example of prejudice.

Sharing Ideas: Bridges of Peace and Hope Connection

  • Write the word “empathy” on a chart or on the board and explain that to “feel empathy” means to imagine how it feels to be someone else.
  • Display a “How Would You Feel?” or “EMPATHY” poster or banner somewhere in the room to remind students that their words and actions have consequences that affect others.
  • Display a “Kindness” poster or chart and record or recognize acts of kindness.

If I Wasn’t Me I Might Be You

Note to Teachers: This song is intended to stimulate discussions about empathy, prejudice, discrimination, disabilities, homelessness, violence, hatred and injustice.  Please allow time for discussion.

Grade Levels: Grades 4 and Older

Concepts:

  • Empathy
  • Severe Disabilities
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • War
  • Prejudice
  • Compassion

Before Listening(Notes from John Farrell)

This song was written to ask the listener to imagine how it would feel to be someone else. The characters named in the verses are either people I know or have read about. Sometimes writers create characters that are actually a composite of several people. In the first verse of this song there is a character named “Jerome.” Jerome is actually a composite of several homeless people I got to know while working as a volunteer for an organization called “Midnight Run.”

“Claire,” the girl in the wheelchair (second verse) was inspired by my niece Annie, who is now 21 years old and has never been able to walk or talk. Annie is the same age as my own daughter, Maggie, who is a very healthy and active young lady. It wasn’t until after the song was written and recorded that I learned that Annie’s middle name is “Claire.” That was one of those mysterious moments that sometimes occur when creating songs and stories.

Shirley, the character who has Alzheimer’s in the third verse is based on a number of people I have known or met. This very difficult disease, like most diseases, has a profound effect on the lives of the family and loved ones of the individual who is afflicted.

Ahkmed, the man who is killed in the fourth verse is based on a man I read about. His real name was Muhammed and he was a security guard at the World Trade Center. He was one of many Muslims who were killed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

There are too many people in our world who are willing to divide and hate others based on religion, color, nationality, language, political beliefs etc. The message of the song is that all people everywhere have much in common. The concerns and desires that unite us far outweigh the forces of hatred that divide us. If we can think of everyone in the world as “US” then there would be no “them.”

  • Ask students to define the word “Empathy.” One definition is;

Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand someone else’s feelings.

  • Read the lyrics provided in the link below to the students before listening to the song.

To view and print song lyrics so your class can perform the song click here.

Listen to the song on the web site from the following link or on the CD:

“If I Wasn't Me I Might Be You”

To view and print sheet music so your class can perform the song click here.

Watch the Music Video or Listen to the Song:

  • Tell students that the music video they are about to watch was created by songwriter John Farrell and his daughter Katie. They used photographs taken by John and many other photographers around the world. The photographs add another dimension to the music and lyrics of the song.
  • Watch the music video by clicking on the “PLAY” button on the screen below.

 

After Watching the Music Video or Listening to the Song:

  • Ask students to talk about how the song made them feel. If anyone has a relative or friend who has Alzheimer’s disease or a disability the song may cause them to feel sad.
  • Discuss the ways that songs, stories, poetry and art can affect our attitudes and actions.

 

Writing Activity:

  • Have students write verses, poems, or stories in which they take on the character of someone else.
  • Have students write acrostic poems using the letters in the word “EMPATHY” to start each line of the poem.

 

Creative Arts Responses:

  • Have students create artwork, dance, video, or dramatic works that deal in some way with the topic of Empathy. Display or perform your creations for others to respond to.

 

Share Your Thoughts and Projects About Empathy:

  • If your students create stories, songs, poems, or other projects relating to the topic of “Empathy” please submit your work to the Bridges of  Peace and Hope web site and we will post your work in the Projects Gallery of the site so others can view it, comment, and exchange ideas. Send an email to John at hoperivermusic@yahoo.com to learn how to submit your work.