Kind Cards: A Simple Way to Build Social AwarenessPosted by AVID Center on 4/5/2019
By Katherine Patterson, AVID Coordinator and Elective Teacher, Kelly Mill Med Pro Magnet
Rule 1: No besties, boos, or baes.
Rule 2: Be specific and thorough, so your card is meaningful.
Rule 3: Write to a different person than you wrote to last week.
Every Friday in the AVID Elective classes at Kelly Mill Middle School, students write Kind Cards to one another. It is the first thing students complete as they walk in the door, regardless of what else is on the agenda. Teaching is all about relationships—relational capacity between the student and teacher, among peers, and building a classroom culture where those relationships can thrive. Having students complete Kind Cards is a simple way to continue to develop these relationships and social and emotional learning (SEL) skills throughout the year.
The concept is simple. Take a couple minutes to thank or congratulate someone, wish someone a great weekend, cheer someone up, include someone who didn’t get one last week…the options are endless, but the impact is the same. Kindness matters, and our words are powerful.
I always check and sort the cards before I hand them out to make sure we are staying true to our intent. When someone gets upset because they didn’t receive one, it is an opportunity for me to check in with them about anything that may be going on socially or emotionally, or to maybe make them aware of the vibes they’re giving off. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a kind person or haven’t done anything of note this week, but negative energy can sometimes overshadow positivity and inherent kindness.
These conversations can reveal significant information about what may be going on with students, and they also help build self and social awareness. Maybe a student is having a tough week and doesn’t realize how it is affecting their peer interactions, or the quiet student who doesn’t get one realizes that they aren’t putting themselves out there socially with their peers, so no one realizes how nice they really are.
The rest of the students in the class pick up on who has/hasn’t gotten a card as well. Sometimes through observation, and sometimes through organic announcements of, “Man! I didn’t get one,” kids notice. They remember. And if you build a classroom culture where kindness and connections are valued, they’ll act.
This happened in my classroom today. “I haven’t gotten one since the first time we did this,” J dejectedly announced as the last Kind Card was handed out and students packed up. Before I could broach the conversation, I saw another boy get up and walk to the table where the blank cards waited for the next class. He quickly scribbled something, acting like he was adding his name to an assignment.
“I think you missed one, Miss Pat. It was under your notebook with our work,” he said, as he brought me the card. I had to hold back my reaction when I realized what he had done. “J, thanks for your help in tutorial Tuesday. I’m glad I’m in your group.” J’s day completely turned around in that moment. What I had to say didn’t matter anymore…he got a card!
The boy who wrote it left class unassumingly. He didn’t hang back for affirmation or run to tell anyone what he had done. He realized there was a social need that he could do something about, so he took initiative and handled it. I couldn’t have been prouder.
While the concept of Kind Cards is simple, its impact can be profound. Students have the opportunity to form new connections, repair relationships, and build confidence while increasing their self and social awareness. The option to remain anonymous can lead students to write to those in different social groups without fear of judgment. The requirement to write to someone new each week encourages students to think outside of their comfort zone and be more inclusive. And Rule #1 conveniently leaves out the word “potential.” After all, who doesn’t love a little #AVIDlove?
Katherine Patterson is the AVID Coordinator and Elective teacher at Kelly Mill Med Pro Magnet in Blythewood, SC. Upon graduation from Ohio University in 2008, she began her teaching career at Kelly Mill as an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher. She has taught all levels of middle school ELA and led a project-based learning team during her 11 years in education. Katherine enjoys the duality of her current role as AVID Coordinator and Elective teacher; she has the opportunity to build capacity in teachers by growing AVID schoolwide and also witness profound academic, social, and emotional growth in her students.
Want to learn more about AVID’s approach to building SEL skills? Check these out!