Forgiveness is an important concept for students to understand for healthy social-emotional growth.
This lesson plan gives ideas for teaching the concept of forgiveness, then supporting and practicing with activities.
After this lesson, students will be able to:
- Define and explain forgiveness.
- Discuss and identify why forgiveness is important.
45 minutes for core lesson, plus 30-50 minutes for each supporting activity
Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
- Backpacks (using student bags is fine)
- Ask students to think of a time someone did something to them that was hurtful. Define the term ‘hurtful’ if necessary. Share your own example of a friend who cancelled plans you were excited about at the last minute, or use your own personal experience as an example.
- When students have their thought, allow them to briefly share the story with a partner. Remind students to show care and understanding during this and other share times with their peers.
- After both partners have shared, ask students:
- How did you feel about the person who hurt you?
- What did it feel like to be angry/sad/resentful towards this person?
- Now have students put on their backpacks and explain that holding onto these feelings is a heavy load.
Place several books into each child’s backpack and have them walk around the room.
- Come back together as a whole group and have students describe how it feels to carry the load.
- Ask students to imagine the heavy books are like their negative feelings.
How does it feel to carry these feelings?
- Have students brainstorm with a partner how they can ‘let go’ of these negative feelings, guiding students towards the concept of forgiveness.
- Define ‘forgiveness’ with students, then share how you were able to forgive the person in your story.
- Have partners share a way they can forgive the person in their story, then have them remove the books from one another’s bags. Compare and contrast how it felt to forgive.
Did it lighten the load? Does it make them feel happier?
- Brainstorm reasons why forgiving others is a positive step and how it helps us grow and learn. How does it feel to forgive? How does it feel when someone else forgives us?
- Have students journal about forgiveness, sharing how forgiving others is a good thing.
The Language of Forgiveness
For this activity, students will learn and practice how to say they’re sorry (and mean it!) and how to accept another’s apology with grace.
- Role-playing situation cards, one for each small group
- Props, if desired
- Brainstorm words people use to say they’re sorry and record on the board.
- Next brainstorm ways people offer forgiveness and record on the board.
- Now break students into small groups and give each a role-playing task card.
- Instruct groups to read the card together, then do a short skit that first shows the wrong way to handle the situation. For example, if the task card states one student breaks another’s favorite pencil, the students may first choose to be angry at one another and not offer sorrow or forgiveness.
- Tell students to also plan for the correct way to handle the situation using the words on the board.
- When ready, allow students do first do the incorrect skit. Afterwards, have classmates offer guidance and identify areas for improvement.
- Have groups then replay their skit with the correct words.
- Close the activity by having students share with a partner how it felt to do both skits, reflecting on which made them feel better.
- Allow students to come up with their own situations and write on index cards for more practice.
- Record each forgiveness word on chart paper and allow students to decorate, then hang in the classroom.
- Place forgiveness words on the word wall.
Use this fun game to reinforce how forgiveness can help us grow and holding a grudge can bring us down. Laminate materials and store for students to play during free time.
- Construction paper (red or pink)
- Small stones
- With students, brainstorm positive effects of forgiving, such as making good friends and showing grace.
- Now brainstorm effects of holding a grudge, such as feeling angry or being cranky.
- Determine a point value for each. For example, students may think ‘Being a good friend’ is worth 10 points and ‘Being cranky’ is worth -5 points.
- Write each point value behind the effects.
- Divide students into small groups and give each a large piece of pink or red paper.
- Have groups cut the paper into a heart, then divide into sections with a marker.
- Tell students to write each effect in a space along with the assigned point value.
- Now have students tape the heart to the end of a table top or to a non-carpeted floor and give each a small stone.
- Have students mark a ‘Start’ point, then take turns sliding their stones towards the heart, attempting to land on a positive effect.
- Score the game if desired, or play for fun.
- Write forgiving language in each space and have students practice using these words when they land their stone inside.
- Allow students to paint their stones with forgiveness words.