Five Ways to Build a Culture of Compassion and Positivity

Elementary school counselors play a crucial role in shaping the social and emotional landscape of schools. Fostering a culture of compassion, inclusivity, and positivity is essential for creating a nurturing environment where students can thrive academically and emotionally. What are specific strategies that can be incorporated into classroom lessons and school-wide initiatives, supported by relevant research, that will cultivate a culture of compassion and positivity?

  • Teach Empathy Through Stories: Start classroom lessons by reading books that highlight empathy and compassion. Research indicates that children learn best through story and exposure to narrative fiction can improve empathy in children. Use the story to  engage students in discussions about the characters’ feelings and perspectives to promote empathy and understanding. Need a great Wyatt the Wonder Dog Story that highlights empathy and compassion? Try Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship.


  • Mindfulness Practices: Integrate mindfulness activities into classroom lessons to help students develop emotional regulation and foster a positive mindset. Mindfulness has been shown to have positive effects on students’ well-being and social behavior.  Want a Wyatt the Wonder Dog story that has mindful practices included in the story? Try Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Listening.


  • Peer Support Programs: Implement peer support initiatives that promote positive interactions among students and foster a sense of community and support. Research suggests that peer support can contribute to a positive school climate (DeRosier, 2004). Some examples include:
    • encourage older students to act as mentors or buddies to younger ones,
    • set up a reading buddy program between two classrooms,
    • develop a conflict resolution team and train older students to mediate conflict.

          Need a  good resource for a peer support program? Try Creative Conflict Solving for Kids from the PeaceWorks Foundation

  • Gratitude Practices: Teach students the importance of gratitude through classroom activities such as gratitude journals or discussions. Research indicates that practicing gratitude can lead to increased positive emotions and well-being. Five lessons on gratitude can be found here.


  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Equip students with effective conflict resolution skills through classroom lessons. Teach strategies for active listening, expressing emotions, finding common ground and problem solving. Research suggests that social-emotional learning programs that include conflict resolution components contribute to positive school environments. Need a year’s worth of lessons that include conflict resolution and more? Check out the SEL Resource Kit.  Everything you need and more!

As elementary school counselors, we have the opportunity to shape the culture of our schools by intentionally integrating these research-supported strategies into our guidance lessons and school-wide initiatives. Building a culture of compassion and positivity not only enhances the overall well-being of students but also creates an environment conducive to academic success and lifelong social-emotional growth. Creating a nurturing school community where every child feels valued, supported, and empowered contributes to a positive and inclusive culture.

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