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Building Compassion through Games and Strategies

Updated: May 27, 2021

By Jordan Gilliard, CEI Intern


More than 60 educational studies showing that there is a significant effect on students’ academic achievement when games and activities are applied to their learning process. Activities help students form lovable memories that connect to the material. These positive connections certainly aid the learning process (Marzano, 2010). Meanwhile, students also gain skills of teamwork, creativity, positive sportsmanship, and critical thinking, factors that relate to emotional awareness and compassion (Education World, 2015). Social and emotional learning (SEL) practices have also led to healthier and safer classrooms that even perform better academically (Civic Enterprises, 2013).This is why games and classroom strategies covering compassion are crucial to a child’s development.

Looking for ideas? Angela Cardenas, a former teacher and SEL specialist) shares games created by herself and others to build compassion. For the extensive list of activities, CHECK OUT Angela Cardenas’ blog!

smart education
  1. Noncompetitive activities such as the Bean Bag Conversation game focuses on exploring their fellow students’ experiences and emotions. Games like the bean bag conversation game creates a sense of community once you are encouraging students to care about the feelings of their fellow classmates.

  2. Competitive activities such as the Good Qualities game motivate sharing and other compassionate behaviors through rewards. It is a small, casual board game in which the players roll die to move to action spaces that have specific messages, such as ‘Say a good quality about the person to your right.’ Each player is rewarded if they perform each action.

  3. Technological or app-based strategies that offer kids a fun way to grow in their compassion through a medium they are extremely familiar with. Apps such as Class Dojo are easy to access and download. Class Dojo is a free app that can track a class’s behavior through a reward-point system.

Examples from Cardenas’ Blog


For Your Consideration

Increasing student interest and engagement is one of the most expedient ways to facilitate learning, including learning about and practicing compassion.. If you are uncertain about the value of adding games, poll your students. Or conduct a mini-experiment.  Plan two lessons on compassion – one that uses games and hand-on activities. Teach another level of comparable difficulty level using traditional methods– perhaps readings and discussions. Then reflect on results and let us know what you conclude.


Cardenas, Angela.(n.d.). Lesson activities.

Civic Enterprises., Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Hariharan, (2013) The missing piece: A national teacher survey on how social and emotional learning can empower children and transform schools. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Chicago: Author.

Stathakis, R.(2016, July 24). Five reasons to use games in the classroom. Education World.

Marzano, R. J. (2010). The art and science of teaching / Using games to enhance student achievement. Education Week, 10, 5, 71-72.


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