The Book

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"Empathy is really important. 

. . . Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our full potential."   

                             —Jane Goodall


Transform your literacy classroom with ...

  • A simple step-by-step approach to choosing and using already loved books from your current literacy curriculum

  • The why, what, and how of teaching literacy through an empathy lens

  • Plentiful examples from real-world classrooms, including the voices of teachers and students as they engage with story the CoreEmpathy way

  • Practical tips for using the approach with established classroom practices

  • Easy-to-use, K-6 integrated reading and writing lessons

  • Vast resources for extending your empathy-rich knowledge and practice

  • Inspiration for you to live teaching’s greater purpose now

A CoreEmpathy Lesson

Empathy Focus

This picture book tells a lyrical story for empathy practice, as readers step into the shoes of each character and see themselves. It also introduces the idea of self-empathy—suggesting that there is a “brave self” that is always standing with you, reminding you of your value. We also love this book for the idea that empathy flourishes when people tell their stories, and that empathy is a key to everyone feeling they belong, wherever they are, because, where empathy lives, so does community.

The Day You Begin  by Jacqueline Woodson

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Read-Aloud Using Connecting Questions

Begin with Empathy First, then introduce the book by title and author. Tell your students that this book offers a chance to practice empathy in order to under-stand the story more deeply. As you read, invite your students to imagine what it is like to be the characters, exploring what they see, think, and feel. Choose among the following connecting questions:


In the beginning of the story, ask:

• Have you had this experience? What did it feel like for you? How can it help you understand what the girl in the story feels like? (That’s empathy in action.) What do you imagine the girl (or boy) is feeling in this part of the story?

• Is the girl (or boy) feeling “on the inside” or “on the outside”?

• What might you have in common with this boy (or girl)?


In the middle of the story, ask:

• Did the teacher use empathy with Rigoberto? What makes you think that? What difference did that make for him? What makes you think that?

• Have you ever felt like this in the lunchroom? (Tap your heart, if you have.)

• Did the girl’s friend, Nadja, use empathy or not? Did she understand how her friend was feeling? What makes you think that? How would empathy make a difference here?

• How could empathy make a difference in this situation? Or, using your empathy, if you were one of these children (point to a picture of the group of children, presumably on the “inside” of things), what are some things you could do or say to help the girl (or boy) feel a part of the group?

• Even when the boy seems to feel sad, is he really alone? What makes you think that?


Toward the end and after reading the story, ask:

• On “the day she begins,” what does Angelina begin to do that changes the way she feels? Do you think empathy made a difference in the way she feels about herself? What makes you think that?

• Can you have empathy for yourself? What would that look like? Or feel like?

• What does Angelina discover when she tells her story?

• What part does sharing our stories play in allowing empathy to grow?

• In what ways are you alike and in what ways are you different from a friend, neighbor, or sibling?


Empathy-Infused Quick-Write Ideas

After reading, have your students write and draw inspired by the story. Model the writing idea first, or use pages from the book that model the focal craft, then choose from the following writing invitations:

• Taking inspiration from one of the situations in today’s story, write about a time when you felt “on the outside” and what, if anything, happened that changed the way you felt. And/or:

• Write about a time when you felt like you were “on the inside,” and what, if anything, happened that changed the way you felt.

• Write about a time when you discovered that you had something in common with another person you thought was different from you.

• Using empathy, write a letter to your brave self.

• Use the story that Angelina shares about how she spent her summer as a model for your (student) writing: “My name is  ___________________________ and I spent my summer (school break, weekend, holiday) _________________.” (Invite writers to find something unique or special about that time, even if it initially felt boring or stupid.) Share what this time meant to you and why.

• Use inspired phrases from the story as stems or repeating phrases where every new thought or statement begins with it. Examples from the story:

° On the day I begin . . .

° There will be times when . . .

° There was a time when . . .

• Draw “feelings outside of” or “feelings inside of” (this is a way to release students into their writing). (Sharing writing with partners, in groups or with the whole class will infuse empathy into the classroom.)