Character Education: Crumpled Heart

Character education has become a large part of teaching the last few years. The schools have many different ways to promote good character in students. It was not always approached so broadly but when my kids were younger, the counselors did present character lessons to the students. Back when my oldest son was in Kindergarten, the counselor gave a presentation that has stuck with both of sons and me all these years. I call it the Crumpled Heart and have seen the activity presented different ways, all with the same end meaning.

When we saw the activity, it was as an entire school. The kindergartens in our area all went to one school and the activity was presented during rise and shine time. It can also be presented to a classroom.

The speaker presents a paper heart to the group. Next, the students are asked one at a time to shout mean words at the speaker such as ugly, stupid, nasty and so on. With each mean word, the heart is crumpled until it is crumpled into a ball.

Next, the kids shout out nice words such as pretty, smart, nice etc. With each word, the heart is unfolded. Nice words are shouted until the heart is completely uncrumpled and back to its original shape.

The presenter then explains to the students that the heart began one way, it was perfect and unblemished. Then as the cruel words were shouted out it crumpled with each word. As nice words were shouted, out it returned to its original uncrumpled state but it is not the same as it was before the cruel words were shouted at it. The crumples in the heart represent scars, the scars left by unkind words.

This activity can be done by cutting the heart with each hurtful word and then taping it back together when the kind words are said. The presentation may differ but the message is the same.

This activity represents the real heart, with each cruel comment or behavior the heart is damaged. It can be repaired with kindness but it is never the same again. The heart will always show those scars, they heal but never completely go away.

The moral of this activity is to choose your words wisely, be careful not to say the mean hateful words because you can never take them back. You can say and do things to make things better but in the end the scars remain and the heart is never the same again.

It is not always easy to hold your tongue when you are upset or angry. Emotions get in the way and people shout out things that are hurtful. This activity helps kids stop and think though and while it is fresh in their mind, they choose better words. Teachers should all present this activity to students and then when they are cruel to each other gently remind them of the crumpled heart.


Picture by Flickr

Kim Miller

About Kim Miller

I am a single mom of two sons, 15 and 18 years old. I also have an 8 month old grandson. I recently earned my BA in Elementary Education and am working toward an MA in Elementary Education. I love working with children and watching them learn.

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