Listening Takes Heart

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Students use visual literacy skills to talk about an artistic image. They listen respectfully to the different opinions and perspectives of their classmates. The students identify a need at their school and create a simple image that tells others to think differently or take action to improve something at school. 

PrintOne 45-Minute Lesson plus project and reflection

The learners will

  • use visual literacy thinking skills to explore the meaning and emotions presented in an art image.
  • discuss ways to listen kindly to others' perspectives.
  • identify a school need they care about.
  • create an image and text to persuade others.
Teacher Preparation 

Learn about visual thinking strategies here


Elements of Design: line, color, texture, shape, symbol, space, juxtaposition, font

  1. What do you like about our school? What could be improved?
  2. How do we look and act when we are listening with kindness?
  3. What does the image or poem we created tell others improving our school? 


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Display an artistic image that encourages observation and interpretation. Look at elements of design (Vocabulary, above) to communicate tone, feeling, and message. Give these Visual Thinking Strategy prompts:

    1. Look at the picture quietly. (Build up tolerance for looking carefully for a time).
    2. What is going on in the picture? (Accept all responses without judgment; paraphrase their inferences.)
    3. What do you see that makes you think that? (Ask for evidence of their inferences. Keep it safe for risking.)
    4. What more do you see? What more does it make you think?  (Encourage wondering and observation.)
    5. Thank you for making observations of this art. We bring our own interpretations to art from our different experiences.

    For younger children, ask them to look for signs of kindness, friendship, and emotions depicted.

  2. We might all interpret this picture differently because we have different traits and backgrounds that make us who we are. 

    Just like we can look carefully. We can also listen carefully and with kindness to understand people around us better. Our classroom, just like the world, is made up of very different people and we won't always agree. Our differences make a more colorful and interesting world, and our world needs a variety of skills, interests, and traits to be vibrant and smart.

    For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we want to use language and actions to be fair to others and treat them with respect.

  3. Teach the students to listen with kindness. Role play, if possible. 

    • take turns talking; don't interrupt
    • listen with the idea that different is not wrong
    • try to understand before trying to be understood
    • be kind and supportive to the person who is talking
  4. We are going to use art skills to help all the people at our school. Using the Blue Sky Activity as a guide (and practicing kind listening), ask the students to brainstorm things they like about their classroom or school. Write those things on a board. Then ask what could be improved. Make a list next to the first list. Ask each students to choose one of the things that could be better and draw a picture of what it would be like if that was fixed. For example, they may draw a picture of two people hugging or a trashy spot all cleaned up.

    Have a discussion about things they (and others) can do to make the school better - taking steps toward the vision they drew. Show this video about philanthropy to build vocabulary about different ways to give. 

  5. Project: As a class, choose one issue in the classroom or school to work toward making it better. They may each draw a simple image with simple text that commuicates to others action to take. For example, it could be an image of two children playing with the word INVITE across the top or the words WE ALL CAN HELP with an image of recycling.

    After the pictures are done, talk about what they made and what they hope others will learn from the pictures. Recall the visual thinking skills from the beginning of the lesson. Put up the pictures around the school to let others know the ways to work together with respect. 

  6. Extension: Write a bio poem about yourself as someone who listens and takes positive action. Bio Poems follow this format:

    Line 1: First name
    Line 2: List four words that describe you
    Line 3: Relative of
    Line 4: Lover of , , and
    Line 5: Who feels , , and
    Line 6: Who needs , , and
    Line 7: Who fears , , and
    Line 8: Who gives , , and
    Line 9: Who would like to see , , and
    Line 10: Resident of
    Line 11: Last name

Student pictures should demonstrate thought and attention to visual design to communicate a message of respect and take action for the school. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.