Compassion Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What is compassion and how does it differ from empathy? This lesson plan outlines key facts about compassion for students. An activity urges students to demonstrate compassion in response to specific situations.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, students will be able to:

  • define compassion
  • distinguish compassion from empathy
  • exemplify compassionate acts


1 to 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Paper copies of the text lesson Compassion vs Empathy
  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated text lesson
  • Assorted slips of paper with various unfortunate scenarios written on them (e.g. a homeless person begging on the street, a hungry child, an ill woman, a lost elderly person and so on)
  • A bowl or container


  • Begin by writing the following sentences on the board for the class: 'I feel your pain.' and 'I want to ease your pain.'
    • What is the difference between these two sentences?
  • Pass out the paper copies of the text lesson to the class now, one per student.
  • Tell the class to read the introduction, 'Definition' and 'Example' sections of the text lesson.
    • Which of the sentences written on the board demonstrates empathy?
    • Which sentence shows compassion?
    • What was different about Liz's response to Jan's situation?
    • How did it exemplify compassion?
    • Why was Tim's response representative solely of empathy and not compassion?
  • Instruct the class to read the 'Empathy' section of the text lesson.
    • How is sympathy different from empathy?
    • How is sympathy different from compassion?
  • Have the class read the rest of the text lesson now.
    • Who can name some examples of compassion?
  • Review key points with the class before continuing.
  • Pass out the worksheet to the class now, one copy per student.
  • Instruct the students to work independently to complete the worksheet.
  • When all students have finished the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class as students self-check their papers, making any necessary corrections along the way.

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