How to Do a Wrinkled Heart Classroom Activity to Fight Bullying

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Updated | 3 min read

There may not ever be one perfect way to end bullying in the classroom, but the Wrinkled Heart activity has grown in popularity with primary school teachers for good reason. The activity takes the intangible concept of hurt feelings and creates a visual example for children to understand.

Looking for a new activity for kids to learn about bullying in a way that’s easy to understand? The Teach Starter team of teachers has put together this guide to help you plan your Wrinkled Heart lesson plans!

What Is the Wrinkled Heart Activity?

Haven’t heard of the Wrinkled Heart activity? It’s been around as a social and emotional learning activity for decades — maybe a teacher used it in your own primary school classroom, maybe not — but it’s gained more widespread use around the world since the publication of the children’s book A Wrinkled Heart by Tracy Hoexter in 2015.

The concept of this anti-bullying and pro-kindness activity is simple:

  1. Print out a copy of a paper heart for every student in your class (this free heart template makes it easy!), and encourage them to crumple up their hearts.
  2. Explain that this is what happens to a person’s heart when someone says something mean or unkind.
  3. Ask students to straighten out their hearts and smooth out the wrinkles. They’ll notice that as hard as they try, they won’t be able to make it go back to the way it was before wrinkling the heart.
  4. Explain to your students that although saying sorry is the right thing to do, it still doesn’t fix the mean words that were said first. The students can smooth out their wrinkled paper hearts, but the feelings from the mean words are the wrinkles that will always be there!

As part of the wrinkled heart activity, you can teach your students some words to use when someone is saying mean things — such as ‘Please don’t wrinkle my heart’ or ‘That wrinkled my heart!’ — that will remind their classmates of the activity and the impact that words can have. Hanging up the wrinkled hearts in your classroom as a display will also serve as a reminder to your students of how their words can have an impact on their fellow classmates.

Teach Starter Teacher Tip: Arming students with the knowledge of what to do in the face of being bullied is not just empowering but it can also help curb bullying in the long run. Extend your anti-bullying lessons by teaching students explicit actions they can take if they are being bullied. Print a free classroom poster to remind them of some strategies they can take!

classroom poster what to do when you're being bullied

More Wrinkled Heart Activity Ideas

Another effective way to teach the wrinkled heart lesson is to use a video about a popular character or read a book that features a bullying situation.

  1. Provide each student with a colored version of the heart template.
  2. Play the YouTube clip below featuring the ever-popular Chrysanthemum from Kevin Henkes’ book.
  3. Explain to your students that they will need to listen carefully.
  4. When the characters in the story use mean words, they need to scrunch up their paper hearts.
  5. Each time Chrysanthemum’s parents use kind words, students need to try and smooth out their paper hearts.
  6. At the end of the story, have students smooth out the hearts as much as possible and try to fix any rips with sticky tape.
  7. Compare a heart that hasn’t been wrinkled with the wrinkled hearts around the classroom.

You can also go directly to the source — read Tracy Hoexter’s book with your class, and do the wrinkled heart activity! Afterward, brainstorm kind things that your students can say to one another or random acts of kindness they can perform to lift classmates’ spirits.

See more bullying resources for the primary classroom, created by teachers for teachers!


Banner image via Shutterstock/Warah38


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  • Emma

    I did this with a year 3/4 class on Valentine’s Day as part of our social and emotional learning program. This was a great activity to do at the beginning of the year to encourage kind and respectful words

    • Paul (Teach Starter)

      That sounds wonderful, Emma! Thank you for taking the time to share that lovely feedback.

  • Yvonne Greenway

    We are learning about empathy in my class of Year 3 students and Miss Twinkle definitely demonstrated this vital human characteristic.

    • Holly (Teach Starter)

      Thanks for sharing Yvonne!

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