There may not ever be one perfect way to end bullying in the classroom, but the Wrinkled Heart activity has grown in popularity with elementary school teachers for good reason. The activity takes the intangible concept of hurt feelings and creates a visual example for children to understand.
What Is the Wrinkled Heart Activity?
Haven’t heard of the Wrinkled Heart activity? It’s been around for decades — maybe a teacher used it in your own elementary school classroom, maybe not — but it’s gained more widespread use since the publication of the children’s book A Wrinkled Heart by Tracy Hoexter was published in 2015.
The concept is simple: 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.
Explain that this is what happens to a person’s heart when someone says something mean or unkind.
Next, 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. 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 will also serve as a reminder to your students of how their words can have an impact on their fellow classmates.
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.
- Provide each student with a colored version of the heart template.
- Play the YouTube clip below featuring the ever-popular Chrysanthemum from Kevin Henkes’ book.
- Explain to your students that they will need to listen carefully.
- When the characters in the story use mean words, they need to scrunch up their paper hearts.
- Each time Chrysanthemum’s parents use kind words, students need to try and smooth out their paper hearts.
- 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.
- 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 social-emotional learning resources created by teachers for teachers!
Banner image via Shutterstock/Warah38