Nurturing Empathy through the Suzy Strategy (Social Emotional Learning)

The Suzy strategy is a wonderful time time to discuss social issues, opinions, or subjects as a whole class, in small groups, or with a partner. It is designed for student-student bonding, respect, & understanding. 

This strategy explores social-emotional learning and builds personal interactions in the classroom. This is the Suzy Strategy from Bruce Baron.

The Suzy strategy can address topics such as bullying, racism, prejudice, name calling, and other social conflicts that arise in the classroom or on the playground. We work to create empathy and build emotional intelligence for our students. Addressing these conflicts and issues can help create an inclusive and safe classroom. 

To prep the strategy, take a piece of paper, any color, and sketch an image of “Suzy”. Note, that you want to pick a name that no one in the class has, as we want to keep “Suzy” an imaginary and hypothetical student. 

To start the activity, the teacher is going to start telling the story of Suzy. We explain that Suzy is a student who is being teased, name-called, and left out. You can customize the issues students are experiencing and include that in your story of Suzy, and adjust it for the age of students you have. As we tell this story, we start to wrinkle, bend, and rip the paper to show that the words that are being said to Suzy are affecting and impacting her in a negative way. 

The moral of the activity is that even if we were to try and smooth out the paper, and even if Suzy is still smiling, the paper is wrinkled and ripped. No matter what the teacher says to make Suzy feel better, she is not the same, and the words that were said to her were hurtful.  You can wrap up the activity by offering students a 10/2 to turn and discuss the effects of hurtful words that were said to Suzy. 

Try out this activity to put inclusion and social-emotional learning into action in your classroom. Watch the classroom demonstration of the Suzy strategy done with students below!

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