What is empathy?
- Empathy is our ability to identify with the feelings and needs of other people. When we are empathic, we include; when empathy is eroded, we exclude.
- Play pupils this clip from The Secret Millionaire. Ask them to identify in what ways empathy is displayed by James and Miranda.
- Discuss as a class.
Lord of the Flies and Empathy.
- Tell pupils they are going to be analysing empathy, inclusion and exclusion in Lord of the Flies. Provide them with the feelings and needs words (on the lesson powerpoint) and ask them to put themselves in the position of the young boys in the story: being stranded on a desert island with no family/friends. Ask them to identify and prioritise 5 – 10 feelings and needs that the boys are likely to be experiencing (the list is not exclusive; they can add in others).
- Split the class into 3 groups, giving one group Piggy, one Ralph and the other Jack. Ask pupils to identify the feelings and needs of their character in Lord of The Flies clip 1.
- Discuss as groups, then as a class.
- Ask pupils to come up with answers to the questions on the slide: 1. Which of the main characters (Jack, Piggy, Ralph) is most empathic? 2. How is that empathy demonstrated? 3. What makes Piggy vulnerable to being excluded? 4. When Jack excludes Piggy, what is he trying to show about himself, and which of his own needs is he trying to meet?
When needs come into conflict.
- Ask pupils to see if they can identify how Jack’s needs come into conflict with Piggy’s needs. (Jack needs/desires authority and control and Piggy needs acceptance and safety. These conflict when Jack humiliates and excludes Piggy in order to assert his own power/authority. Jack senses Piggy’s vulnerability and uses it to his advantage, but he realises he cannot do the same to Ralph, who is more of a match for him).
- Ask pupils to suggest how this conflict of needs has to be resolved and who is more responsible for resolving it. (Jack has to learn to identify the needs of others and find alternative ways of feeling like he has authority, rather like Ralph does).
Prep: ask pupils to look out for examples of empathy over the next 2 weeks and to write about what they observe. They should pay particular attention to how the person being empathic identifies the needs and feelings of the other person.