Language Arts / English


Language Arts / English

Respect for Elderly Cleaners


Empathy and Compassion

Global Goal


Questioning ability, Interviewing, Listening, Note-taking

Age Group

9-10 years / Grade 4




This story comes to us from Tampines Primary School, Singapore and is about kids who are immensely compassionate individuals at a very young age. While a lot of the people have lost the moral value of treating everyone with love and respect especially the ones who work for us, these young superheroes choose to set an alternate example of care and compassion.

This story teaches us to be considerate and thoughtful of others’ feelings. These kids showed kindness and concern for the elderly cleaners that worked tirelessly in their school. Since, in most places the cleaners are usually not given their due respect, these kids decided to change that starting with their school. This story is a ray of hope and an inspiring paradigm of empathy.

Lesson Plan

  • Hook: Play the video DFC2012 Singapore: Elderly Cleaners(http://bit.ly/2ejwOzR
  • Activity: Share your ideas!

    • What was the ideal scenario of the outcome that the students were working on?
    • Why was it important for the students to be aware and appreciate the work of the elderly cleaners?
    • How do you feel after watching the video?
    • What is one thing that you would have done differently than the students in the video?
  • Emphasize on the idea of: “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”. It makes us see and feel things differently and makes us more compassionate human beings.

  • The teacher can Read-aloud facts about janitors in Japan: Japanese schools do not employ janitors or custodians. The Japanese education system believes that requiring students to clean the school themselves teaches respect, responsibility, and emphasizes equality. The children do the cleaning daily as part of a practice rooted in Buddhist traditions that associate cleaning with morality.

  • Play the video and ask questions like: 

    • Do you think we do justice to the janitors who clean up after us?
    • Why is it even more difficult for janitors to do their job when they are elderly?
    • Discuss the importance of being compassionate in today’s world.
    • What is one thing that you would have done differently than the students in the video?
  • Divide the class into 6 groups and ask all groups to take 2-3 mins to come up with a group list of 2-3 questions they want to ask the janitor of their school. Quickly take another 2-3 minutes to scan through all lists and mark 1-2 questions that are meaningful and that would enable the value of empathy.

  • Invite a janitor, make him or her comfortable in the class. For the remaining time, let the students interact with the janitor and ask questions and reflect on responses. The last 2 mins of their conversation should include them thanking him/her and promising her 1-2 things they would do differently every day, in order to help her. For example, if she says she finds it difficult to place all games equipment back in its space because all children run home after games period without placing the games equipment back in its space, kids should promise to take a couple of mins after school to do the needful together and not run home instead. Tip: Encourage them to think about meaningful questions. For example, good questions include, what do you enjoy the most, what is most challenging for you in your job, what are some of the things we could do to make your job easier, etc.; superficial questions include, what is your birthday sign?etc. 

  • At the close of the session, ask the students to think, pair, share about 1-2 actions they would do differently after this lesson. 

  • Suggested activity: Identify groups of people around you that you feel are in strong need of empathy from other people around them.