Part of a Community Online

This lesson focuses on helping young children learn to participate in different kinds of digital communities. Students will solidify and work on what they know about being part of any community.
Grade Level


Students will be able to:

  • Enact principles of empathy and inclusivity in community membership
  • Transfer what they know about communities to the digital environment
  • Develop strategies for responding to hate and bias in a community
Essential Questions
  • How can I be part of a community and show empathy?
  • How can I be part of a community and be inclusive?
  • How can we identify and respond to hate and bias in digital communities?

Story, “Being a Friend Online


community [kuh myoo nih tee] (noun) a group of people who share something in common or the feeling of fellowship that can develop among a group of people

inclusivity [in cloo sih vuh tee] (noun) intentionally working to ensure that all people experience a sense of belonging, especially those who might otherwise be left out or marginalized

empathy [ehm puh thee] (noun) the ability to understand other people’s feelings and sometimes feel alongside them


Series Overview

As technology advances and the social landscape shifts, it is crucial for students to become digitally literate citizens. In this series, elementary students will learn the ins and outs of media literacy, from choosing reliable sources and understanding online searches to navigating online security and participating in digital communities.


Lesson Overview

This lesson focuses on helping young children learn to participate in different kinds of digital communities. Students will solidify and work on what they know about being part of any community. They will think about actions that make different people feel good and bad in communities, and they will learn about what it means to have a community with empathy and inclusivity.

Students will listen to a story that deals with the specific complexities of online communities. They will think about how they can use their general values and strategies for community building and translate them to an online environment. Students will focus on the need to stay alert for bias and hate within a community and get adult help when they see these issues emerge.



Being Inclusive and Showing Empathy in Communities

1. Ask students, “What is a community?” Make lists of communities kids belong to. If they need help, get them started by thinking of their classroom or neighborhood as a community. Then, ask, “What are the things we need in a community to feel safe?”

Try to help students think about emotional safety as well as physical safety. Explain to your students that today, you will be thinking about how to be inclusive and how to show empathy in communities.

Ask your students, “What has been a time you have felt included in a community?” List their ideas about what makes a person feel included or not. Explain that being inclusive is making others feel included, welcome or like they belong.

As you talk about inclusivity, ask students to focus on times that they have felt included in a group and times they have felt left out. You can use these experiences to help them start thinking about what it means to include others.

If time allows you write the following prompt on the board: “I can be inclusive by…” Ask students to discuss with a friend and then share out. Write down their ideas as a list. This will get revisited later.

In talking about empathy, try to get students to identify a time they thought about someone else’s feelings. You can use examples that you see in students’ daily work in your classroom community to get them started. Try to get students to reflect on what they need to do within themselves when considering another person’s feelings, as well as what it feels like to know that another person is doing this for them.

If time allows, write the following prompt on the board: “I can show empathy by…” Ask students to discuss with a friend and then share out. Write down their ideas as a list. This will get revisited later.

2. Ask each student to think of a time they felt included in a community or a time that they included someone else. Have them draw a picture representing that story and the concept of being inclusive. Give students a chance to share their pictures and talk about common themes, challenges and questions that come up alongside work around being inclusive.


Communities Online

1. Read the story “Being a Friend Online” to your students. Ask students what they thought about when listening to the story. Then, facilitate discussions of the following questions:

  • When were the characters being inclusive?
  • How did the characters show empathy in this story?
  • What experiences of your own does this story remind you of?
  • What can kids do to make their communities stronger?
  • What are some of the different ways iPads, computers and phones can help and harm a feeling of community?
  • After reading this story, would we add anything to our “ I can be inclusive by” or “I can show empathy by” lists?


What Are Digital Communities?

1. Now, your students are ready to think about some of the characteristics that make digital communities specific. First, using In and Out as a jumping off point, ask them to name all of the different online communities they have ever heard of.

2. Chart all of their responses, and make sure they help each other understand what each of these communities actually is.  Discuss what is the same and different about the communities kids have mentioned, and ask kids what it means to be inclusive and show empathy in each of the communities that came up.

3. You can revisit the “I can be inclusive by” and “I can show empathy by” lists and see what would be added to these lists based on being a participant in an online community.

If your students are unlikely to have heard of online communities, you can keep this conversation about communities they are normally part of, and mention to them that as they get older, they are likely to see the same issues come up online.  The same behaviors and values are important when participating in online communities.  For instance, you can focus on being inclusive and showing empathy in your classroom community, in a neighborhood, or on a sports team.


When People Are Not Inclusive and Don’t Show Empathy

Break students up into small groups and ask them to make posters showing what kids should do if something does not feel right in a community they are part of. Their posters can include pictures, words, or both. Make sure to leave time for students to share their posters with each other, and you can hang them around your classroom for future reference.


Do Something

Would your school benefit from a set of guidelines for participation in digital communities? Who better to create this than your students? Work with your students to brainstorm sets of rules that might guide participation with empathy and inclusivity. Share sets of guidelines that other schools have created. When you have a list of rules or guidelines, plan an assembly where your students can share these with other classes and teachers in your school.


Alignment to Common Core State Standards


Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.


Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.


Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.


Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.


Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).


Build on others' talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.


Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion.


Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

Illustration of person holding and looking at laptop.

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