How to Apologize

When we say, or do, something that hurts someone we care about, a sincere apology is a great first step to repairing the damage, and “how to apologize” can be broken down into the following 5 steps:

  1. Say what you did that was wrong
  2. Say you are sorry for doing it
  3. Say how you will fix it
  4. Ask for forgiveness
  5. Give the other person time to feel better and accept the apology

In this lesson, you’ll help your students learn to use these 5 steps to deliver their best apology, and also we’ve included a few tips of things not to say.

Lesson for How to Apologize

Recommended Grade Level: Elementary and Middle School

SEL Skill(s): Communication, Empathy

Duration: 30 minutes

Materials: Apology slip worksheet (Available as a supplemental resource when logged in to your Centervention educator account)

Learning How to Apologize Lesson

Saying “I’m sorry,” and actually meaning it, can be nearly impossible for many kids and maybe even a few adults.

The reality is that many people do not know how to apologize, or they resist saying they’re sorry because admitting a mistake makes them feel vulnerable and exposed.


“Today we’re going to talk about what we should do if we hurt someone’s feelings. We’re going to learn how to say we’re sorry and really mean it!

Who thinks it’s hard to say ‘I’m sorry?’

Let’s say that you were mad about something, and you told your best friend that you weren’t going to be friends with them anymore. Do you think that would hurt their feelings?

Do you think a good way to apologize would be to say:

  • I’m SOOOORRRY‘ really loud?
  • ‘I was just kidding?’
  • ‘I’m sorry, but it really made me mad when you _____?’

Probably not. If you want to tell them you are sorry, you need to follow these 5 steps:

Step One: Tell the other person exactly what you did (or said) that was wrong or hurtful.

You could say ‘I know that it was wrong when I said that I wasn’t your friend anymore.’

Step Two: Tell them you’re sorry

Say ‘I know that hurt your feelings, and I’m sorry’

Try not to say why you did what you did because it will sound like you are making excuses and not really sorry.

Step Three: Tell them how you will fix it

How do you think you could fix this situation with your friend? What could you say? Or what could you do?

Step Four: Ask for forgiveness

Say ‘I hope you will be able to forgive me’ or ‘I hope you accept my apology’

Step Five: Give the other person time to feel better

Now the hard part. You have to give the other person time to get over the hurt you have caused. It may take a while, or they might not be able to forgive you. But you have to wait for them to decide.”

Apology Slip Printable: 

Hand out an apology slip to each student. As practice, ask them to fill out the slip as a ‘do over’ for a time when they weren’t able to apologize or when they didn’t do it very well.

After they fill out the slip, ask if any students would like to share what they wrote down.

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