How Can You Make a Difference?

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT...construct a plan for a community service project by researching and outlining their ideas on a graphic organizer.

Big Idea

Each of us can help make our world a better place. We can share ideas to build ideas.

Creating the Purpose

5 minutes

I begin the lesson by having students respond on their white boards to the prompt: "If you had $5,000 to help make our world a better place - what would you use it for? Why?"  You may need to define that this must be used to help make another person or our world a better place vs. making themselves happier with a new toy to share.

After a few minutes I have students share their responses with a neighbor (students working) and then call on them to list them on our poster. I ask students if they see any common themes? Are any of these causes specific to their community and/or family?

I introduce the objective that today each of us are going to brainstorm, share and then construct a plan to help someone in our community. I tell them that I am going to share with them a short article on some children who did something to help in their own communities. I read the Caring Kids article to get them thinking about ways that they can help. 

Guiding the Learning

15 minutes

I ask students why these children helped others. I start the lesson by by explaining to my students that our community can be our classroom, our school, our city or our world. Often we hear of events or see people that are in need or suffering in some way and we wish someone would do something to help them. Today we are going to be that someone - just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela saw people being mistreated and they did something to change it. I think its important to tie in our previous lesson - or bring up a current issue they are aware of in the news - to help students connect to the purpose for the lesson and to get them involved emotionally.

Before we begin this lesson I am going to have you use your whiteboards to think of ways you can help your family, your school, and your community be better places to live. I want you to draw a chart similar to the one we made on the board. I will set the timer for 3 minutes and you and your elbow partner will have the task of thinking of one or more ways you can help in each of these places. I have them share first to support struggling students and to give them an opportunity to share orally before they write independently - see the reflection for more ideas.

When the timer signals I cold call students to share and add new ideas to the chart.

I then share with students that they will need to decide which idea they like the best on their list. I tell them that I will be passing out a chart with other Ideas for Helping Our Community they can do which they can use to decide on one final idea they like the best. I want them to think of their own ideas first so that they make the personal connection to the helping task - then offer the idea suggestions page so that they can evaluate which hold greater value to them.  

I hand out some ideas for ways we can help and the Selecting My Community Service Project worksheet.  

Independent Learning

20 minutes

I share with students that their ideas need to be something they can accomplish by their own leadership, with limited expense to their parents and in a school setting. I tell them that I and their parents will need to approve their choices, and that we will both help them accomplish their goal.

I give examples like sending a letter to military soldiers is something they could do and we could help them get the addresses and names, but sending boxes of cookies to them would be too expensive for their parents. Or reading one day to a younger class at school is a good goal, but planning to read every Monday would not be because you would miss too much class time and interfere with their teacher's lessons. (your examples may differ but I want them to think about money and time constraints when deciding on their plan)  

Students work independently to decide on a project idea and to complete their worksheet with what, why and the purpose and desired outcome of their selection. 

The timer is set for 10 minutes and I circulate the classroom (really need to do this to help them define their goal and choose one that is attainable) to discuss student choices and help students where needed.

When the timer signals and all have been approved I have students complete the Planning my Community Service Project sheet. I emphasize that they need to really think about what supplies they will need, what time it will take and what problems they might run into. Good planners think about both the positive and the negative oif their choices to make sure that they have made a good plan.

This one they will take home to share with their parents and get approval for their project idea. (I send home an email explaining the purpose of the unit and the criteria I set for time and money expense. I ask them to speak with their child about his/her plans and why they chose the topic. If they have concerns I ask that they write me a note or send an email. They can also adapt or change their child's choice after they have their family discussion to an idea that works better for all of them. Parent involvement is so important for bringing a purpose and an importance to their choice - and really helps when the writing effort is needed)



Closing the Loop

5 minutes

This section is my favorite because it gets students excited about their ideas and at the same time thinking more about their plans.

I have students complete a round robin to share their plans with their table partners. Their partners objectives are to ask questions about how and why they chose it and to think of all the things that could go wrong with their plans. They then decide who has the best "persuasion-based" plan. All table winners present their plans before the entire class and other students get to vote on who presented the best persuasive idea (keeps them focused on the persuasive writing "big objective" of this unit)

All students then have a moment to write down ideas for how they will their ideas to address the possible problems their peers suggested (gives them a good problem-solution focus for their ending counter argument paragraph).

If they decide that their project idea is not going to work they write their name on the board and I meet with them before the end of the day to help them come up with other ideas/ or adapt their idea to work for them. (I try to keep their original idea if I can because I know this is the one that is closest to their heart-felt need. You can also have them brainstorm and then send home the ideas to share with their parents to decide) 

I give them about 10 minutes of sharing and then call them back to the circle. I ask them "Why do people help other people?" "What effect does this have on the person being helped? On the person doing the helping?"