Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Center Stage—Focus on the Elderly
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students will be engaged in reflections of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination related to elderly individuals. From a cognitive and affective perspective, students will be involved with activities to assist them in developing sensitivity to working in direct service projects with individuals who are elderly. Subsequently, students will also generate guidelines for positively and sensitively working with these individuals. Conduct/proper etiquette, as well as appropriate conversation, will be addressed.


Two Forty-Five Minute Periods


The learner will:

  • analyze the personal perspective of individuals who are elderly.
  • identify the task, skills and procedures for successful interaction with elderly individuals.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Suggested service projects (see Bibliographical References) relating to this lesson topic may include:

  • Record a memoir
  • Elder call-in
  • Coupon exchange
  • Friendship box
  • Senior sandboxes/home repairs


  • Student copies of Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One)
  • Blank paper for use during Anticipatory Set
  • Children's books (see Instructional Procedure)
  • Student copies of Responding to Literature (Attachment Two)
  • Images of the Elderly (Attachment Three
Handout 1
Am I Ready to Serve?
Handout 2
Responding to Literature
Handout 3
Images of the Elderly

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Ask students to consider the following statement, "Write down all the thoughts and feelings you have when I say 'elderly people'." This can be done in list format, although use of a concept map/web is suggested for greater expression of ideas. (To encourage honest expression of thoughts and feelings, students may fold and seal/staple the paper for privacy.) The teacher may opt to complete one also as a means of comparison and self-reflection. This list or map should be collected to use as a pre-assessment survey.


  • Have students look through newspapers and magazines for pictures of elderly people. Once they are collected, use them as a springboard for discussion regarding stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Talk about the positive and negative images portrayed.
  • Ask students if they ever hear people talk about "kids these days" as though all kids are the same—and all "bad." Ask, "How do you feel about that?" Relate these words as words of prejudice reflecting stereotypes and any resulting discrimination.
  • Compare this to stereotypes of individuals who are elderly.
  • Point out the human needs (affective) we all have regardless of age: to feel useful, loved, and wanted. Although the following needs are important at any age, point out the relevance of these needs among individuals who are elderly: to be independent, to feel connected within society, to give to others, to grow and feel vital, to be respected and to be valued as a person. Invite a guest speaker to educate students about myths and realities of individuals who are elderly. Use Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One) as a guideline for information to gather. This can be given to the guest speaker ahead of time and previewed by students prior to the presentation. Information should be shared within a 10-15 minute period of time.


Day Two:

  • Arrange students into small groups of approximately five students each. Provide each group with a children's book relating to positive portrayals of elderly people. Some examples can be found in Cathryn Berger Kaye's book (see Bibliographical References). For the purpose of this lesson, the following books are suggested:
    • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
    • Gramma's Walk by Anna Grossnickle Hines
    • Grandpa's Song by Tony Johnston
    • The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins by Lester L. Laminack
    • The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
  • Assign a student to read the book to his/her group. Before, during and after the reading, each student in the group should respond to the appropriate prompts using Responding to Literature (Attachment Two).
  • As a whole group, the speaker for each group will share the summary (chosen by the group)


Teacher Note: If time allows, each story can be read to the class.

  • While individual teams report and using Images of the Elderly (Attachment Three), the teacher will record the needs of the elderly met in the story, as well as the lasting impressions of each story.


Working in small groups, students will write a short verse to a song (lyrics decided in Lesson Two: Center Stage—Focus on Poverty). The groups may remain the same from Lesson Two, or new groups may be created. Read the chorus created by the class in Lesson Two. It includes the importance of acting without discrimination based on prejudice and stereotypes. The guidelines for writing the verse must include: the task (general description), skills necessary to successfully carry out the task, and key guidelines for sensitively interacting with people who are elderly. Students should use information gathered and recorded on Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One) as a resource guide. The verses created in this lesson (as well as the chorus and verses created in Lesson Two) should be saved for use later in Lesson Five: The Final Act—Reflections and Revisions.

Bibliographical References:

  • Kaye, Cathryn Berger. The Service Learning Bookshelf. California: ABCD Books, 1999, 2000. ISBN: 0967807220
  • Spaide, Deborah. Teaching Your Kids to Care. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN: 0806516372

Lesson Developed By:

Lisa Ludwig
Cedar Springs Public Schools
Cedar Springs Middle School
Cedar Springs, MI 49319


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Am I Ready to Serve?


Guest Speaker: ________________________________________
Organization: __________________________________________

Myths of
Realities of

What is involved in this direct service experience? In other words, what are the needs we can address?

What attitudes and behaviors are important to use in order to show sensitivity in my interaction?

What should I keep in mind (regarding vocabulary, conversation, etc.) as helpful guidelines to creating a positive relationship?


Handout 2Print Handout 2

Responding to Literature

1. Based on the title and cover illustration, what do you think the content of the book will be?



2. Stop after reading a few pages. Make some predictions about the outcome you expect for this story.



3. After reading, reflect on your response to the story. What feelings did the author evoke?



4. Evaluate the story. Tell why you would recommend the reading of this book. Why is it valuable? Or, tell why you do not think it is a meaningful book.



5. Write a summary of this book on the back of this paper. As a group, decide which summary most effectively describes the story. Decide who will read the summary to the class.


Handout 3Print Handout 3

Images of the Elderly

Title: _______________________ Author:_______________________

What need(s) did the main character have?

How was this met? By whom?

What lesson or lasting thought does this story instill in your heart and/or mind?


Title: _______________________ Author:_______________________

What need(s) did the main character have?

How was this met? By whom?

What lesson or lasting thought does this story instill in your heart and/or mind?


Philanthropy Framework:


Cress, Teacher – Manistee, MI11/2/2007 8:37:59 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) students realized that small actions make a large impact on elderly citizens.

Megan, Teacher – Manistee, MI11/2/2007 8:39:12 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) students were challenged to think of simple acts of kindness they could use to help brighten a senior's day. They realized that small acts can bring big rewards.

Nicole, Teacher – Saginaw, MI11/2/2007 8:40:43 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the kids could see the "bigger picture" - how their prejudices affect the elderly's view of those kids today which in turn affects their view of the elderly. It's great to see the domino effect realized and an effort made to change.

Jana, Teacher – Jackson, MI11/2/2007 8:46:35 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) that seniors are often ignored or dismissed in our society. It is good to shine the spotlight on this population and highlight some of the positive contributions they make.

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