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

Teaching Peace through Literature and Song (3-5)
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


How can our positive and negative behaviors affect others who we perceive as different from us? Through reflection on the story Thank You, Mr. Falker, students explore empathy and respect for diversity of people and talents. The students relate the definition of philanthropy to the treatment and respect of others. They learn a song and create new songs to share with others their new understanding of these themes.


One Forty-Minute Class Period (plus 3 additional sessions for a service component)


The learner will: 

  • discuss the words respect, diversity, teasing, bullying.
  • analyze how the definition of philanthropy relates to treating diverse people with respect.
  • reflect on personal experiences with positive and negative behaviors.
  • reflect on the major themes from the story, Thank you, Mr. Falker.
  • sing a song about peace.
  • compose and present a song about the story themes.

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.

Ask the students to think of ways to teach others about treating all people with respect. They may teach other students the Red Grammer song or share their original songs to spread a message of kindness and respect for the varied talents and experiences of all students. 


  • read-aloud copy of Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (see Bibliographical References)
  • music downloads, CD, or YouTube versions of a song about peace
  • large drawing/construction paper (11 x 14)


Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Share with students the quote by Plato, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Ask the students what kinds of "hard battles" people could be fighting. Give examples, such as someone may not have enough to eat, someone's parent may be ill with cancer, or someone may be struggling to learn to read and feels embarrassed about it. Listen to their ideas and discuss how they treat people when they know they are going through these hard things. Ask them what the quote tells them to do if they don't know what others are facing. Ask them what their classroom would be like if everyone treated each person with kindness and respect. 

  • Introduce the book Thank You, Mr. Falker to the students. Tell them that this book is based on a true story about a girl who was fighting a hard battle, and other children were not kind to her about it. In fact they teased her because they saw her as "different."
  • Read the book aloud or share the YouTube reading (see Bibliographical References). Ask them partway through the book to name some of Trisha's strengths and qualities, the good things in her life. Ask how they feel about the way the other children are treating her.  
  • After reading, discuss how different people (family, classmates, teachers) behaved toward Trisha and what effect their behavior had (positive and negative). 
    • Introduce the definition of philanthropy as "giving time, talent or treasure and taking action for the common good." Discuss and have students give examples of what it means to give time, talent, or treasure (ask for specific examples of volunteering, teaching someone, making something to share). 
    • Ask the students for adjectives to describe Mr. Falker and his personal qualities. Discuss how Mr. Falker was a philanthropist (ways he shared his time, talent, or treasure). 
    • Ask the students if everyone in the classroom is the same, looks the same, has the same beliefs, and has the same talents and strengths. For what traits are people seen as “different”? We all have different gifts and we all bloom at different times. Discuss whether classroom diversity (in ability, interests, appearance, experience) makes a stronger or weaker community and why. Analyze how the definition of philanthropy relates to treating diverse people with respect. 
    • Extend the discussion of subtle ways people show disrespect for people who are different. Teasing and bullying can be shown with looks, neglect, unkindness, and gossip. Ask the students what they think they can do to not only stop those negative behaviors themselves but also raise awareness in others about the positive and negative effects of how people treat one another.
  • Reflection Activity: Give each student a large sheet of drawing paper and have them fold it into four sections. Tell them to label the sections as indicated below and make a quick drawing in each part:
  1. How we are different
  2. How we are the same
  3. A hard battle
  4. A kindness to share
  • Have students discuss their reflections (how they feel and what the effect will be) in pairs or small groups. Ask for a few volunteers to share their reflections and the reflections of their group with the rest of the class.

Optional Lesson Extensions:

  • Each child passes around an “I think you’re wonderful coupon” and gives a compliment to the person sitting next to him/her.
  • Have students go to http://www.patriciapolacco.com/books/falker/falker_index.html. On that site they will be able to find out all about the author and more details, send e-postcards with Polacco’s artwork to others (perhaps compliment cards), and print artwork.

Experiential Component in Three Sessions

Session One: What Can We Do?

  • Play a familiar song that promotes ideas of peace and cooperation and kindness. Examples: "I Was Here" by Beyonce, "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens, "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King. Give them a copy of the lyrics, and sing along.
  • Discuss the song's meaning and theme and compare to the themes in the book Thank You, Mr. Falker: selflessness, teasing is terrible, knowledge is sweet. Write these themes on the board.
  • Tell the students that today they are going to work in small groups to write a song about one of these themes. Discuss song-writing strategy. Ask:
  1. How could you go about writing a song? (e.g., start with a tune, decide if it will rhyme, assign tasks to different members of the group)
  2. What are the parts of a song? (Review words such as verse, chorus, lyrics, rhythm.)
  3. What can you do if you are trying to write and get stuck or have a hard time thinking of the words you want to use?
  • Allow them enough time to work in diverse groups to create songs.
  • Present their songs to the class when done.

Session Two: Preparation for service opportunity

  • Allow children to go back into their small groups and practice the songs they created.
  • Practice the song as a whole group.
  • Discuss whether there is a need in the school community to develop tolerance of others and accept differences. Ask students to brainstorm things they can do at home, at school, and/or in the community to spread a message of kindness and celebration of diverse talents and different people. They may propose sharing their songs in creative ways. 
  • Lead the students to make a plan to take action for the common good. Have them assign roles and make a timeline for carrying out their plan.

Session Three: Take Action and Reflection

  • Present and share songs with the other classes in the school, or complete the action plan they made. 
  • After the presentation, reassemble the small groups and allow each group to evaluate what they did in a final reflection. This can be a poster, a musical recording, or a reflection essay.



  • Teacher observation
  • Reflection activities
  • Reflection by learners of the service opportunity
  • Quiz on philanthropy content
  • Evaluate each student’s response to the following question, “How has refraining from teasing, and learning how to treat and compliment others affected or will affect the climate of the room and entire school?”

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Each child passes around an “I think you’re wonderful coupon” and gives a compliment to the person sitting next to him/her. (Lesson idea from www.redgrammer.com)
  • Have students go to http://www.patriciapolacco.com/books/falker/falker_index.html. On that site they will be able to find out all about the author and more details, send e-postcards with Polacco’s artwork to others (perhaps compliment cards), and print artwork.

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Beth Vasich
Southgate Community Schools
Chormann Elementary
Southgate, MI 48195


Philanthropy Framework:


Penny, Teacher – Muskegon, MI10/12/2007 8:22:48 AM

The Students showed a lot of empathy for characters in "Thank You, Mr. Falker." They really enjoyed writing and performing songs.

Rebecca, Teacher – Ada, MI10/12/2007 8:24:38 AM

This was a wonderful lesson for teaching empathy. Because my students have learning disabilities, they could really identify with the character in "Thank You, Mr. Falkner." The multisensory nature of this lesson was ideal for my students.

Amy, Teacher – Albion, MI10/12/2007 8:25:50 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) we had a long discussion on teasing. My students really took something from this lesson. They liked the song. Giving compliments was also a learning experience for some in my room.

Karen, Teacher – Midland, MI10/12/2007 8:27:23 AM

Students applied knowledge of philanthropy by reflecting on the story of "Thank You Mr. Falker." They were sensitive to negative comments and the effects of teasing. They enjoyed the songs and were remembering them as they left the class.

Christy, Teacher – Holton, MI10/12/2007 8:30:01 AM

"Thank You, Mr. Falkner" was a wonderful book to read - full of feeling and a good starting point for some meaningful discussions. We used the Venn diagram to compare the 2 stories. We also wrote paragraphs about a task learned that was hard to do.

Joni, Teacher – The Woodlands, TX12/1/2011 10:38:50 AM

I absolutely love these lessons! Thank you.

Torres, Academic Dean – Bayamon, PR11/25/2014 6:24:18 PM

I was looking for something like this for my teachers. To help them out with the core standards and lesson plans. Thank you.

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