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

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


Through listening and reflecting about the story, Thank You, Mr. Falker, students will identify and become sensitive to the negative effects of teasing, bullying and discrimination. The students will employ definitions of philanthropy as related to the treatment and respect for others. This will encourage children to consider the effects of their own behavior when participating in positive or negative behaviors. The students will learn songs and create new songs to share their new understanding of these themes.


Two Sixty-Minute Class Periods (or more if doing the Experiential Component)


The learner will:

  • discuss what the words teasing, being a bully and discrimination mean as well as how he/she feels about these actions.
  • develop reflection skills by pictorially representing his/her own experiences or experiences of others negatively affected by teasing, hurt feelings, bullying.
  • reflect on feelings of a time he/she gave or received a compliment.
  • describe the protagonist in the story and how she was teased and discriminated against.
  • describe the philanthropic act that Mr. Falker (the hero) performed.
  • define and identify philanthropic acts.
  • determine major themes from the story, Thank you, Mr. Falker.
  • sing two songs by Red Grammer about how to treat and compliment others.
  • compose and present a song about story themes.
  • demonstrate concepts of philanthropy.

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.

Students will present two Red Grammer songs, and songs that they create on their own based on the themes in Thank You, Mr. Falker, for other classes in the school.


  • Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (see Bibliographical References).
  • Teaching Peace or Teaching Peace Performance/Accompaniment CD by Red Grammer (see Bibliographical References).
  • Large construction paper (11 x 14), loose leaf paper, markers, pencils (Optional) CDs/Tapes with common tunes such as “Three Blind Mice,” “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” etc.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set

  • Write the word “teasing” on the board. Ask the students to tell you what the word means and write their ideas underneath.
  • Ask the students to think of a time when they were teased ot when they teased someone.
  • Have them turn to their neighbor and share their experience.
  • Call on several children to discuss their experiences.
  • Tell them that you will be reading them a fairly true story about a girl who was teased a lot when she was a student.

Day One:

  • Read the book Thank You, Mr. Falker to the students.
    • Discuss the definition of philanthropy: the giving and sharing of time, talent or treasure intended for the common good.
  • After you have finished reading, discuss.
  • Grades 3-5 Extension: Have each student write his or her responses to these questions. Have each learner create a timeline citing events from the story.
    • How Trisha felt initially when she couldn’t learn to read in first grade.
    • How Trisha felt once she moved to California and was in Mr. Falker’s class.
    • Put the word “discrimination” on the board. Discuss what the word means and ask how the other students were discriminating against Trisha.
    • The gift of drawing that Trisha had, and how she felt about her abilities in this area.
    • Discuss Mr. Falker. Ask the students for adjectives to describe him and his personal qualities. As you discuss how he was selfless/caring, tell them that in real life Patricia Polacco was in high school before she learned to read and her teacher (George Falker) did find out she had a reading difficulty and paid for a reading specialist to work with her out of his own pocket! Make sure to point out to the students that Mr. Falker is a philanthropist. (He is willing to share his time, talent or treasure intended for the common good.) Ask the students to give you examples regarding how Mr. Falker was a philanthropist (other than giving his treasure, money).
    • Extension for Grades 3-5: Have the students answer the following questions in sentence form:
      1. What two things can you do to give of your time for the common good at

        a. home    b. in your community    c. school

      2. Describe one thing you can do using your talent for the common good.

        a. at home    b. in your community    c. at school

    • Connect this story during the discussion to what they learned in Lesson One: Late Bloomers regarding Leo, The Late Bloomer. Discuss how we all have gifts that are different, and that we all bloom at different times.
    • Discuss ways in which all the students can give of their time and talent to the classroom. Develop reasons for individual philanthropy.
    • Discuss ways that acting for the common good, respecting others and differences that make all unique reduce conflict.
  • Have the students take a piece of 11 x 14 construction paper back to their desks. Have them fold it into four different sections and label each section as follows:
    • My feelings were hurt.
    • I hurt someone else’s feelings.
    • A compliment for me!
    • A compliment for another!
  • After labeling the four sections, instruct them to DRAW a quick picture in each section representing a time their feelings were hurt, a time they hurt some one else’s feelings, a time they gave a compliment to another and a time they received a compliment.
  • Once students are finished with their projects have them share their pictures in small groups.
  • Ask for a few volunteers to share their posters with the rest of the class.
  • Briefly discuss with the students how most people felt when they were teased or had their feelings hurt compared with how they felt when giving/receiving compliments.
  • Now play the song “I Think You’re Wonderful” by Red Grammer (1-2 times) for the students. Give them a copy of the lyrics, or write the lyrics on the chart paper. Make sure that they join in the chorus:
I think you’re wonderful, when somebody says that to me
I feel wonderful as wonderful can be
It makes me want to say the same thing to somebody too
And by the way I’ve been meaning to say, I think you’re wonderful too.

Possible 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. (Lesson idea from www.redgrammer.com)
  • Have students go to www.patriciapolacco.com. On that site they will be able to find out all about the author and more details, send e-postcards with Pollacco’s artwork to others (perhaps compliment cardsJ), see videos, print out pins and bookmarks to Polacco’s “Stop The Teasing” club, find out about her other books, complete puzzles, among many, many other interesting activities.

Day Two: One class session of 35-45 minutes

  • Replay “I Think You’re Wonderful” and sing with the students.
  • Take out the book, Thank You, Mr. Falker, and ask the students to brainstorm some of the themes that they remember in the book and lead them to: selflessness, teasing is terrible, knowledge is sweet, etc. Write these themes on the board.
  • Tell the students that today you are putting them in small groups and asking them to write a song about one of the themes that are on the board. Have each group identify a theme and do not repeat a theme until all are covered. This will prevent all groups writing about the same theme. Tell them that before you begin to do the activity though you are going to motivate them with another Red Grammer song. Ask them to see if they can find the “theme” in his song, “Teaching Peace.”
  • Play the song “Teaching Peace.”
    Teaching peace all the world around
    You and me, every city, every town.
    One by one in our words and in our play
    We are teaching peace by what we do and what we say.
  • After the song has been played, ask the students what they think the lesson, theme or message is and discuss their ideas.
  • Now tell them that you want them to pick a theme and write their own song (or a rap) that encompasses one of the themes.
  • Discuss how they might want to write these songs. Ask:
    • How would you go about writing a song?
    • What are the parts of a song?
    • Do you think there are rules for writing songs? What might they be? (Review words such as verse, chorus, lyrics, rhythm)
    • What do you do if you are trying to write and get stuck or have a hard time thinking of the words you want to use?
  • Discuss the possibility of setting their lyrics to common tunes such as Three Blind Mice, Mary Had A Little Lamb, etc. Or, if available, pass out tapes or CDs to the students that already have these common tunes on them.
  • Allow them enough time to work in diverse groups to create songs.
  • Present their songs to the class when done and score them with the song rubric.

Day Three: Preparation for service opportunity

  • Allow children to go back into their small groups and practice the songs they created.
  • Practice the two Red Grammer songs again.
  • Each group should recite or write, depending on grade level, why they believe there is a need in the school community to develop tolerance of others and accept differences.
  • Lead the students to develop expected outcomes from this presentation.

Day Four:

  • Present and share songs with the other classes in the school.
  • 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 tape recording, sentences or pictures.


  • Teacher observation
  • Reflection activities
  • Evaluation by learners of the service opportunity
  • Quiz on philanthropy content
  • Quiz on elements of a song
  • 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:

Extensions are listed in Day One. See above.

Bibliographical References:

  • Polacco, Patricia. Thank You, Mr. Falker. Scholastic Paperback, 1998. ISBN: 043909836.
  • Teaching Peace (January 1, 1986) or Teaching Peace Performance/Accompaniment (December 22, 2000) CD by Red Grammer.
  • Helpful Web Sites: www.redgrammer.com  and  www.patriciapolacco.com.

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.

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