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

Teacher Is Missing (The)
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students will develop a set of rules that could be used in the classroom.


One Forty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • state a reason for rules.
  • define the "common good" as something that benefits the entire community (class).
  • explain why rules are needed for the common good.


  • Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall (see Bibliographic References)
  • Chart paper
  • Sample Letter (Attachment One)
Handout 1
Sample Letter


In Miss Nelson is Missing, the classroom teacher, Miss Nelson, is disturbed by the behavior of her very disruptive students. She pretends to be a substitute (Miss Viola Swamp) who is very strict. The students' behavior improves and they are very happy to have their "nice" teacher, Miss Nelson return.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Ask students if they have ever heard of the word "mystery." Solicit descriptions and examples. Next ask if anyone knows of a mystery story that takes place in a classroom.

  • Introduce Miss Nelson Is Missing. Tell the class that the story is about a class whose teacher is missing. Her students decide to look for her.
  • Set the listening purpose: to determine why Miss Nelson left her classroom.
  • Read the story.
  • After reading the story, discuss with the students:
    • Why was Miss Nelson missing.
    • What happened to Miss Viola Swamp?
    • Whose black dress was in Miss Nelson's closet?
    • Why did Miss Nelson pretend to be Miss Viola Swamp?
  • Help the students to conclude that Miss Nelson didn't like the way her students were behaving.
  • Discuss why it would bother a teacher that her class behaved like Miss Nelson's class. (Miss Nelson didn't feel her students were learning.)
  • Ask students who else was affected by the students' behavior? How were they affected? (The students in the class were affected because they weren't able to learn.)
  • Ask students what Miss Nelson's class needs in order to provide a better place for learning and a happier place for everyone to be. (Classroom rules would be an answer to the problem.)
  • Explain to students that rules are needed for the common good. This means that the students in Miss Nelson's class need to work together for the benefit of all.
  • Divide the class into groups of four or five. Ask each group to brainstorm some class rules that would benefit everyone in Miss Nelson's class, rules that are for the common good (the benefit of everyone in the class).
  • After three to five minutes, ask each group to share one of their rules. Use their examples to make a master list on a chart. As you ask each student for an example of a rule, ask him or her to explain how that rule is for the common good.
  • Tell students to ask their families to share rules they remember from school. Explain that you will send a letter home with them requesting this information. (See Sample Letter, Attachment One.) Students will share what they learned and make a final copy of their rules.


As an assessment, the teacher may use observation of students sharing ideas and responding with a rule and how it serves the common good. (Did the student share a rule that would benefit the entire class? Was the student able to explain how that rule would benefit everyone in the class?)

School/Home Connection:

See Sample Letter (Attachment One) for a letter to families regarding rules they remember from school.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

The sample family letter could be written and composed by the students.

Bibliographical References:

Allard, Harry and James Marshall. Miss Nelson Is Missing. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1977. ISBN 0-395-40146-1.

Lesson Developed By:

Mary Petro
Albion Public Schools
Harrington Elementary
Albion, Michigan


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Sample Letter

Dear Family,

Today, in our Social Studies class, we discussed the need for rules. One point that I tried to stress was that rules are for the common good. (The rules can be helpful to everyone in the class.) Your child worked in a group and then the whole class developed a set of classroom rules that would be for the common good.

As an extension of this lesson, your child will ask you about rules that you remember from your childhood. As you share these rules with your child, would you please ask him or her to explain why each rule would benefit the entire class?

During our next lesson each child will be asked to explain the purpose of a rule and how it meets the needs of the common good.

Thank you for your help with this lesson.



Philanthropy Framework:


Mara, Teacher Bristow, VA9/3/2006 7:16:04 AM

Thank you so much for the lesson plan idea. We chose this book to read on the first day of school. We also are going to discuss school and classroom rules. This ties everything together!!!

Carrie, Other Cookeville, TN9/26/2007 6:34:26 PM

I am an Education Major at TTU in Cookeville, TN. Some days I feel overwhelmed and this lesson has given me hope again. Thank You for not being stingy with your great ideas. Carrie

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Rules for the Common Good Summary


Teacher Is Missing (The)
Less Is Best
Posting Our Rules

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