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

Selfless - Selfish
Lesson 1
From Unit: Selflessness
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


To show students that responsible citizens can resolve social problems by constructively participating in their community.

To encourage children to consider the effects of their actions on others and realize that even very young people are capable of the kind of selfless actions that create positive change.


One Sixty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • illustrate and describe the concepts of selflessness and selfishness.
  • describe the selfless act the protagonist in the story performed.
  • give examples of acts of selflessness that improve the quality of life.

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.

The students will choose an activity that is a benefit to a group or the community. They could plant flower seeds and later plant the flowers to beautify an area. They could make cards or decorations for a nursing home. They could write notes of appreciation and thanks to community service people like firemen and policemen. The students must come up with the idea. The only stipulation is that in order for the students to participate in the activity they will have to give up their free time (recess or after school) to do so.


  • The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola (see Bibliographic References).
  • Construction paper
  • Pencils, crayons or markers


In The Legend of the Bluebonnet, by Tomie de Paola, the Great Spirit claims that the selfishness of the Comanche people has brought drought and famine to the Earth. For the famine to end, the People must sacrifice the most valued possession among them. She-Who-Is-Alone gives up her most valuable possession to save her people.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
The teacher will:

  • Write the words selfless and selfish on the board.
  • Ask the students what "selfish" means. (Selfish: caring only of oneself).
  • What is the root word? What is the suffix?
  • What does the suffix "ish" mean? (ish: having the qualities of).
  • Allow children time to share personal experiences with selfish behavior. Remind them not to name names.
  • Ask students what "selfless" means. (Selfless: not selfish, the opposite of selfish).
  • What is the root word? What is the suffix?
  • What does the suffix "less" mean? (less: without).
  • Introduce The Legend of the Bluebonnet. Tell the class that the story is about a girl who does something that is very selfless.

  • Set listening purpose. Have children listen to find out how the girl in the story is selfless and to find out what is selfish in the story.

  • Read the story to the students. During the story, stop and check for understanding of the words drought and famine.

  • Ask questions:
    Who was selfish in the story?
    In what ways could people be selfish to the earth?
    What did She-Who-Is-Alone do that was selfless? Why?
    Do you think that is was difficult for her to give up her doll?
  • Conclude that even children perform selfless acts that bring about big change.

  • Introduce Activity:
    • Students will fold a piece of construction paper in half.
    • Label one side of the paper Selfless and label the other side Selfish.
    • Under the label, the students will draw a picture to illustrate their understanding of these concepts.
    • The students will write descriptive sentences under each picture.


  • Teacher observation of student participation.
  • Grade project according to rubric chart below.
4 Two pictures that illustrate and demonstrate the terms and at least one sentence that describes the action
3 Two pictures and one sentence; or two sentences and one picture
2 Two pictures and no sentences; or two sentences and no picture.
1 One picture or one sentence.
0 Pictures and/or sentences were not connected with the terms. Student cannot complete the task independently or shows little understanding of the concepts or skills

Curriculum Connection:

  • Social Studies: Native American Study
  • English: Suffixes and antonyms
  • Art: Drawing
  • Science: Studying droughts and flower parts
  • Language Arts: Creative writing

Bibliographical References:

De Paola, Tomie. The Legend of the Bluebonnet. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1983.

Lesson Developed By:

Lynn Chamberlain
Central Elementary School
Munising Public Schools
Munising, MI 49862


Philanthropy Framework:


Jane, Religious Instructor Riverside, CA6/30/2006 7:16:11 PM

Thank you for the detailed lesson plan. It will be of great help with the Sunday school class I am teaching this summer.

Teri, Teacher Saginaw, MI10/6/2007 7:37:45 PM

(A positive aspect of using this lesson was) new vocabulary - "selfless," great story to show selflessness, motivated students to be selfless.

Submit a Comment

Unit Contents:

Overview:Selflessness Summary


Selfless - Selfish
Life Shields
What's in a Name?

All rights reserved. Permission is granted to freely use this information for nonprofit (noncommercial), educational purposes only. Copyright must be acknowledged on all copies.