Dear Freshman
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Define and give an example of serial reciprocity.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Describe the task and the student role.

Learners explore the impact writing letters of encouragement to help someone who hasn't had an experience yet. They learn about "paying it forward," also known as serial reciprocity. The seniors' letters offer helpful tips and support for incoming freshmen. This lesson may be adapted for any grade level. 

PrintOne 50-Minute Session, plus time for a project

The learners will:

  • explore concepts of "paying it forward" and empathy. 
  • strengthen writing and interpersonal skills. 
  1. Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a simple and powerful service project. The reflection brings learning and service impact together. 

  2. Anticipatory Set: (10 minutes)
    Share this quote: “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” by Vernon Sanders Law. 
    • What does this quote mean?
    • Do we all need to have experience, or can we learn from others’ experiences?
    • How can we help others “learn the lesson” first before being subjected to “the test”?
    • What do you wish you knew about high school when you were a freshman? (Adapt for any grades/school/class) What would you do differently if you could do it all again?
    • Why is it important to share and pass on kindness to someone new, instead of just to people who are kind to you?
  3. Share a personal example of helpful advice or act of kindness you received and why you wanted to pass it on to others. Sample: "I learned that everybody has lots of things going on, and if their negative words or actions seem to be directed at me, they probably aren’t. They are dealing with their own stuff. Try to let it go and be kind whenever possible."
  4. Discuss examples of how communication can be an instrument of change: famous speeches by Abolitionists, Suffragists, Civil Rights leaders, as well as powerful words in social media and signs of demonstration. 

    • In small groups, learners come up with “the top ten secrets to success” for high school freshman (or other grade level/class).
    • Meet as a whole group and have groups share their lists. Record their ideas and star the common themes and ideas.
    • Discuss the importance of each “Secret to Success” and as a group come up with a consensus top ten list.
  5. Variations:
    • This project could be done in any grade level.  Eighth graders could write to sixth graders or first graders to kindergarteners.
    • This project could be done across an entire class of Senior/Freshmen.
    • This project could be modified for a specific class: “Sharing Secrets of Success for Art Students.”
  6. Service Project
    More experienced learners make a fun video for the incoming class they just completed, sharing tips, advice, and encouragement for the upcoming year. 
    Project Procedures:
    Assign each of the “Secret to Success” tips they wrote together to a small group. 

    • They brainstorm ways to communicate through a skit or other creative means what their success tip looks like. They may make it fun, practical, or creative, as long as it communicates the tip in a way that helps the incoming students have success. 
    • Each group plans the script and props and practices for making a video that teaches their tip.
    • The student-made videos may include personal examples of how someone helped them when they were new. Students may encourage their viewers to “pay it forward” and help someone else throughout this year.
    • Students create a video and label it with the Secret to Success they were assigned. This may take several days. 
    • Students compile the student-made video clips into one final product to be shared with the new class. This may be shared more widely with a message of paying forward kindness and helpfulness for a positive school culture.
    • Discuss distribution of the video and ways to encourage other kind acts to impact school culture.