What Can We Do: Taking Action

9, 10, 11, 12

Students work on a plan to support people who are homeless, and take action to give support to people who are homeless.

PrintTwo 50-Minute Class Periods, plus time to carry out the service-learning project

The learner will:

  • identify steps that they can take to act against homelessness.
  • choose one action step and create an organized plan.
  • work on their own and with others to enact their plan.
  • work collaboratively in a small group toward a common goal.
  • take action in the form of a letter, poster, song, poem, or other plan that will help to educate or support people in their community around issues of homelessness.
  • present their work to the group and field questions and comments.
  • learn how a homeless shelter seeks to serve homeless people.
  • Chart paper, markers
  • Lined paper, pencils
  • Colored pencils, scissors, glue, tape
  • Construction paper
  • Poster board and other presentation materials
  • Student copies of Handout 1: “What Can We Do?”
  • Students' written work from Day One
  • Notebooks/clipboards with 5Ws note-taking sheet
Teacher Preparation 

Instructor should contact a local organization to arrange a field trip in advance.

Example: The Department of Homeless Services in New York:

  • status quo: a Latin term for the current situation
  • outreach: an effort to connect a plan to others
  • advocacy: the act of supporting a cause
  • shelter: a structure that provides privacy and protection from danger

  • After the first session, each small group will discuss and then share their next step toward their action plan. Ask the group to reflect on what resources and training they think they will need to carry out their plan.
  • At the end of the second session, ask students to reflect on their experiences with the service project planning process. What went well? How did it feel to take action? How did they feel about the facts they learned about homelessness? Do they think their action make some difference in the community? What did they learn about the organization they connected with? What will they do the same and differently next time?
  • Use student reflections for a whole-group discussion. Or, write each question on a sheet of chart paper. Place the sheets around the room and have students rotate from chart to chart, discussion and writing down their thoughts about each question. Make sure that at each stop, they are mixing with a different group of students. 



  1. Day 1

    Anticipatory Set:Remind students of the conversation the group ended with last session. Although some people may feel upset or overwhelmed by the facts about homelessness, people can come together to take action. Tell students that today they will have a chance to begin to take action.

    Display the website National Coalition for the Homeless, and then select "Want to Help?" http://www.nationalhomeless.org/want_to_help/index.html Read through together some of the ideas of things people can do.

  2. Ask students what people can do to for the people in the community who are currently homeless, and what work can be done so fewer people will become homelessness. Start a chart entitled “What Can We Do?” Collect ideas from the group, offering additional ideas, if necessary. (Some examples include writing a letter to elected officials, volunteering with a homeless outreach or advocacy organization; starting a book, food, or clothing drive; or creating a song, poem, skit, or poster to educate others about the issue of homelessness.)

  3. Have students think about which of these ideas they feel passionate about. Take a poll of the room to find out where interests lie, and help students to group themselves in pairs or small groups to work on a plan together.

  4. Students should list the goal of their action plan and at least three steps they will need to take, as well as any outside help/contacts they will need. Give each group a copy of Handout 1: Homelessness – What Can We Do?

  5. Students will use the rest of the time to work in their small groups on their plans. Circulate and help them clarify their goal and the steps they will take. Let the whole group know that they will also have time next session to work, and they will present their work at the end of next session.

  6. Day 2

    Anticipatory Set: Invite students to share some of their plans developed in the last session. Tell them to look at their plan from last session and identify what they still need to do today.

  7. Students work on their service-learning planning. The process of service-learning includes investigation, planning, action, reflection, and demonstrations. They did much of the investigation, as a whole class, but they may still have more to learn about homelessness and the needs in the community.

  8. Their planning today should include thinking through all the steps they need to take to carry out an action plan. They should consider what skills they need, how to contact a service organization, needed supplies and action steps, permission and field trip transportation (if needed) and how they will reflect on and demonstrate the impact of their project.

  9. Support the students as they carry out their plans to take action for people who are homeless.

  10. If the class is going on a field trip to visit an organization that supports people who are homeless:

    • Prepare the students for the visit by stressing their roles as observers and listeners. Stress that they are to take notes using the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why) as a guide.
    • Encourage the students to ask follow-up questions that may help them better understand the goals of a homeless shelter.
    • Have students share their recordings upon return from the trip. Invite students to comment on one aspect that struck them as significant.
  11. After students have carried out their action plans, reflect on the impact they observed from their action.

  12. Involve students in organizing a demonstration of the different service projects. The demonstration may be a gallery walk with different artifacts displayed. The artifacts may be pictures, letters, response to letters, and reflection in the form of art or stories. Students may display statistics gathered before, during, and after their project.

Cross Curriculum 

Each group carries out an individual plan of action or advocacy to address the issue of homelessness. In the first session, they plan the action, and in the second session they carry out their plan and reflect on their experience.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. 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.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.
      4. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. 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.
      4. Benchmark HS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
      5. Benchmark HS.5 Articulate and demonstrate the safety procedures that are part of the volunteer experience.
      6. Benchmark HS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.