Philanthro What?

9, 10, 11, 12

Students define philanthropy based on their experience and from literary quotes. 

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • write his/her own definition of the term philanthropy.
  • read and evaluate several notable literary people's quotations about the term philanthropy.
  • philanthropy quotations (handout)
  • poster board or chart paper
  • student journals
  • Internet access


  1. Anticipatory Set: Randomly pass out five copies of the stenciled letter "W." Ask the students to figure out what this means. The correct response is "the five Ws." Now ask what do these "Ws" represent? (Who, What, When, Where and Why) Use a teacher-made poster board with the five Ws. 

  2. Tell the students that their task is to come to an official class definition for the what section on the philanthropy poster. Write this on the board: "What does the term philanthropy mean?" Allow 10 minutes for Internet exploration and written response.

  3. Have students read their responses aloud while you record them on sticky notes on the board. Ask students to make inferences about the quantity of differing responses. For example, the students might respond by saying that everyone has a different definition for philanthropy.

  4. With the students leading, organize and group the various definitions of philanthropy until they can summarize a class definition, which might include "private action for public good." Write the official class definition after what on the poster.

    Tell the students that the remaining time will be spent reading and comparing what some famous literary people felt that philanthropy meant.

  5. Ask each student to select one of the literary quotations (handout) and to reflect on how well it matches the official class definition of philanthropy. They should record their personal responses in student journals.

    Discuss and record on the chart the other five Ws of philanthropy (agreed upon by the group).

  6. Students write a five paragraph essay on what is philanthropy and include the other Ws (Who, what, where, why, and when).



A five-sentence paragraph comparing a quote to the class definition must include the following:

  1. Define philanthropy
  2. Compare quote to class definition (Emerson is trying to get us to see that we are all alike so when you help someone, you are really helping yourself).
  3. Use the words private action and/or public good in comparison (Wells is telling us that we are all the same; therefore, one person's private action of giving to the poor helps that person, too, because he is a part of the public).

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.