Share Our Devotion
In this two-session lesson, students explore the concept of philanthropy and brainstorm how they can use (and develop) their English Language Arts talents to create faith-based devotionals for younger children.
The learner will:
- define philanthropy.
- identify faith-based nonprofits in the community related to young children.
- investigate early-childhood needs related to literacy and faith development.
- interview staff at local nonprofit early childhood centers as research for selecting the partner.
- brainstorm features of a devotional-writing service-learning project.
- identify middle school ELA standards addressed by the project.
- writers notebooks (blank journals)
- samples of youth devotionals
- student copies of Handout One: Brainstorming Grid
- link to the Learning to Give unit, "Philanthropy: You and Your World." http://learningtogive.org/lessons/unit82/ for Introduction to Philanthropy activities
Optional: Invite a speaker to the class to talk about early childhood development of faith and literacy. For example, the early childhood director of a local faith-based congregation may speak about his or her goals for the youngest members of the faith-based community.
- nonprofit organization: an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company
- faith-based organization: religious organization affiliated or identified with one or more religious organizations
- devotional: a book with inspirational messages connected to a study of a faith
- early childhood literacy: the development of literacy skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) that children need to learn between birth and five (or up to seven) years old
Encourage the students to ask their families for input on what early childhood nonprofits they might create the devotionals for. Families can also provide samples of children's books and Bibles to help the students learn more about the ability, language skills, and interests of younger children.
Introduce the project and inspire the students about creating devotionals for young children. This may include a visit from an early childhood director at a local faith-based organization, an online conversation with the director of the jcplayzone website, or a discussion about the need for devotionals written at the developmental level of young children. Alternatively, set up a student service visit to a local preschool, so the students envision the school and the skills and interests of preschoolers.
Teach activities from the Learning to Give unit "Philanthropy--You and Your World" to define philanthropy (giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good), learn about nonprofit organizations, and explore why giving and serving are important to them and the larger community.
Review the vocabulary terms above.
Have students write in their writers notebooks with a three-column brainstorming chart: In the first column, list possible activities middle schoolers can do. In the second column, list audiences that could benefit. In the third column, list ELA standards that could be met through the project. (They will expand on these ideas in the next session.)
Use the following method to brainstorm ideas (expanding on their journal chart from Session One) related to who could benefit from receiving student-created devotionals and what elements the devotionals could have. Move the students into groups of 4-6 students. Give each student a copy of Handout One: Brainstorming Grid. Tell them to each write three ideas across the page related to the devotional writing project. For example: "Sunshine Preschool;" "Have some pop-up elements;" "Use pictures and simple text." As soon as a student writes three ideas, he or she puts the grid in the center of the table and takes another grid that someone else in the group has just put in the center of the table. They each work at a different pace, but they each continue to write three more ideas in the next row of another grid. The ideas may be sparked by the ideas they read in the rows above. The students continue to add three ideas at a time and put their papers in the center. It is fine that sometimes they get a grid with their own ideas on it. With this brainstorming method, they get a lot of fresh ideas that are sparked by the other ideas. This is a great technique for getting everyone to add to the discussion, especially the introverts in the group.
After about ten minutes, when you can see that the ideas are slowing, tell the groups to read over all the pages on the table. Tell them to discuss which ideas they like on the papers and circle the group's 3-6 favorite ideas. Then have each group share their best with the whole group. Write the groups' best ideas on a shared memo (chart paper or Smart Board).
Hold a discussion about how to narrow down the target group they will serve and the features of the final product based on the needs of the selected group (investigation and research). For example, some students can interview nonprofit faith-based preschool or daycare directors about their needs. Some students can research the importance of literacy development. Brainstorm (as a whole group or in a think, pair, share) some questions they can ask in the interviews to determine their needs, their openness to having the students work with their children, and the content that is needed (related to faith topics or literacy development).
Students may divide up the locations (such as elementary schools, daycare centers or preschools) identified in the brainstormed list and do some additional research about these groups to determine who might benefit from receiving devotionals that they create. They may conduct research on the internet and through phone calls and interviews of nonprofit staff. Note: the project includes the middle schoolers meeting with the younger students during the draft and presentation stages of the writing process.
Give the students some time to conduct the investigation in their families and the community. Tell the students which class period they will need to bring their research so they can come to a consensus to determine for which early childhood organization they will develop the devotionals.
This lesson includes the investigation stage of the service-learning process.
Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
Benchmark MS.2 Identify specific learning objectives from the academic core curriculum that are being applied in the service-learning project.