Questioning Our Definition--Acts of Courage

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will demonstrate the importance that public advocacy for the common good has in developing civic virtue and core democratic values by successfully writing a research- based persuasive essay.

PrintThree Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • develop, in writing, the definition of heroes and public advocacy from Lesson One: What Is a Hero?
  • identify advocacy and philanthropy in context of societal norms in text and media.
  • define the aspects of advocacy by breaking it down to its components.
  • research and support an opinion with factual evidence.
  • compose a persuasive essay demonstrating the elements of grammar, usage, content in subject and philanthropy.

Instructor Note: The instructor will collect quotes regarding unconventional ideas of courage. Texts and/or media, discussing controversial/unconventional heroes for these quotes, may be found in the Bibliographical References.

  • Journal which was begun in Lesson One and continued in Lesson Two
  • Computer Lab and/or library time to research.
  • Handout One: Persuasive Essay Framework
  • Handout Two: Writing In Progress (Spanish version Handout Four)
  • Handout Three: Rubric for the Persuasive Essay (Spanish version Handout Five)

Davenport, May. Courage: An Anthology of Short Stories, Articles and Poems. May Davenport Publishing, 1979. ISBN: 0960311831. An excellent resource!

Lewis, Barbara A. Kids with Courage: True Stories about Young People Making a Difference. MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 1992. ISBN: 0915793393 Biographies of young people who are making their communities a better place by the work that they do to help others and themselves.

Levine, Ellen. Freedom’s Children. New York: An Avon Flare Book, 1993. ISBN: 0606058354 Thirty African Americans who were teens in the 1950s and 1960s give oral histories of their involvement in the struggle for civil rights. All of the stories are true. ~ ALA Booklist Editor’s Choice ~ School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

Longman, Jere. Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back. HarperCollins, First ed., July 30, 2002. ISBN: 0060099089

Various Artists. America: A Tribute to Heroes. Interscope Records, 2001. CD commemorating September 11th. Artists as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Limp Bizkit, Stevie Wonder and Faith Hill.


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set:Put the following quote on the board or provide the students with the quotes you have gathered and have them select two for reflection writing.

  2. Have students reflect by agreeing or disagreeing in a journal writing, one paragraph in length. The paragraph must have a topic sentence and provide one supporting reason. Discuss their journal responses. What do they mean? Do you agree? Disagree? Have a student recorder place key responses on a board or sheet of paper for the class to see.

  3. Discuss what part courage plays in being a hero. Is a hero always courageous? Discuss if the terms must go together. Discuss the ways courage could be physical or intellectual. Examples are: saving a person from a raging stream, standing up for an idea, cause or position. Review the examples of advocacy for the common good they developed in Lessons One and Two.

  4. Give each student Attachment One and use direct instruction on the elements of a persuasive essay. Explain that their task will be to write a persuasive essay in which they will persuade the reader to become an advocate for the common good.

  5. Students will pick their topic for writing the persuasive essay. Talk about different types of courage i.e., courage to stand up for what you believe in even if it is not socially acceptable, courage to be different, courage to not act. Potential examples: local, state or national heroes from media who use their fame for advocacy for the common good, athletes, civil rights activists, the rescuers of the nine trapped miners in Pennsylvania, the miners themselves, the passengers and crew that subdued the “Shoe Bomber” in December of 2001.Instructor Note: Use examples also of the students who founded SAAD, DARE program members, volunteers at shelters and community programs. Hospitals are also key advocates for the common good.

  6. Instructions for the persuasive essay:The expected outcome will be to persuade readers that advocacy for the common good, as demonstrated by their research, is central to core democratic values. They are to persuade others to become involved in public advocacy. Encourage students, that as they look for their issue or topic, no issue or cause is too small. You may cite a local community issue such as convincing the local township or city to place a traffic light at a dangerous corner or railroad crossing. They can research how other groups, and perhaps student groups, convinced other localities to do the same.Writers are to cite resources used in proving their argument using the style sheet your school recommends.A bibliography is to be attached to the essay.Assessment will be based on Attachment Three: Rubric for persuasive Essay.

  7. Discuss the Rubric and your expectations, including length of essay. It is suggested that a reasonable expectation would be four to five pages, with a minimum of three supportive facts fully documented.

  8. Select a peer-edit partner. You may also use the writing pod of three to four students as peer editors.

  9. Complete Attachment Two for Day One and leave with the instructor.Instructor Note: Record and return to the student the next day.

  10. Direct students that they may bring to class any materials they may need for research.

  11. Schedule computer time or media center time for students.

    Days Two and Day Three:

  12. Research the topic for the persuasive essay. Submit Attachment Two at the end of the class session.

  13. Choose texts and/or media telling stories of controversial and/or unconventional heroes using text, printed material or Internet research. See the Bibliography for suggestions.

  14. Complete an outline based on Attachment One and present that outline to the peer editor or writing pod. Make additions, deletions or corrections before beginning their research.

  15. Organize their research and begin the rough draft of their persuasive essay using Attachment One as the template. Allow ten minutes each day to peer edit.

  16. Continue and finish the essay for submission on Day Four.

    Day Four:

  17. Students share and discuss their persuasive essays.Reflection/transition to Lesson Four:Journal prompt: Convincing someone else to do the right thing makes me________.


Attachment Two, daily writing progress, class participation, teacher observation, Persuasive Essay Rubric (Attachment Three)

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Discuss the results of private citizen voluntary action intended for the common good on public policy changes.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.