Benjamin Franklin and Life

3, 4, 5

This lesson will introduce the contributions made by Benjamin Franklin to the United States, both in the past and now. His book, Poor Richards Almanack, displays quotes that summarize his view on what he said and wrote. It will make connections to the common good through the ideas represented. The quotes will be used to create posters.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo to Three Forty-Five to Fifty Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • list Benjamin Franklin's contributions to the common good.
  • extract and illustrate Franklin's guiding philosophy about the common good from Poor Richard's Almanack.
  • describe how Franklin's writing and actions helped to promote the independent (or nonprofit) sector.
  • Copies of Profiles in Caring: Benjamin Franklin (Handout One)
  • Poor Richard's Almanack by Benjamin Franklin (see Bibliographical References)
  • Chart or construction paper
  • Markers, crayons, paint, and any other poster making materials
  • Parent Letter (Handout Two)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: See Parent Letter (Handout Two) for the letter to send home informing the parents of the upcoming creation of the posters. Have them discuss with their child the design of a poster that could be displayed at home and why it would be pertinent.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Create your own poster of the title from "Profiles in Caring." (Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.) Hold it up and ask the students what they think it means. Brainstorm and write the answers on the board. Tell the children that they are going to learn about the man who wrote this and about his contributions to the United States as well as to society and the common good.

  2. Write the name Benjamin Franklin on the board or chart paper. Ask the students what they know about this person. (Write responses under his name.

  3. Distribute copies of Profiles in Caring: Benjamin Franklin. Have selected students read the paragraphs aloud. Discuss the contributions listed in the document. Write responses under the initial listing.

  4. Put the term independent sector (nonprofit sector) on the board or chart paper. Explain that it is made up of all organizations that are not part of the government or private business. Give examples. Have the students select Franklin's accomplishments that pertain to the common good and the independent sector.

  5. Introduce Poor Richard's Almanack by Benjamin Franklin. (If possible have one for each student or one for small groups to share.) Have students locate various quotes that may be pertinent to the common good. Discuss the quotes they selected and ask why the learners feel they are important.

  6. Go back to the list of Core Democratic Values. Relate the accomplishments and quotes of Franklin's to the Core Democratic Values. (See Core Democratic Values in Lesson Three: The "Society of Friends" and Society.) Discuss how they relate.

  7. Tell the students that they are going to use some of the quotes they feel are very important in promoting the common good by making a poster. Show the initial poster used in the anticipatory set. Tell the learners that they should use pictures, words and designs in their posters to communicate meaning. Distribute the materials and have them make their own posters. Laminate the completed posters.

  8. Display the completed posters and discuss possible places to display them. The posters should be donated to others so that they also may learn about contributing to the common good. Discuss how the children feel after contributing to a good cause. Celebrate their contributions.

  9. Review the nonprofit (independent) sector and its effect on society.


Students should have correctly selected a quote that relates to common good and the independent sector. The posters should be colorful, graphic and the text should be clearly written. The students should have been actively involved in the discussion of Benjamin Franklin and active in the design of their specific poster.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will create posters which reflect Benjamin Franklin's philosophy about the common good. To share their knowledge about the common good, students will hang selected posters in the school or other sites. Suggestions may include nursing homes, hospitals, other schools, etc.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe important events in the growth and maturation of the civil society sector in the nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.