Just a Spoonful of Rights Makes the Responsibility Go 'Round-Part I

3, 4, 5

This lesson will introduce rights and responsibilities of citizens in society, in our classroom and community. Learners will identify core democratic values, ethical conduct and personal virtue.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo 60-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • understand that along with the rights we receive as citizens, we have responsibilities that we are obligated to comply with as citizens.
  • evaluate decisions involving expression of rights.
  • relate the role of philanthropy in protecting rights and responsibilities of citizens in their community.
  • recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good, and define core democratic values.
  • Pencil
  • Drawing paper
  • Crayons or colored pencils
Home Connection 

Learners will take home a photocopy of the class book and then create their own mini book of their community rights and responsibilities. The photocopy will help parents understand what the expectations are for the assignment.

  • Benjamin, Ann. Young Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Heroine.
    Bt Bound, 2001. ISBN: 0613369106;
    Troll Associates, 1996. ISBN: 0816737754.
    The story of a young Rosa Parks who would later challenge America's conscience with her fight for civil rights.
  • Fritz, Jean. You Want Women To Vote, Lizzie Stanton? Paper Star, 1999. ISBN: 0698117646.
    The story of Lizzie Stanton's fight for equality for all, highlighting her struggle for women suffrage.


  1. Anticipatory Set:You will need two to three learners to volunteer to perform a skit. Inform the learners in the class that our actors will be acting out roles of people in the school community. Have a small bag or box containing three to four pieces of paper with a description of the role a learner is to play written on it. Have each volunteer pick a piece of paper from the bag. Tell the actors that they are to interact with each other but they are not supposed to do their job. They need to make it very clear that the job they are role-playing is going on without them. They are going to be gossiping and chatting, reading a newspaper, even pretending to eat.Possible scenario to role-play : A principal, a reading teacher and a classroom teacher are sitting in the staff lounge. The principal starts talking to the other two teachers, telling them how he can't wait to go golfing today. He is thinking about leaving a little early to avoid the rush. The reading teacher responds by saying, "yeah, I don't think I'm going to get my learners for this afternoon. I have to make some phone calls." Meanwhile, the classroom teacher has decided to take a nap. These are ideas to get your learners started. They can ad lib any similar scenario.

  2. After one minute stop the actors and ask the class What is going on in the skit? Answer: The workers are not doing their job.

  3. List the problems that are involved with the workers not doing their jobs. Ask learners, Who is disadvantaged by the school workers lack of responsibility? Answer: Learners.

  4. Explain that the learners have a right to an education and if the school workers aren't doing their job, accepting the responsibilities of the job, then the learners aren't getting their education. It takes school workers and learners working together to make a school successful. They each have their own rights and responsibilities. Have the learners compile a list of their responsibilities in school.

  5. Introduce the following terms and concepts relating to rights and responsibilities of citizens: Bill of Rights (n) The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, these rights are fundamental and include the basic privileges of all United States citizens Citizen (n) A resident of a town or city; a native or naturalized person entitled to protection from a government - citizenship (n) Civic responsibility (n) A person's duty or obligation to their community as a citizen Civil rights (pl. n) Rights guaranteed to citizens; the specific rights provided by the 13th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution Community (n, pl. -ies) A group of people living in the same area and under the same government; a class or group having common interests and likes Constitution (n) The set of fundamental rules governing the politics of a nation or sub national body. In 1787, at a Constitutional Convention the United States constitution was written Democratic values (n) A set of morals based upon major beliefs of a democracy and written in federal documents such as the Constitution Human rights (n) Inalienable moral entitlement attached to all persons equally, simply by virtue of their humanity, irrespective of race, nationality, or membership of any particular social group. They specify the minimum conditions for human dignity and a tolerable life Justice (n) The principle of moral or ideal rightness; conformity to the law; the abstract principal by which right and wrong are defined; a judge

  6. Just as we have rights and responsibilities at school, citizens of a community have rights and responsibilities . List on the board or overhead "Rights" and "Responsibilities." Write under "Rights" places in a community: park, school, library, and fire station. These are all places that we use in our community and we have the right to use them. Along with that right we have a responsibility. Have learners list the responsibilities involved in having the listed places in their community. (Park: keep it clean [no trash], pay for maintenance-taxes; School: be polite and courteous to classmates and staff, be cooperative and ready to learn, complete work on time; Library: treat books with care, return books on time, taxes; Fire Station: do not make prank phone calls, pull to the side of the road when emergency vehicles are in your path of traffic, pay taxes to support services.)

  7. Community members have the right to a safe and fun place to live and you have the responsibility to keep it safe and fun.

  8. Ask the learners to identify those rights that all Americans have. Discuss the responsibilities that go with the rights.

  9. Discuss with learners that there have been great struggles to guarantee all people their rights. Refer to the two bibliographic texts cited below. Use the examples of the struggle for women's suffrage and the struggle for minority rights in the United States. Cite Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Stanton and Martin Luther King Jr.

  10. Discuss how their philanthropy, giving of their talent and time, helped promote the rights of many.


Each learner will contribute to making a class book of our rights and responsibilities in our classroom community. Brainstorm our rights in the classroom. Use appropriate materials in the classroom, use bathroom, drink water, have a voice, use the computer, read books, etc. The learners will identify three rights and corresponding responsibilities. They will select two of the three that the learner identified and illustrate their selections.If the class can come up with enough rights for everyone to have their own, that would be ideal. However, the learners could pair up and have one do the right and the other do the responsibility.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.6 Identify lack of religious, economic, or political freedom as a motivating factor for migration to a new country.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.14 Describe the roles of citizens in government.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify why rules are important and how not all behaviors are addressed by rules.
      3. Benchmark E.3 Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior in a democracy.
      4. Benchmark E.5 Discuss the relationship between individual freedom and government power in a democracy.