Many Hands Together Make a Lighter Load

K, 1, 2
Many students are unsure what the term homeless means or how to help those that are homeless. This lesson will help them get a better understanding of the concept through the story Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope. The story tells about a group of homeless children who work together to help themselves, and then help other children. This lesson will also help develop the students' cooperative learning skills.
PrintOne 45 minute class period

The learners will:

  • identify and describe the behaviors of the characters in the book, Selavi, That is Life.
  • name the problem and the solution that was discovered in the story.
  • define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent or treasure intended for the common good.
  • explain how we as individuals can give time, talent and/or treasure for the common good.
  • describe a benefit of group cooperation.
  • participate in a group effort to help people in the community.

Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope by Youme Landowne (see Bibliographical References)

Teacher Preparation 
  • It is important to be sensitive to the possibility that someone in your class may have some personal experience with homelessness, hunger and poverty.
  • Prior to the start of this lesson, contact several charitable organizations in the community to determine their needs.  Students should decide what they want to do for the service learning project, but the teacher should have an idea of the needs of local organizations to help guide the students in their decisions.

Youme Landowne. Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope. Cinco Puntos Press, 2004. ISBN: 0938317849


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask students if they know the meaning of the word "homeless."Talk about the meaning of the suffix "less." Let them know that homeless people are everywhere--in big and small communities. Remind the students that one cannot tell if a person is "homeless" just by looking at their outward appearance. Discuss what a homeless person might need other than a home. Where do students think aperson who is homeless might go to get those needs met?

  2. Read the book Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope to the class. Use a finger to run under the line being read and to point to key picture items.

  3. On selected pages, stop and encourage the children to interact with the book in the following ways:

    • Label the feelings of the characters.
    • Identify key items in the picture that will aid in listening comprehension.
    • Hypothesize about what may happen next, what the motives of characters might be, and why something is happening.
  4. Discuss how Selavi worked with the other homeless children in the neighborhood to help themselves and the other children. Selavi could not have solved the problem alone. Discuss the benefit of group cooperation.

  5. Define the terms common good and philanthropy. Ask whether Selavi and the other children were philanthropists, and how they acted for the common good.

  6. After reading the story, ask the students if they think there is anything that they might like to do to help those in need in their community. Challenge students to brainstorm examples of how their class/school can do something for the common good to help. Record their responses on the board.

  7. After a list has been made, bring the class to consensus on what service activitythe students would like to do to help those in their community in need.

  8. Once their decision has been made, contact the appropriate local organization that will likely receive the students' gift of time, talent, or treasure, alerting them to the decision.

  9. Based on the needs of the organizations/individuals, the students should select and organize plan to help demonstrate working together for the common good.

  10. When the service is over, invite someone from the organization to come to the class and have the students thank and listen to the representatives of the organization.

  11. After the students have participated in a group project toaddress a need in the community, have them draw and/or write a reflection about the experience. Students should include a description of the experience: how the need was determined, what did they do to prepare, their successes.


Teacher observation of student participation in the lesson and service project will serve as the assessment for this lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

Students come to a concensus on voluntary action to address an identified need related to poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. 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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.