Everyone Can Be a Philanthropist: Philanthropy Lesson (3rd)

3, 4, 5

Students will see their classroom as a community with shared resources and identify ways each individual can support it by doing philanthropic deeds.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45 to 60 minute class period

The learner will:

  • identify common and personal areas in the classroom.
  • define the word “permission.”
  • describe acts of philanthropy that can be done in the classroom without the teacher’s specific permission.
  • Dictionaries (one per student or one per every two students)
  • Self sticking notes
  • Large blank index cards
  • Empty bulletin board with the prepared heading “Caring For Our Community”
  • Writing and drawing papers and materials


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students to name some things in their desk or locker that are considered their personal property (jacket, pencil, chapter book, paper). Ask them what other things in their desk they are using for the year (Reading book, library book). Then ask them to name items in the classroom which students are permitted to use, but are not their own personal property.

  2. Prepare a T-chart (a chart with two columns) on the board with the columns “Common Areas” and the other “Personal Areas.” Explain that the common areas are places in the classroom and school that belong to no one, but may be used by all. List several prompts, such as, drinking fountain, floor, classroom, and library. Then ask for more responses from the students.

    Explain that personal areas are places in the classroom that are generally considered to belong to a single person. List several prompts for personal areas, such as, desk, chair, locker, backpack. Again, students should supply additional responses. To conclude this activity, ask the students to complete the following sentences aloud to a partner:

    • A common area is an area that __________________________________.
    • A personal area is an area that __________________________________.
  3. Pose the question, “What do you think is meant by the expression ‘for the common good’?” Ask students to discuss this with their immediate neighbor and then with two other people for two to three minutes.

    When they return to their seats, allow each student to give their best answer by “whipping around” the room, allowing each student to say his or her concise definition while the other students demonstrate listening. It does not matter if more than one person gives the same answer. Validate their responses by saying that “for the common good” means “for the good of everyone.

  4. Give each student (or pair of students) a blank index card. On the board, write the word “permission.” Instruct students to look up the word in the dictionary online and write its definition on the card as quickly as possible. This is most fun when handled as a race. Everyone must finish, but recognition (or a very small treat) may be given to the first three or five who finish. When everyone has finished, the class should read their definitions aloud, as a chorus.

  5. On the back of the index card, ask students to write a short statement telling what “permission” means in the context of their own classroom. Select a few students to read their answers. 

  6. In groups of four to six students, ask students to “brainstorm” the answer to the question, “What are some things that students can do in the classroom or school for the common good, for which they do not need the teacher’s permission?”

    Allow three to five minutes for discussion, then choose one person from each group to announce their group’s answers.

    Look for answers such as, “picking up a piece of paper and putting in the wastebasket,” “straightening the bookshelf,” and whatever is appropriate for your classroom.


Have students draw and color an individual picture of themselves on a blank index card. The picture must include the following: a picture of themselves doing something for the common good of their classroom. a statement written at the bottom of the card which includes and completes the statement: This is (name) (description of the activity). Example: “This is Johnny putting some trash in the wastebasket.” After collecting the cards from all students, display them on the “Caring For Our School Community” bulletin board.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.7 Define and describe private property and common resources.
      2. Benchmark E.8 Recognize the difference between private property and common resources.
      3. Benchmark E.9 Identify the "commons" in the school and neighborhood.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.7 Give classroom examples of when a student does not need the teacher's permission to act philanthropically.