Selfless Sam (2nd)

K, 1, 2

This lesson introduces the students to concepts about homelessness, hunger and philanthropy. The students will listen to a story about a Chinese boy who chooses to give his precious four dollars (“lucky money”) to a homeless man, setting the tone for initial discussions about selflessness, and ways to address hunger, and poverty.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define homeless as not having a dwelling or structure in which to live in.
  • understand that some people don’t have enough food to eat.
  • understand the concept of opportunity cost.
  • Book: Sam and the Lucky Money (see Bibliographical References)
  • Graphing materials for a simple two-option graph (See teacher notes under Instructional Procedure)
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.

Vocabulary Words:

  • leisees -  Small red envelopes used to hold dollar bills and given to children as part of the Chinese New Year’s celebration.
  • char siu bao – Honey topped buns

What opportunity have you given up for the sake of another? Was it hard? Did it feel satisfying? 

  • Chin, Karen.  Sam and the Lucky Money.  Lee and Low Books, 1997.  ISBN: 1880000539.
  • Rosen, Michael J. (editor of collaboration).  Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Authors and Illustrators. New York: Harper Trophy, 1996. ISBN: 0064434702.
  • "Understanding Childhood Hunger." Sharing Our Strength



  1. Anticipatory Set: As the students enter the room, have each child respond to the following question by placing a mark on a graph. Did you have a snack before you went to bed last night? Yes No

  2. Discuss the student responses on the graph. Allow several students to tell what they had for a snack, where they ate it and who ate with them. Reflect on how they would have felt if they were not able to have a snack when they were hungry.

  3. Ask students to share a time when they were really hungry. What did they do about it? Be very sensitive to children who may be hungry or even homeless. Ask the students to imagine feeling hungry every night or wondering if there would even be enough food at home for supper.

  4. Remind the students that a philanthropist is someone who helps others even though he or she has to give something up for him or herself. Give some examples of philanthropy, such as giving food or clothing to someone who is hungry or cold. Tell them that you are going to read aloud a story about a boy who helps a man who not only was hungry but also had no place to live. Ask questions to stimulate their thinking, Where do you think he lived? Where did he get his food?

  5. Read the book, Sam and the Lucky Money.

  6. Ask if anyone can tell you why Sam was a philanthropist and what he gave up by giving to the homeless man (opportunity cost). Discuss the benefits of giving for the giver and receiver.

  7. Possible discussion questions:

  8. “How was the boy selfless in this story?” (Gave the money to the man.)

  9. “What other decisions might he have made?” (Spent the money on himself.)

  10. “How did Sam’s mother feel about Sam’s decision?” (She was proud of him.)

  11. “What else could he have done?” (Accept all reasonable answers)


Observe participation in class discussion and center activities.

Cross Curriculum 

Students make a list of needs that homeless people may have and brainstorm a list of items they could collect or make to donate to an organization in the community. They may donate their own gently used items, make items, or raise funds through a performance or service to make donations.

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.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Explain the difference between wants and needs.