Turning on Your Light

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will be introduced to the term philanthropy and the concept of philanthropic acts as related to characters in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Teacher's note: This lesson is intended for students who have read the book To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne to Two Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy.
  • identify philanthropy in character development in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • describe philanthropic acts in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kerberger
  • Post-It Notes
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Chart paper, butcher paper, or a white board
  • Information on the Character Cards (Attachment One)
  • Paragraph Student/Peer Editing Task List (Attachment Two)
  • Paragraph Scoring Guide (Attachment Three)
  • Video: "What Is Philanthropy?" http://learningtogive.org/videos/what_is_phil_large.asp (with the kind permission of the Minnesota Council on Foundations).
Home Connection 

Student completion of paragraph final copies.

  • Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirkberger. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Heath Communications Inc., 1997. ISBN: 1-55874-463-0
  • Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner Books, 1960. ISBN: 0-446-31078-6
  • Video: What Is Philanthropy? /videos/what_is_phil_large.asp Available with the kind permission of the Minnesota Council on Foundations.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell students that you will read the passage "Turning Up Your Light" by Eric Allenbaugh in the book Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on page 256. To promote purposeful listening, tell them their task is to answer the question: "Name some characteristics or qualities that this young man displays that separates him from others his age." You may need to explain the difference between qualities/characteristics vs. things the young man did in the story. Have the students respond to this question on a Post-It Note and instruct them to keep it for later in the class period.

  2. Write the word "philanthropy" on chart paper and post this in the room. Have the students brainstorm a list of words they believe relate to this word. Accept any answer. Record their proposed synonyms on chart paper or a list on the board.

  3. Present students with the definition of philanthropy: private individual action intended for the common good. Write the definition on chart paper. Give examples and ask for student feedback to ensure that the students understand the term. Have students work in partners and split the list of synonyms on the board into two lists: Examples and Non-Examples of Philanthropy. Have volunteers from a few groups record the lists on the board.

  4. Show the video "What Is Philanthropy?" (/videos/what_is_phil_large.asp). Discuss the video with the students if applicable, or continue to discuss the term philanthropy at length.

  5. Relate the term philanthropy back to the anticipatory set. Ask the students to reveal their Post-It Notes. As students approach the board, have them read the information on their note and determine if the choices the young man made relate to philanthropy. If the idea does relate to philanthropy, have the student place the note on the paper with the definition of philanthropy. If the ideas on the Post-It Notes do not relate to philanthropy, the student may place the note under the list of Non-Examples on the board. Discuss.

  6. Pass out the character cards, one per student. For more specific instructions on the character cards, see Information on the Character Cards (Attachment One). Instruct the students to write a well-developed, cohesive paragraph describing how their character from To Kill A Mockingbird exemplifies philanthropy. See Paragraph Scoring Guide (Attachment Three). Instruct the students to use specific examples from the book to support their ideas. Share the Paragraph Student/Peer Editing Task List (Attachment Two).

  7. When paragraphs are complete, instruct students to work with table partners to peer edit their paragraph using the Paragraph Student/Peer Editing Task List (Attachment Two).

  8. Have students submit the paragraphs for review by the teacher upon completion, most likely the following day.


Teacher use of the Paragraph Scoring Guide (Attachment Three) to evaluate student paragraphs. Student use of the Paragraph Student/Peer Editing Task List (Attachment Two) for evaluation.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.