Words Bring Peace (secondary)

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

In this lesson, students learn that we all have ideas and talents to make the world a better place. This is an opportunity to demonstrate and feel the impact of kindness, inclusion, and listening on a caring community. Students learn from a community helper about the needs they observe in the community. They make and donate a "calming kit" so the tool may help youth calm themselves. Use this at the beginning of the year to set a tone and learn skills of effective language that are good for all. 

PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Sessions, plus time for a project

The learners will...

  • practice empathy and use language of respectful dialogue.
  • describe the work and needs of local community helpers.
  • give examples of “something to give” from the heart.
  • build community connections by making "calming boxes" to address a need.
  • reflect on the impact of generosity in the community.
  • read-aloud copy of What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack
  • exit ticket: Write 5 ideas of things James Otis could give from the heart.
  • materials for making calming kits (may be purchased or donated from homes)
  • handouts for calming kit overview, printouts, and instructions for making the kit items
Teacher Preparation 
  • Think-Pair-Share strategy explained at Read Write Think website
  • Invite a community helper to speak with your students on Day Two about their work and the needs in the community. Tell the visitor about the book What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack to help them prepare what they present. This visitor may give the students ideas about something they can give from the heart to help out.
  • Collect materials for making items to put in "calming kits" that will be donated in the community (see handouts for directions).
Home Connection 

Students write and take home a letter explaining the service-learning project they planned and how families can participate. 

  • What are some of the needs in the community?
  • What are some things community members can do that contribute to the well-being of the whole community?
  • How can we as a class create a community that is kind and supportive of one other?
  • How does it feel to discover what you have to give?  How does it feel to then give generously to our community?
  • What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia McKissack
  • Read Write Think graphic organizers


  1. Anticipatory Set: Write on the board: “We all have something to give to make a better community.” Ask students to share with a shoulder partner what they think this means. Then come back as a whole group and have a few pairs share their answers. (To make sure that students are talking about the question, ask students to share what their partner said.) Discuss how giving might include words and actions that help others feel included.

    Tell the students that through this lesson they are part of a global effort to build peaceful and inclusive societies. There are classrooms all over the world learning through this lesson, and there are people in countries all over the world - in an effort led by the United Nations - working on the Sustainable Development Goal - #16.  

  2. Tell students to keep the idea "We all have something to give to help others" in mind as you read aloud the book What Is Given from the Heart to the class.

  3. Read the story.

    Stop on the Christmas page and ask: What are some of the struggles that James Otis and his mother experienced? What are some words that describe James Otis and his mother? Discuss how James Otis changes throughout the story. Discuss why he changed. You may use a character change graphic organizer

  4. Continue reading to the end. Talk about how communities form around a need, an interest, or a location. Then ask students to explain how the “love boxes” served as a tool to form a community; talk about that community’s purpose and traits. Challenge the students to think about deliberately creating a community with a purpose of kindness. Ask, “What can we do to create a kind community here in our classroom?” Discuss words and actions that build community, such as listening to understand before responding, using respectful words, asking follow-up questions. 

  5. Exit Ticket

    Give students a couple of minutes to brainstorm with a partner and create a list of things they can "give" or do to make the classroom a kind place where all students feel respected and valued. Have students each write 5 things they could "give" from the heart. This list is their exit ticket for the class period.

  6. Day Two

    As arranged in advance, a community helper (police, fire, medic) visits for 30-60 minutes to talk to the classroom about the good they do as well as some of the community’s needs. Prepare the visitor by telling them about the book you’ve read; this may give your guest speaker ideas for their presentation.

    After the presentation, allow time for the students to ask questions.

    • Discuss with students what some of the needs are in their community that they heard the guest speaker talk about. Write a list of their ideas on the board or overhead, asking students to copy the list too.
    • Ask them to respond to one of the needs on the board by suggesting what they can "give" to address the need and help build a just, peaceful, and inclusive community. 
    • As a group, discuss what interests them as they narrow the list down to 3-4 ideas that they could take one step toward addressing. Write these few on the board and then have students “vote with their feet” by coming up to the board and putting a hash mark under the area that they are most interested in addressing. Remind students that it won’t always be possible to address all needs so this is one way to decide which need will be taken care of at this point.
  7. Service Project: Students make "calming boxes" filled with homemade items that sooth someone who is feeling anxiety or trauma. See handouts below for instructions. The boxes may be donated to a classroom, police station, hospital, or other place where self-calming tools and words can help a young person self-regulate their anxiety. 

    Additional Project Ideas: collect stuffed animals for police to hand out to children; make hygiene kits; serve at a soup kitchen; write soothing notes to people who need encouragement; or visit a local nursing home.

  8. Use the service-learning process to help students develop a project with learning and practicing skills and knowledge as they address a community need and show kindness like James Otis did in the book. 

    This video gives an overview of the Stages of Service-Learning: Service-learning connects learning to needs in the community. Follow the steps in the process outlined here to make successful plans with your students.

  9. Sharing Ideas: There are many wonderful children’s picture books that could be used to build a caring classroom community. Use the comment section below to share additional book titles.

Cross Curriculum 

Extension: Follow this up with the Learning to Give lesson about the Ving! Project, which gives students an opportunity to develop a short video making a case to help someone in need in the community. If their video is chosen, the student presents a $1,000 check to the person in need in their community.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
      2. Benchmark MS.1 Examine several examples of philanthropic traditions practiced in diverse cultures.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how civil-society-sector giving can impact communities.
      2. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
      2. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.