My Civic Responsibility

6, 7, 8

In this lesson, learners identify different levels of participation in a democracy. Each student writes a statement describing what type of citizen he or she would like to be. In groups of 4-6 students, the learners create an audio or visual presentation advocating for civic responsibility. They share their presentations with an outside audience. Students also reflect on their personal role in "writing history."

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Lessons, plus time to create a group presentation

The learner will:

  • identify characteristics of participatory citizenship.
  • work in a small production group of 5-8 students to create a presentation as a piece of advocacy.
  • view the presentations of all the learners.
  • reflect on the impact of the project.
  • copies of Handout One: Three Types of Citizen or teacher printout for projecting on the wall screen
  • learner copies of Handout Two: Rubric, (Spanish version Handout Five)
  • group copies of Handout Three: Guidelines for Project, (Spanish version, Handout Six)
  • computer and Internet access to show an online video (see Bibliographical References)
  • various equipment/supplies for audio/visual project based on available resources (e.g., Flip video, audio recording device, cell phone with video capability, computers, paper, markers, etc.)
Teacher Preparation 

You will need student access to one or more video cameras. One camera can be shared with several groups if they take turns. The Flip video camcorder is an inexpensive option that is easy to use and includes simple editing software. See the Flip video camcorder online. Look for their donor matching program.


Pathfinder Middle School Pledge video

The Nike Foundation. "The Girl Effect"

Scholastic. "Tech How To: Podcasts" [no longer available] 

Westheimer, Joel.  “Teaching Students to Think About Patriotism” (Educational Leadership, v.65, no. 5).


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Write the following question on the board: What does ideal participatory citizenship look like? Ask the students to brainstorm examples of participatory citizenship (e.g., voting, following the laws, sharing and helping others, etc.). Write their ideas on the board.

  2. Present to the students the three types of democratic citizenship as described by Joel Westheimer. (See Handout One: Three Types of Citizen.)

  3. Ask the students to categorize their brainstormed list on the board into these three categories. Then ask them to decide for themselves what type of citizen they want to be. Have each student write a statement describing their own citizenship and what they wish for a better world/country/community. Have them include the following information: What type of citizen they want to be, what issues do they care about, what their personal goals are, how they want to impact others to make the world a better place. Give the students 10-15 minutes to write.

  4. Pair up the students for peer editing. Give them time to help each other give feedback, revise, edit, and write a final version of their statements. They should hand in their statements by the end of the class period. Teacher Note: Before the next class period, group the students' statements by common interests and goals. Use these as a guide to form groups of 4-6 students for the final project of the unit.

  5. Day Two:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Show the students an example of a video that makes a statement of advocacy. "The Girl Effect" (see Bibliographical References) is a good example because it makes the viewer think about an issue and suggests away to take action for the common good. After the video, discuss the main message of the video and how viewers can take action to address the featured issue.

  6. Tell the learners that they will be working in groups to create videos (or other approved presentations) to share statements of democratic responsibility. These presentations will give information and inspire viewers to take action toward an issue as responsible citizens.

  7. Give the learners copies of Handout Two: Rubric. Go over the expectations and possible formats. Find out what resources the students already have (video cameras, audio devises, software, etc.). Describe your expectations for each format and brainstorm possible audiences for the presentations.

  8. Return the students' statements from the previous class period. Tell them these statements may be the starting point for their group discussions. Assign learners to groups of 4-6 (based on the common interests expressed in the statements). Each group discusses what they would like to communicate about civic responsibility, the nature of democracy, and the importance of taking action for the common good in a democratic society. In their groups, they should start to determine the following: issue to address/main idea, audience, presentation format, and initial responsibilities.

  9. The student groups may work in class and/or outside of class over several days to complete their project. Set a deadline for presenting the projects to the class. Guide the students as they work on the projects. Give each group a copy of Handout Three: Guidelines for Planning.

  10. Day Three (after several days of production):

  11. Make sure you have all the media required for students to show their presentations to the whole class.

  12. Allow time for each group to present their project and discuss the impact of the project on themselves and their intended audience.

  13. After all presentations, discuss what they should do next. Guide the students as they discuss who else might be interested in their presentations and what they could do next to advocate for their issue. This may spark a discussion of organizing an event to address a featured issue. See Next Steps and Extension for creating a student-led service-learning project.
  14. Final reflection, show the same quote as in Lesson Two. Have the learners write a reflection about their personal responsibility to form and "write" history.

    • "History is yours to make. It is not owned or written by someone else for you to learn. History is not just the story you read; it is the one you write. It is the one you remember or denounce or relate to others. It is not predetermined. Every action, every decision, however small, is relevant to its course. History is filled with horror and replete with hope. You shape the balance." (inscribed on the exit of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa as noted by Joel Westheimer.)
  15. Next Steps:

  16. Continue to reflect and guide the students as they publish their presentations. Help them find venues, community partners, and publishing options. Have the learners collect data and measure impact, if available. After the presentations are public, have each student write a reflection about their learning.

  17. Work with the learners to design an appropriate demonstration to a group of students, families, and/or community members. The demonstration includes a presentaion and communicates the impact the learners have made on themselves and others.


Use Handout One: Rubric as a guide for assessing student work on the final presentation.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners create a presentation (audio, video, or other technology) that communicates a statement of advocacy for a specific issue or to promote personal responsibility in a democratic society to act for the common good. The students determine an appropriate audience and venue for their piece of advocacy in order to teach others about their responsibility as "We the people."

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the philanthropic ideas embedded in a nation's founding documents.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. 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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Identify historic examples of citizens using civil society organizations to petition the government.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Define civic virtue.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
      3. Benchmark MS.6 Describe how the founding documents and fundamental democratic principles encourage citizens to act philanthropically.
      4. Benchmark MS.8 Define civil society.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.