Can You Make a Difference?

3, 4, 5

In this lesson, students prepare a persuasive speech in which they demonstrate that one person (or small group) can make a difference in making the world a better place or taking action for the common good.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree or Four Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • respond to a brief anecdote about someone making a difference.
  • work alone or in a group to prepare a presentation.
  • make a presentation.
  • reflect in writing on several presentations and summarize the main ideas.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read aloud the anecdote adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eisley. This piece illustrates that one person can make a difference. Go to

  2. Discuss the students' responses to the story about the boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean because he could make a difference to "one." Review the reasons that people take action for the common good (as discussed in Lesson One). Discuss the students' feelings about their ability to make a difference in the world. Guide the students to start thinking about simple ways they can share time, talent, or treasure to take action for the common good.

  3. Tell the students that they will make a short speech about how an individual (or small group) can make a difference. Students may work alone or with a small group. If they work in groups, each student must take an equal role in the group project. Students should present an oral speech and create and display a neat and appropriate visual aid.

  4. Allow one or two class periods for students to prepare their speeches.

  5. On the determined day, students present their speeches to the class.Students should listen carefully to all the speeches and write a paragraph response to each presentation other than their own. The response paragraphs should be labeled with the presenters' names.

  6. At the end of all the presentations, students reflect in writing about whether an individual can "make a difference." The two-paragraph response should summarize the points made in the presentations.


Student presentations should have the following elements: creative ideas and genuine response to the subject all students in a group share responsibilities neat and appropriate visual aid presentations are coherent and audible. Journal entries should reflect an accurate description of the main ideas of the speeches. The writing should demonstrate understanding of the ideas presented.

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.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.1 Explore and research issues and present solutions using communication tools.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.