Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Center Stage—Focus on Poverty
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students will be engaged in reflections of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination related to socio-economic status. From a cognitive and affective perspective, students will be involved with activities to assist them in developing sensitivity to working in direct service projects with individuals who are impoverished or disadvantaged in their socio-economic standing. Subsequently, students will also generate guidelines for positively and sensitively working with these individuals. Conduct/proper etiquette, as well as appropriate conversation will be addressed.


Two Forty-Five Minute Periods


The learner will:

  • analyze a personal perspective of individuals who are in different economic conditions.
  • identify the task, skills and procedures for successful interaction with those who are impoverished.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Suggested service projects (see bibliography) relating to this lesson topic may include:

  • Assisting in a local soup kitchen or food pantry
  • Making "basic bags" of toiletries
  • Creating "fresh start" kits for families who move from a shelter
  • Host a "wish list" party
  • Make re-usable placemats for meals at shelters, kitchens, or hospitals


  • Pictures of people with autobiographical sketches (see Anticipatory Set)
  • Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One)
  • Rag Coat by Lauren Mills (see Bibliographical References)
  • "Eat, My Fine Coat" by Barbara Walker (see Bibliographical References)
Handout 1
Am I Ready to Serve?

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Provide students with four or five pictures of individuals as well as corresponding autobiographical descriptions. (Pictures should reflect a variety of people of different ethnicities, gender, degree of cleanliness, physical stature, jobs, etc.) Individually, ask students to match the pictures to the descriptors. Then direct students to small groups to compare their choices and discuss the reasons why. Valuable assessment information can be gleaned by teacher observation of student responses in this activity. If Lesson One has been used, students should be able to make decisions that reflect greater awareness and insight.

  • Ask students, "Why do you think I chose this beginning activity?" Impress upon the students that outward appearance and material wealth are not legitimate indicators of qualities related to inward character. With consideration to the personal experiences of students, invite students to dialogue about pre-judging the character of individuals based on stereotypes of appearance and material wealth. This is an opportunity for students to cognitively and affectively reflect upon stereotypes of different economic classes of individuals.

  • Using the Web site http://tolerance.org, click on the "For Teachers" section, and in the search box type "Eat, My Fine Coat." Have students read the fable, page by page (audio is available for struggling readers). If technology is not available, the teacher can read the Turkish fable to students. Allow time for students to share their thoughts and feelings in response to the reading. The corresponding lesson plans included in the Web site may be used as a guide.

  • Invite a guest speaker to educate students about myths and realities of individuals who are impoverished. Use Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One) as a guideline for information to gather. This can be given to the guest speaker ahead of time and previewed by students prior to the presentation. Information should be shared within a 10-15 minute period of time.


Day Two:

  • Read the book, The Rag Coat, by Lauren Mills. Stop reading at the encounter between Minna and Clyde when she bumps into him outside the schoolyard. In small groups of three students, using one to two pages maximum, have them write an ending to the story (it may be positive or it may be negative, including prejudice and discrimination). Direct students to identify prejudiced attitudes and/or acts of discrimination included in the created endings. If the outcome is positive, have students explain (using the five step "how to" model from Lesson One: Behind the Scenes—Closing the Curtain on Stereotypes if applicable) why the outcome was favorable.

  • Now read the ending to The Rag Coat. Ask students to identify the attitudes of prejudice and acts of discrimination in both "Eat, My Fine Coat," and The Rag Coat. Ask students to compare and contrast the two stories.

  • Ask students to consider a time in which they were treated unfairly/insensitively (discriminated against) based on prejudgment of appearance (clothing, hairstyle, braces, physical stature). Ask students ways in which they could identify with the experiences of the characters in the stories. Encourage students to share the emotional impact and any lasting consequences of their experiences.


Working in small groups, students will write a short verse to a song. First, the class will write the chorus to be repeated between each verse. The chorus will include the importance of acting without discrimination based on prejudice and stereotypes. It is suggested that the rhythm of any familiar lyrics be used as a framework (such as "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean"). The guidelines for writing the verse must include: the task (general description), skills necessary to successfully carry out the task, and key guidelines for sensitively interacting with people facing poverty. Students should use information gathered and recorded on Attachment One: Am I Ready to Serve? as a resource guide. The verses and chorus created should be saved for use later in Lesson Five: The Final Act—Reflections and Revisions.

Bibliographical References:

  • Mills, Lauren A. The Rag Coat. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1991. ISBN: 0316574074
  • Spaide, Deborah. Teaching Your Kids to Care. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN: 0806516372
  • Walker, Barbara. "Eat, My Fine Coat," Fight Hate and Promote Tolerance http://tolerance.org

Lesson Developed By:

Lisa Ludwig
Cedar Springs Public Schools
Cedar Springs Middle School
Cedar Springs, MI 49319


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Am I Ready to Serve?

Guest Speaker: ________________________________________
Organization: __________________________________________

Myths of
Realities of

What is involved in this service experience. In other words, what will I do?

What attitudes and behaviors are important to use in order to show sensitivity in my interaction?

What should I keep in mind as helpful guidelines to creating a positive relationship?


Philanthropy Framework:


Jana, Teacher – Jackson, MI11/2/2007 8:34:43 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the majority of my at-risk students fall into this category but were able to differentiate between the level of poverty that they experienced and the poverty experienced by the homeless. They enjoyed designing and delivering the fresh start bags to our local homeless shelter and taking a tour of the facility. The cruelty of judging others by their clothing was discussed in depth by my kids for whom having the correct name brands is extremely important even though the preponderance of them have limited incomes. "The Bag Coat" and "Eat My Fine Coat" stories generated this discussion.

Cress, Teacher – Manistee, MI11/2/2007 8:35:48 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the lessons made the students reflect on issues of poverty. Perhaps even made them a little grateful for the things they have.

Megan, Teacher – Manistee, MI11/2/2007 8:36:47 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the lesson challenged students to re-think the way they see the world and the people in it.

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