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

The Wants and Needs of Making a Difference
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


A Chair for My Mother is the context for discussions about wants and needs.  Students will also recognize how and why families and communities help each other in times of tragedy.


One Forty-Five Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • identify the difference between a want and a need. 
  • define story vocabulary.
  • write a reflection paragraph.
  • define philanthropy as giving or sharing time, talent, or treasure, or taking action for the common good.

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.

None for this lesson.


  • overhead projector
  • transparency of Attachment One: Key Vocabulary
  • student copies of Attachment Two: Wants and Needs 
  • transparence of Attachment Three: T-Chart
  • student copies of Attachment Four: School-Home Connection
  • read-aloud copy of A Chair for my Mother (see Bibliographic References)
Handout 1
Key Vocabulary
Handout 2
Wants and Needs
Handout 3
Want and Need T-Chart
Handout 4
School-Home Connection

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Start a discussion about wants and needs with the following question:  Which of the things you have are most important to you?  Record the students' answers on the board.  Tell the students to imagine that a family lost their home to a fire and lost all of their possessions.  The people in the neighborhood want to help them replace their most important needs first.  Ask the students to look at their list and choose the items that would be "needs" for this family.  Star or underline these items on the list.  The other items are considered "wants."  Discuss the difference between wants and needs and guide the students to name the most basic needs (food, shelter, clothing).  Teacher Note:  The discussion of the fire may raise some sentiment in your classroom if your students have had some experence with a fire. 

  • Pass out copies of the Wants and Needs worksheet (see Attachment Two).  The students use crayons to circle the needs.  Talk about their answers, discussing their reasons if they made different choices from each other.
  • Introduce the book A Chair for My Mother (see Bibliographical References).  "Today we are going to read a story about a family that experienced a disaster.  In a house fire, this family lost everything but each other and their cat.  As we read, think about how the family and community work together by sharing time, talent, and treasure to help replace their needs.  Listen for how they recover from this tragedy and how they make choices about needs versus wants."
  • Display on the overhead projector the transparency of vocabulary words (see Attachment One).  As a group, discuss the words and give examples of how the words are used in their lives.
  • Read A Chair for my Mother aloud, stopping to call attention to details, such as the neighbors bringing them items to replace their lost items.  Discuss whether the items are needs or wants.
  • After reading, discuss the key concepts.  How did the family react to the fire?  (What did they think about first?)  How and why did the neighbors help them?  What of your possessions would you give a family that had lost everything?  What items did the family need first?  Was the chair a want or a need? 
  • Define philanthropy as giving or sharing time, talent, or treasure, or taking action for the common good. Talk about the philanthropy in the story.
  • As a class, create a T-chart listing the wants and needs of the family that lost their home (see Attachment Three: T-Chart).  After identifying wants and needs from this story, use another color to list additional wants and needs the community might supply to them to support the common good.  Discuss whether each of these donated items is a contribution of time, talent, or treasure. 
  • Have students write a thank-you letter for the community support after the fire, from the perspective of the little girl.  The letter should identify whether the support was in the form of time, talent, or treasure.  Teacher note:  For K and 1 students, a whole-group shared writing of the letter would satisfy the benchmarks.


Students write a reflection paragraph telling whether the chair was a want or a need.  Students should include in their paragraph details supporting their decision.

Teacher Note:  K-1 students may draw a picture of the chair and dictate an explanation of why it is a want or need.

School/Home Connection:

Interactive Parent/Student Homework:

Send home a copy of Attachment Four: School-Home Connection.  Families complete the chart together and discuss ways they have worked for the common good.  Students share their families' ideas with the class the following day.  

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

As a whole-class demonstration or with each student at a computer, go to www.michiganepic.org/coredemocratic/indexb.html  Students watch (and listen to) a 4-screen comic on the common good and pursuit of happiness.  At the end, there is a printable worksheet for students to complete on promoting the common good in school.

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Jennifer Gehreke
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Mulick Park Elementary
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Kandi Harpe-Carroll
Ravenna Public Schools
Beechnau Elementary
Ravenna, MI 49451

Tammi Kantola
Ravenna Public Schools
Beechnau Elementary
Ravenna, MI 49451


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Key Vocabulary











common good







Handout 2Print Handout 2

Wants and Needs


Name: ________________________________________

Look at the pictures.  Circle the things you NEED with a red crayon.  The other items are WANTS.








teddy bear





toy truck


Handout 3Print Handout 3

Want and Need T-Chart

List wants and needs from A Chair for My Mother.

Handout 4Print Handout 4

School-Home Connection

Name:  ________________________________

Tell your family the difference between a need and a want.

With your family, decide if the items listed below are wants or needs.  Put a check in the appropriate box. 

List ways your family has given time, talent or treasure to the community over the past year. 

1. ____________________________________________________________________________________


2. ____________________________________________________________________________________


3. ____________________________________________________________________________________


Philanthropy Framework:


Mrs., Teacher Tucson, Canada12/6/2009 11:29:41 PM

Thank you so much for this lesson plan. I teach 1st grade in Tucson, and our resources are very limited. I love how this lesson is literature based, like I try to make all of my lessons. This is very appropriate for lower el.
Thanks again!

Mamta, Teacher Kathmandu, Nepal8/15/2010 3:08:36 AM

Thank you so much for the wonderful lesson plan. I teach in grade 2 in Kaasthmandap School in Nepal. I hope this will help me to explain about needs and wants. Thank you once again for the wonderful lesson plan.

Andrea, Parent Albuquerque, NM1/29/2011 12:56:36 AM

Very complete and well balanced. I appreciate you sharing this with fellow teachers/homeschool parents! Didn't require some crazy material or hard-to-find book and was just awesome. I loved the home connection.

Miss, Other Powhatan, VA5/3/2011 7:26:57 PM

Thanks for this lesson plan! I am a high school student completing a dual-enrollment internship program at our local emelentary school, and this lesson wil be perfect for my class!

Rachel, Teacher New York, NY5/11/2011 12:49:17 PM

Thank you very much for providing this lesson. I have a demo lesson scheduled for tomorrow, and I had to come up with a lesson for a kindergarten-first grade class. This was perfect!!!

Bruce, Teacher Norfolk City Schools, VA4/22/2015 3:27:06 PM

Thank You for sharing your lesson plan. I am a Kindergarten teacher in Virginia.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Caring About the Community Summary


The Wants and Needs of Making a Difference
Saving Makes Cents
Kids Can Make The Difference

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