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

Mother Teresa
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson will help students identify the attributes of a hero as related to acting for the common good. The students will identify Mother Teresa as a hero for her philanthropic work and highlight examples of her work and character. While written for a Catholic Elementary School, this lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.


Four Thirty-Minute Class Periods


The learner will:
  • list characteristics of a hero.

  • describe the work of Mother Teresa and her ministry with the poor.

  • identify heroes in his/her own life.


  • Student copies of Handout One: Mother Teresa of Calcutta Quiz (Spanish version, Handout Two)

  • Mother Teresa, Sister of the Poor by Patricia Reilly Giff (see Bibliographical References)

  • The Children's Book of Heroes by William J. Bennett (see Bibliographical References)

  • Pictures of homeless people for group story

  • Paper and pencils
Handout 1
Mother Teresa of Calcutta Quiz (and Answer Key, delete answers prior to making student copies)
Handout 2
Prueba de la Madre Teresa de Calcuta (y Clave, borre las respuestas antes de hacer las copias de los estudiantes)

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Read the following quote by Mother Teresa to the class:

Give! Give the love you have received
To those around you.
You must love with your time,
Your hands and your hearts.
You need to share all that you have.
-Mother Teresa, from Hearts of Joy

Day One:

  • Review the definition of a philanthropist. Discuss the above poem as it relates to philanthropy. Ask the students whether they think Mother Teresa was a philanthropist. Discuss whether a philanthropist can be a hero. Divide the class into small groups to come up with a list of words or phrases that describes a hero. Each group will present its ideas to the class. For purposes of this lesson, use the following definition of hero: a person who is admired for great courage, special achievements, or noble character.

Day Two:

  • Arrange students in small groups. Give each group a picture of a poor
    or homeless person. Discuss with the class the needs (food, shelter, friends, medical and dental care) of the poor and homeless. (Teacher Note: During the discussion, be sensitive to the possibility that some members of the class may have been, or may presently be homeless. Emphasize that no one intentionally chooses to be homeless or that it is a result of being "lazy" or ignorant, it is a circumstance in which anyone could find themselves.) Tell each group to give the person in the picture a name and write a short biography. Upon completion, have students share their stories. Discuss ways people help homeless people. Challenge the students to think of ways they personally can help.

Day Three:

  • Read the story from The Children's Book of Heroes about Mother Teresa. Review the story and discuss the fact that all over the world Mother Teresa was known as a person of good character with personal virtue. Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior in a democracy. Brainstorm personal traits they should work toward. Talk about the deeds that made Mother Teresa a hero to many. Another good book about Mother Teresa is Mother Teresa: Sister to the Poor by Patricia Reilly Giff.

    • On a wall map locate the city of Calcutta, India, and where we live in the United States. Locate (on individual desk maps, if possible): New Delhi, the Himalayan
      Mountains, the Ganges River, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.
    • Give students the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Quiz (Attachment One).

Day Four:

  • Have students write about Mother Teresa. They may write a poem, a song, a biography, or a comparison with a hero of their choosing. Students should incorporate their ideas about philanthropy and heroes in their writing.


The biographies that students write about a homeless person will indicate if they understand the needs of the homeless. The quiz about Mother Teresa will assess factual information on Mother Teresa. Writing about Mother Teresa will assess their understanding of Mother Teresa's role as philanthropist and hero.

School/Home Connection:

Send the students home on Day One with instructions to talk to their parents about what it means to be a hero. Have the students discuss the idea with their parents and write down any descriptors proposed by their parents. They can bring their parents' ideas with them for the discussion on day three and the writing on day four.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Take a field trip to a local soup kitchen or other organization that feeds or helps homeless people in your community. Have the students help out in any way they can.

Bibliographical References:

  • Bennett, William and Michael Hague. The Children's Book of Heroes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986. ISBN: 0684834456

  • Giff, Patricia Reilly. Mother Teresa: Sister to the Poor (Women of Our Time). Viking Press, 1986. ISBN: 0670810967

  • Manternach, Janaan and Carl J. Pfeifer. This Is Our Faith. Parsippany, NJ: Silver Burdett Ginn, Inc., 1998.

  • <www.learningtogive.org>, Resource Room, Briefing Papers, scroll to Mother Teresa

  • <http://www.time.com/time/time100/heroes/profile/teresa01.html> (a good site for a summary of Mother Teresa's life as well as links to other resource sites)

Lesson Developed By:

Valerie Williams
Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids
St. Alphonsus Elementary School
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Mother Teresa of Calcutta Quiz (and Answer Key, delete answers prior to making student copies)

Read each statement, and write true or false in the blank.

_____ 1. Mother Teresa got up very early in the morning before the sun rose. (True)

_____ 2. Mother Teresa lived in a big house along with other women. They were like a family. (True)

_____ 3. Mother Teresa helped sick people. She was not willing to touch people because she did not want to get sick herself. (False)

_____ 4. Mother Teresa spent most of her time working in a hospital in Calcutta. She made a lot of money for her work. (False)

_____ 5. Mother Teresa has traveled to other lands to visit people living in areas of fighting, war, or an earthquake. She also visited other sisters around the world, who do the same kind of work. (True)

_____ 6. Mother Teresa helped one person at a time. But her helping of one person at a time added up to thousands and thousands of people all over the world. (True)

_____ 7. Mother Teresa said, "A child is a gift of God. Every child is here to love and be loved." (True)

_____ 8. Mother Teresa was proud of the work she did and took full credit for helping people. (False)

_____ 9. Mother Teresa lived and worked in Calcutta, China. (False)

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Prueba de la Madre Teresa de Calcuta (y Clave, borre las respuestas antes de hacer las copias de los estudiantes)

Lee las siguientes delcaraciones y escribe verdad o falso en la línea en blanco.

_____ 1. La Madre Teresa se levantaba muy temprano en la mañana antes de que amaneciera. (Verdad)

_____ 2. La Madre Teresa vivió en una gran casa con otras mujeres. Eran como una familia. (Verdad)

_____ 3. La Madre Teresa ayudó a los enfermos. No quiso tocar a los enfermos porque no quería que se le pegaran las enfermedades. (Falso)

_____ 4. La Madre Teresa pasó la mayor parte del tiempo trabajando en un hospital en Calcuta.  Hizo mucho dinero por su trabajo. (Falso)

_____ 5. La Madre Teresa viajó a otras tierras para visitar a gente que vivía en áreas de combate, guerra o terremoto.  Siempre visitó a otras hermanas en el mundo que hacían el mismo trabajo que ella. (Verdad)

_____ 6. La Madre Teresa ayudaba a una persona cada vez.  Pero al ayudar a una persona cada vez terminó ayudando a miles y miles de personas en todo el mundo. (Verdad)

_____ 7. La Madre Teresa dijo, “Un niño es un regalo de Dios. Cada niño está aquí para amar y ser amado”.  (Verdad)

_____ 8. La Madre Teresa estaba orgullosa de su trabajo y tomó todo el crédito por ayudar a otros. (Falso)

_____ 9. La Madre Teresa vivió en Calcuta, China. (Falso)

Philanthropy Framework:


Marilyn, Teacher St Charles, MI10/27/2007 1:24:45 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) children learning about Mother Theresa and the homeless. They realized that homeless people in the US are invisible and many of them are children. Some of my children have worked at the Soup Kitchen.

JoAnn, Teacher Coldwater, MI10/27/2007 1:26:30 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) it was nicely laid out. It fits in perfectly with our parochial setting and materials.

Kathi, Teacher Muskegon, MI10/27/2007 1:27:50 PM

The true-false quiz was a great way to check for understanding.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Heroes and Their Impact Summary


Jackie Robinson, A Black Hero
Mother Teresa
Rosa Parks

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