In Montessori schools, we firmly believe that children learn by doing. When they learn to add, for example, they use beads to physically set up the ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands for the top number and then the bottom, and then they physically push the numbers together and count the beads to determine the sum.
In addition to being excellent mathematicians, readers, writers, zoologists, geologists, etc., I also want my children to be excellent social activists. I want them to believe that they can turn their compassion into action. So what better way to teach them social action than to let them actually do it?
That’s where Make a Difference Day comes in. Make a Difference Day is a national day of community service, sponsored by USA WEEKEND Magazine. It takes place on the fourth Saturday of October each year. I like to use this event to plan a class-wide project. Through this experience, I am able to model how to plan and execute a community service project.
Following the concept of a gradual release of responsibility, I incorporate a significant amount of teacher support into the lessons, and the amount of student independence is lower. I do a lot of modeling and guided practice. This process will set them up to undertake their own projects in small groups later on in the year.
I will use our ten-minute “Lesson” time during our daily community meeting to facilitate the following lessons. I’m excited to see what they come up with!
What will children think, feel, and do by the end of the lesson?
- Be excited about the possibility of doing something to make the world a better place.
- Believe that kids can make a difference in the world.
- Describe and implement the steps for planning a project: Identifying the goal, collecting ideas, developing ideas, drafting, revising, editing, and executing.
- Observe body language
- Observe questions and discussion
- Book: Making a Difference by Time for Kids
- Chart paper
- Poster of “How to Plan a Project”
Agenda: Day One
- TEACHER: In our class, we talk a lot about living like a leader. Leaders are people who work hard to make the world better. We already know that kids can be leaders. We’ve talked about the idea that peace begins with you.
- Today we are going to read a story about kids making the world better. It’s called Making a Difference. [Read story]
- As a class, we’re going to have a special opportunity to make the world better. Saturday, October 24 is the national Make a Difference Day. We are going to work together to come up with a project that we can do together that will make the world better. Tonight, go home and start thinking about your ideas. During our next community meeting, we’ll brainstorm our ideas.
Agenda: Day Two
- TEACHER: During our last community meeting, we talked about how kids can make the world better [hold up book]. Now we’re going to start planning the project we want to do to make the world better on Saturday, October 24.
- Whenever I start a project, the first thing I do is think of my goal. I ask myself, “What do I want to accomplish? Why am I doing this?” Our goal for this project is to do something that makes the world better [write on a piece of chart paper for the children to see]. Next, I collect ideas about how to accomplish the goal. Let’s go back to the book and get some ideas from it. [add ideas to list]
- Now let’s come up with our own ideas to add to our list. When we are collecting ideas, we need to be careful to respect everyone’s ideas, even if we think they won’t work or sound silly. Everything that people say can give someone else another idea, so all ideas are useful and helpful. [call on students and add their ideas to the list]
- Keep thinking about our ideas tonight. Talk with your friends and families and see if you can come up with any more ideas! We’ll come back tomorrow and pick one of our ideas.
Agenda: Day Three
- TEACHER: We’ve been working on our Make a Difference Day project. We started by coming up with our goal. [read goal] Next, we started collecting ideas. [read ideas] Does anyone have any other ideas they want to add to the list?
- Now it’s time to select one of our ideas. You are going to vote for your favorite idea. You can only vote one time, so listen closely while I read all the ideas again and you can decide which one is your favorite. [read the list through once]
- Now I’m going to read the list again and you can vote for your favorite idea. Remember that leaders act courageously. Even if you are the only person who likes a particular idea, you should be bold and raise your hand. It takes courage to vote for something that is unpopular. [read through the list and record the number of votes next to each idea; ensure that each person voted once]
- Now that we have our project idea picked, tomorrow we can start planning it!
Agenda: Day Four
- TEACHER: We’ve been working on our Make a Difference Day project. We started by coming up with our goal. [read goal] Next, we started collecting ideas. Yesterday, we picked one of our ideas. Now it is time to develop that idea. Let’s make a web to come up with all the ideas we have about how to implement the project we selected. [make a web] Remember, when we are collecting and developing ideas, we need to be careful to respect everyone’s ideas, even if we think they won’t work or sound silly. Everything that people say can give someone else another idea, so all ideas are useful and helpful. [call on students and add their ideas to the web]
- We’ve come up with a lot of great ideas! Tomorrow, we will come up with a step-by-step plan for implementing our idea.
Agenda: Day Five
- TEACHER: We’ve been working on our Make a Difference Day project. We started by coming up with our goal. [read goal] Next, we started collecting ideas. Then, we picked one of our ideas and developed it. Now it is time to come up with a step-by-step plan for how to implement our plan. In other words, what do we need to do first, second, third, etc. in order to undertake this project? Also, what materials do we need? [create a draft of the plan and the materials list—skip lines on the plan to allow room for revising]
- Now that we have our plan, it’s time to revise it. Let’s read back over it and see if there’s anything we need to add, delete, rearrange, or replace.
- Now let’s edit it to see if we need to add/change any capital letters or end marks or if we need to fix our spelling.
- Is there anyone who can turn our rough draft (“sloppy copy”) into a final draft during work time tomorrow?
Agenda: Day Six
- TEACHER: We’ve been working on our Make a Difference Day project. We started by coming up with our goal. [read goal] Next, we started collecting ideas. Then, we picked one of our ideas and developed it. Finally, we came up with a plan and a list of materials we need to gather. Thank you so much to ______________ for excelling as a leader and taking on more work by making our final draft.
- Now we need to read through all of our steps and decide who is going to do them and by when.
- We’ll check in every day to see how our project is going!