Introducing Generosity

At any grade level, before you begin a Wow Project, it is important to introduce the concept of generosity. How you do this, and on what level you discuss generosity, will depend on what is developmentally appropriate for your students. We also know that you probably have great ideas of your own, but just in case you are looking for inspiration on how to help students understand and talk about generosity, below we’ve shared some possible activities. Feel free to borrow, adapt, and make this perfectly suited for your classroom.

Also, a quick note– we know you are trying to achieve a bizillion things in a day with your students, and that time is limited. We get that you might not spend days on generosity. Sometimes a 10 minute lesson is enough to kick off your project!

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like help figuring out how to introduce the concept of generosity and how to weave it into your existing curriculum and grade level standards. A representative from Wow is happy to coordinate with you and integrate this introduction into your curriculum. Just email: eherrick@wow-students.org or lstumph@wow-students.org

Ask your students to complete the sentence, “Generosity is________” Do not preface this with your own definition, just ask students to quietly complete the sentence. Next, invite students to pair and share their sentences. After these small shares, engage students in a larger discussion: how many students had similar or different definitions? What definitions do you have? How have you ever been generous? Would you like to be? How would you like to be generous? Why be generous?
After your discussion, ask students to complete the same sentence: “generosity is______.” You can have students do this on their own papers, or your could pass out index cards or colorful strips of paper and then collect them and post them somewhere on the wall to view in the days to come.

Use a short film to get your students thinking and discussing generosity. Edutopia has curated a great list of films between 1 and 4 minutes long, just be sure to preview them first to make sure they are appropriate for your age group:

Edutopia Films

Children’s books are a fabulous way to introduce generosity to elementary and even middle school students. If you are working with older students (middle or upper school), we’ve curated a list of articles and book excerpts that could be appropriate for introducing generosity.
Check out our Recommended Reads page for book summaries, linked activities and project connections
Briefly review the concept of generosity with your students and then brainstorm with them a handful of favors that take five minutes or less that they can complete. Depending upon the age of your students, give them time to complete the scavenger hunt during class, or challenge them to complete their scavenger hunt outside of school as homework.
Define the term generosity with your students. Then ask your students what sort of ways they could give. Eventually, zero in on the idea that there are many ways one can give and all of them are beneficial: give time, give talent (abilities), give thanks, give money or give items, give kindness to people we know and strangers. Finally, focus on giving thanks– ask your students to jot down a list of what they are thankful for and then ask them to pick one thing on their lists– have students write that one item on a colorful piece of paper and pin it to the wall (students don’t need to attach their name to their thanks).
Finally, introduce your Wow project. Explain that your class has the opportunity to give their time, their talent treasure through Wow!

** If you are looking to tie this into a longer activity, you could ask your students to write a piece on something they are thankful for, or ask them to write a formal thank you note to someone for whom they are thankful. This is a great way for younger students to practice their writing skills and to learn the art of a formal letter… a skill that will benefit them throughout life!

There are several interesting Ted Talks on the importance of giving and how it impacts our health and wellbeing in individuals and communities. These are a great way to get older students thinking about generosity. See the list below– if you are short on time, you can select specific sections to show your students.
Michael Norton: How to buy happiness
Sasha Dichter: The generosity experiment
Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter
On a bulletin board, construct a large apple tree. The apples should be cut-outs that the students can write on. Have them write ways they can be generous and ways that they have been recipients of generosity (If you want to make this reflection longer, you can read the book The Giving Tree before introducing the tree in your classroom). This can also be a great way to reflect on the concept of generosity after your project.
Create a lesson on generous figures throughout history– your students can learn that many of the world’ changemakers have also been incredibly generous. Ask your students to research philanthropists or community advocates throughout history (you could tie this into a particular era of history or part of the world that you are studying). Feel free to ask a Wow representative to help you cull a list of appropriate people and organizations to research.