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What Makes a Good Citizen?

Objectives Students will: Identify ways in which citizens contribute to the common good, Recognize characters from literature who contribute to the common good, and Identify and illustrate a characteristic of good citizens. Teacher Background Often, young people think of citizenship as involving only such activities as holding public office, voting, or serving on a jury. While these activities are important, good citizens also contribute to the common good in a wide variety of other ways. Literature provides a rich array of models of promoting the common good, models that this lesson draws upon. Following a brainstorm on what makes a good citizen, students analyze characters from literature to determine why they are good citizens. They then prepare a page for an alphabet book highlighting a characteristic of good citizens and illustrating how the character in their story showed that characteristic. This lesson addresses Illinois standard 14.c.1: Identify concepts of responsible citizenship including respect for the law, patriotism, civility, and working with others. Resources Student Handout S-1, "What Makes a Good Citizen?" Materials for making the large pages of the alphabet book. Copies of several books that provide models of citizenship. Several that we recommend are described in the Companion Literature section, but the choices are almost limitless--many of your favorite books could probably be used in this lesson. Biographies could also be very effective. Procedure 1. Open the lesson by writing the following question on the chalkboard: What makes a good citizen? Brainstorm with students the characteristics of a good citizen or actions that they think a good citizen would take. Post their answers on the chalkboard or on posting paper. 2.

Tell students that some experts have given the following definition of a good citizen:

Adapted from C Is for Citizenship: Children's Literature and Civic Understanding, by Laurel R. Singleton (Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium, 1997). Used with permission of the author.

A good citizen works for the good of all. A good citizen tries to protect our country and make it better. Help students understand this definition and allow time for them to react to it. 3. Explain that students will be reading several books. While reading, they are going to think about what characters in the books, if any, are good citizens. Depending on the age and reading skills of your students, you may want to have small groups of students read different books or you may want to read several of the books aloud to the class and then organize the students into groups, assigning one book to each group. Distribute Handout 1 to the groups and ask them to pick a character from the book they think was a good citizen. They should then use the handout to analyze why he/she was a good citizen. Allow time for groups to complete their handouts. Next, tell students that they are going to make pages for a big alphabet book about citizenship. Each page of the book will show one characteristic of a good citizen (such as honesty or responsibility) or something that citizens do (such as voting or helping others). Distribute markers or crayons and large sheets of papers to the groups and allow time for them to create their pages. Display the pages around the room. Allow time for students to look at the pages displayed. Give each group two or three minutes to explain their page. Return to the brainstormed list that students created at the beginning of the lesson, asking students to consider how some of the ideas have been illustrated through the group discussions and the book pages. Would they add anything to their list? Would they take anything off?


5. 6.

Enrichment Have each group of students use the experiences from this lesson to create a poster that shows the "Model Citizen." The model might be created from the parts of characters in the stories; for example, a group might want their "Model Citizen" to have the heart of Ruby Bridges, the gentle hands of the barber who cleaned the willow tree loon, the feet of the marchers in the civil rights movement, and so on. When groups have completed their posters, display them where other classes can enjoy them.

Companion Literature Ballot Box Battle, by Emily Arnold McCully (New York: Knopf, 1996). This book tells parallel stories of a young girl's struggle for acceptance and her neighbor's efforts to vote (her neighbor just happens to be Elizabeth Cady Stanton). Candy Shop, by Jan Wahl, illustrated by Nicole Wong (Watertown, MA; Charlesbridge, 2004). When the narrator of the story goes to the candy store with his Aunt Thelma, they discover a crowd gawking at nasty words written on the sidewalk while the owner cries inside. As the adults stand by, the young man takes responsibility and washes the sidewalk. Carl the Complainer, by Michelle Knudson, illustrated by Maryann CoccaLeffler (New York: Kane Press, 2005). Carl learns that, instead of complaining about things he doesn't like, he can take action by petitioning the government. City Green, by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (New York: Morrow, 1994). An urban community turns an empty lot into a neighborhood garden. The Day Gogo Went to Vote, by Elinor Batezat Sisulu, illustrated by Sharon Wilson (New York: Little Brown, 1996). This book illustrates the extraordinary effort that black South Africans made to vote in the first election in which they were able to take part in electing their nation's leader. A Day's Work, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler (New York: Clarion Books, 1994). Young Francisco finds work for himself and his grandfather, but the work involves gardening, something they know nothing about. After a long day of work, they discover they have pulled up the plants instead of the weeds. When his grandfather insists that they correct the mistake, Francisco gets a lesson in important values. Dear Mr. Rosenwald, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (New York: Scholastic, 2006). This book is based on actual events in the 1920s, when a philanthropist offered money to African American communities to build schools--but only after they raised money themselves. For an impoverished community, this was a difficult task and the story of how they achieved it is moving. The Impossible Patriotism Project, by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Ard Hoyt (New York: Penguin, 2007). When his classmates build a papiermache Liberty Bell, create Statue of Liberty costumes, and draw fabulous

maps of the United States, Caleb cannot think of a patriotism project for the class display. In the end, however, his project reflects true sacrifice for the good of our country. Jamaica Louise James, by Amy Hest, illustrated by Sheila White Samton (Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1996). To cheer up her grandmother, Jamaica paints posters to hang in the subway station. The result is a place where everyone is friendlier and happier. Just a Dream, by Chris Van Allsburg (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990). Young Walter is careless, littering and refusing to sort the trash for recycling. When he dreams about a future created by actions like his own, he decides to act responsibly. The Kindness Quilt, by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2006). When the students in Mrs. Cooper's class are challenged to do acts of kindness and depict them in drawings, their work is so impressive, they create a "kindness quilt" that continues to grow. Knitting Nell, by Julie Jersild Roth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Nell is a quiet girl who likes to knit--she knits for people she knows and people she doesn't. At the county fair, she wins an award for helping others, and suddenly her friends want to learn to knit, too. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, by Jeanette Winter (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 2005). This book tells the true story of a brave Iraqi librarian who saved the books in her library when war was threatening. Mrs. Katz and Tush, by Patricia Polacco (New York: Bantam Books, 1992). Larnel, a young African American boy, befriends elderly Mrs. Katz, learns about the struggles of her people (Polish Jews), and gains a lifelong friend. Now One Foot, Now the Other, by Tomie de Paola (New York: Putnam's, 1981). When Bobby's grandfather has a stroke that leaves him incapacitated, Bobby is scared at first but eventually takes responsibility for helping his grandfather. Sato and the Elephants, by Juanita Havill and Jean and Mou-sien Tseng (New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1993). A carver of ivory one day discovers a bullet embedded in the piece he is carving; realizing an elephant died to supply his materials, he decides to become a carver of stone instead.

The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles (New York: Scholastic, 1995). Ruby Bridges was just a little girl when she became one of the first students to integrate New Orleans' public schools, but her courage and dignity amaze and inspire the reader. Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen, by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (New York: Morrow, 1991). A young boy who is afraid of homeless people gains a new perspective when he helps his uncle work at the soup kitchen. Washing the Willow Tree Loon, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995). Ordinary citizens work together to rescue birds caught in an oil spill.

Student Handout S-1

What Makes a Good Citizen?

A good citizen works for the good of all. A good citizen tries to protect our country and make it better. 1. Who was a good citizen in your book? Make sure everyone in your group agrees. What did this person do for the good of all?



What did this person do to protect our country and make it better?


Did the person do anything that a good citizen would not do? If so, list those things here.


Make a page for an alphabet book. The page should show why your character was a good citizen. For example, the page might say V is for Voting. Or K is for Kindness. Draw a picture that shows your character being a good citizen.


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Microsoft Word - What Makes a Good Citizen_2-4_.doc