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A lesson plan by Harriet Heath, Ph.D. Dr. Heath is Director of the Parent Center at Bryn Mawr College. She is the author of numerous books, articles and curricula on parenting and caring, including the curriculum for children, Learning How to Care: Education for Parenting. For more information about this curriculum, visit Prepare Tomorrow's Parents' resource page at www.preparetomorrowsparents.org/resource.html

Contact: Dr. Harriet Heath
Phone: 610-649-7037


  • Caring is knowing, feeling, and acting in the interests of others. It means to be concerned about and to facilitate the growth and actualization of other people, the planet, and even oneself.
  • To care requires knowing what the situation is, thinking of ways to deal with the situation and from there making a plan that will meet the needs of those involved.
  • To care involves implementing this plan and reflecting on its effectiveness.
  • Parenting is an example of an intense form of caring because of the closeness of the relationship between parent and child, the length of time involved and the degree of responsibility.
  • Students who understand this parenting process can apply it to many other situations.

There are many activities within the school program that provide an opportunity for teaching students how to care such as when older students read to younger ones, or share an activity when a student more competent in a field teaches another student or when students visit the elderly. In these kind of caring situations the student taking responsibility for the activity is called the “lead partner” much as a parent is with their child.

OBJECTIVES: Students will plan for, implement and reflect on a caring experience.

PREPARATION: To be most effective, teachers need to plan to coordinate their students for a shared activity such as more advanced readers reading to students who are less advanced. Students might be First Graders reading to Kindergarteners or students with a learning difference reading to younger children or Sixth Graders to First.

(The program offers a wonderful opportunity for students who have found reading difficult to read interesting books written for much younger children. The older students would be embarrassed to pick up these books for themselves but can do so when preparing to read to younger children.)

The planning must consider who is going to read to whom, when the activity will occur and how frequently. A series of three or four sessions provides for more grasping of what is involved in caring and the learning that comes to the lead partner reflecting on the process.

LESSON: The teacher of the younger partners will introduce the program as an opportunity to hear a story and to get to know an older student.
The teacher of the lead partners will guide them through the planning process:

Describe the situation:

  • Why the children need to be read to.
  • The reasons may be that no one reads to them, that reading is fun, reading is a way of getting to know other children in the school.
  • Who will the children be and when and where will the reading take place.

    Brainstorm: What are all the ways that we could read to these children?

    List on a blackboard or newsprint as quickly as you can as students give ideas. Encourage students to think of as many ways as possible, workable ways and less appropriate ones. Students should mention ideas related to where and when the reading will take place, the tone of voice used by the reader, the speed of reading, the expression, body movements, how pictures are or are not shown, kinds of books, who will choose the books.

    (If writing is easy for the lead students, have them write the ideas … two students writing can keep the process moving which is good for the flow of ideas.)

    We have many ideas, now which ones should we implement? We need to ask“What are our goals for reading?”

    (Look for students to talk about wanting the reading time to be fun and enjoyable. It is an opportunity to share one’s gifts and feel needed and effective.)

    Choose an Option: Which of your ideas for reading to the children will be more apt to achieve these goals?

    Ideas should include reading in a comfortable place, having a book that is interesting to the child being read to, reading with expression, and being friendly towards the child.

    (The students will need to explore and expand some of these ideas.)

    Have a student demonstrate reading with expression by reading in a monotone and then with expression, reading very slowly or too fast.

    Talk about how you hold a book so all can see.

    Consider what is a comfy and non-distractible place to read.

    Discuss what makes a book enjoyable?
    Pictures; Story; Theme of interest)

    How find out what will appeal to a child?
    Students need to get to know the child, know their age, interests, needs, etc.

How find out …

  • Talk to child or a child’s teacher
  • One might plan for students to write to their partners asking about their interests. This brings in a writing activity.
  • One might plan a visit to the library with or without the child to be read to.

Finalize plans: (See box below)

Implement the plan

Reflect: (Have the students discuss their experiences).

The following questions may guide the lead partners in their discussion:

  • Did the children being read to like the book? Did they seem to have fun? How do you know?
  • What do you feel went well? What will you change next time?

Lead partners at this time may write out their plans for their next partnering experience.The partners may want to share their stories, tell about their experiences and maybe write thank you notes.

COMMENTS: This lesson plan is part of a curriculum, Learning How to Caring: Education for Parenting, teaching caring by teaching parenting. The focus of the curriculum is the parent infant monthly visits. Students, planning for those visit use the caring paradigm outlined above. (Harriet is this what you meant by saying you have another box?) They observe and hear about caring by watching the parents nurture their children and by asking questions about what it means to be a parent.

The Caring Process taught in Learning How to Caring: Education for Parenting can be easily integrated into traditional academic subjects as well as developing rules for classroom management. Planning for and reflecting on the parent-infant visit, as well as the actual visit, incorporate problem-solving skills. The observations of parents and their children and the reflections of students about their own childhood experiences makes rich content for written work. Reading assignments can include books that have caring as a theme. (lists of such books are available.) Work in science on preserving the environment can integrate the caring process. Teachers encourage students to apply the caring process in their social relationships. The program also involves helping teachers use the caring process in relating to parents, teachers, students, etc.

Adaptations of the curriculum meet specific needs of specific groups of students, schools and programs such as after school programs, religious settings and mentoring programs where older children care for younger ones.

Recognizing that if children were to learn to care they needed more opportunities than once a month parent/infant visits, important as these were, Dr. Heath, Dr McDermott with several other Quaker educators organized The Caring Project, which expanded the program to encompass caring in all components of school life. For more information see www.preparetomorrowsparents.org.

The Caring Process
The situation
Her guides for making her plan: Developmental level Interests, Information about Samatha's developmental level and interests. She used this information to make her plan … the story she chose…
A Plan
Zoey will be a lead partner. She will read to Samatha. Zoey found out that Samatha was from Mexico and liked to play jump rope. She chose a short story about a girl in a jump rope contest. She found a quiet spot in the health center of the school for them to read in. She practiced reading the story before she met Samatha.

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