Being a good self-advocate has important benefits for students. They learn to think differently and critically. They also are more likely to do well academically and interpersonally. The ability to be able to advocate for yourself and others also empowers students to find solutions to problems that others might not be aware of. This lesson helps you teach students about real-life advocacy and what it entails.
Provide a small introduction to the video with this short script: “Today we are going to learn what advocacy means, why it’s important and how you can participate! We are going to watch a video that will help you understand advocacy and how to advocate right here in your classroom and the local community.”
Show students the following whiteboard video clip on advocacy:
Then, in an online or written journal, have students answer the following questions. Please note you may have to define some terms and pre-teach the vocabulary to students so they know what the question(s) means:
Questions for lower early elementary:
Questions for upper elementary:
Next, debrief this article to students (or, for older students 4th grade and up, have them read it themselves) that demonstrates how students decided to do something to bring awareness and make a difference. Ask the students what stood out to them in the article and welcome a group discussion about advocacy and helping others.
Explains to students that they will be reading sentences about acts of “philanthropy” as a form of advocacy. Define philanthropy as charitable acts or other good works that help others or society as a whole. Define advocacy as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. Explain that when they advocate (or speak up for something or defend it) that they are actually being philanthropic because they are doing something good for society as a whole.
Provide some examples of advocacy at school, i.e., speaking up for stricter bullying consequences, bringing classroom concerns to the attention of administrators, creating a club to meet an unmet need on campus. Then explain that one of the elements that advocacy begins with is the willingness to speak up and speak out for or against something; to take courage.
Then engage students in the following activity:
Inform students that you will be reading several statements out loud. They will be given the opportunity to stand behind a number (1 to 5, with 5 being definitely agree and feel strongly about it and 1 being definitely disagree and feel strongly against it). You can find the Philanthropy Statements worksheet here and have students fill it out. Construction paper numbers should be placed on the floor throughout the room, numbered 1-5, so there is a designated section for each number/response. Once prompted by the teacher, the participants should then go to the number that best fits how they feel in response to the first statement. And then so on and so forth until each statement is shared and students can see what others think. To do this activity remotely, ask participants to share their numbers in the chat. The teacher may want to begin with some current issues facing students their age.
Then have students complete the following reflective questions:
Debrief as a group on the answers to each question. Discuss what stands out and how it relates to getting advocacy in action.
Finally, provide students with a homework assignment to research a local organization or community club they can become involved with that advocates for an issue that concerns them.
For students to become strong self-advocates, they must be able to reflect and self-assess. Teachers should prompt students to consider questions like, “What are things you excel at when you work hard?” “What do you often need more support in doing?” “How do you feel that you learn best?” Allow students to see themselves as learners in progress.