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Featured Activity

My Voice Activity: Sad World, Happy World

Grades: K, 1, 2, 3 and 4 • Curriculum: Speaking & Listening

What distinquished My Voice from other service-learning approaches is our focus on student voice. We begin by asking students what in their communities and schools they care about most. The simple act of asking students, engaging them in the identification of the social issue, has power. The conversationo itself ignites motivation. One such activity is "Sad World, Happy World."

Description: Brainstorm with students a list of things (real world problems and situations) that make them feel sad and/or happy. The responses can be general and sweeping (such as “violence”) or focused and specific (such as “when someone drinks too much beer and acts crazy.”) This activity is most appropriate for elementary students.

Time Frame: 30 - 40 minutes

Materials: Blackboard and chalk OR flip chart and markers

Objectives – Students will be able to:
1. Discuss various social issues
2. Brainstorm possible topics for their service-learning project

1. Remind students of the focus this year on service-learning. Explain that the purpose of this
brainstorming activity is to generate as many ideas as possible for project issues.
2. Record studentsʼ responses to the questions: “What in the world makes you sad?” then “What makes you happy?” Ask students to think of issues that affect them on a personal level as well as those that affect the community.
3. Invite students to share their responses one at a time. Repeat the response and record it trying to use the student’s exact words.
4. After students share their ideas, attempt to categorize the responses. For example, “shooting with
guns” might fit into the broader category of “crime,” which, in turn, is a form of “violence.”
5. Use the list to discuss possible topics for the service-learning project. Ask students to think about
which issues are most prevalent in the community, most important to the class, and most interesting to pursue.

1. Was there a willingness to share and listen supportively to peers?
2. Did the list include a variety of issues?

Curriculum Standards: Speaking, Listening

Writing: For older students, use the Sad World, Happy World exercise as a brainstorming activity. Then ask students to write a creative piece (poem, essay, song) describing their “contrasting worlds.” The writing should reflect issues that affect students on a personal level and in their community.

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