Students work with adults in service learning projects to build community.
Students work with adults in service learning projects to build community.


Introduction: Inquiry based lesson plan for 8-60 students and adults.

Goal: When this session is complete, participants should be able to…

  • Build common understanding of certain words and concepts
  • Critically examine classroom learning and school activities for power, trust, and respect

Time: 30 minutes


Space: Enough room for people to work in small groups

Considerations: People generally assume that their understanding of a certain word is the same thing another person understands. Oftentimes people haven’t really examined what they mean by using certain words. For particularly tricky words—like power, respect and trust—you can get in a fine mss if group members define their terms very differently. This exercise asks a group to look closely at some key terms and talk about what they really mean.



  1. Write these terms on flip chart paper, one at a time:
    • Power
    • Trust
    • Support
    • Respect
  1. Instruct the participants; Jot down a definition if this term based on your individual experience with it—not on dictionary definitions. Ask “what does it mean to you? This isn’t about what it’s supposed to mean, but rather what it does mean, feel free to use drawings or symbols, as long as you can explain what the symbols mean.”
  1. After participants have had a chance to think about it (3min. or so), have them split it into small groups. In each group have individuals share their definitions and why they defined it that way.
  1. Have groups report back. Record key words. Phrases or ideas for each word on the flip chart.
  1. As a whole group, begin by discussing the definitions specifically:
  • What were some of the differences in interpretation of the words? Why?
  • Did the understanding of the word change? Why? How?
  1. Next, discuss some of the issues more closely associated with the term:
  • Are there different kinds of power/trust/ support?
  • Where does the concept come from?
  • How do you get power/trust/support?
  • What happens when you are unsupported? Not empowered? Not trusted?
  • What kinds of responsibilities go along with these terms?
  • What does your culture say but these terms?
  1. Close by asking how power relates to students and adults working together. What is important to keep in mind? Remind participants that the goal is to have a common understanding of words like “power, trust, and support.” This understanding builds the base for future communication and understanding.


  • Mural: Put a big blank piece of paper (the kind that comes on the roll) on the wall. Have people draw images or symbols or words that represent power (or respect, trust, etc.) to them. Use the mural to prompt discussion.
  • Mind map: Write one of the terms in the middle of a big piece of paper. Have people write related words or phrases around it, and words related to those words or phrases. Draw circles around all the words and draw lines between connected words.
  • Tableaux: Have small groups discuss the term for a few minutes. Then have them create a scene (everyone must be involved, people can represent objects, no one can move or talk), which represents the term. The large group then talks about what they saw represented in the tableaux.
  • Skits: Similar to Tableaux, but this time team members create short (two or three minute) skits. This time people can move and talk. Again, the large group talks about what they saw represented in the Skit.


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SoundOut is an international technical support project focused on student voice, student engagement and Meaningful Student Involvement. We offer workshops, tools and technical assistance to K-12 schools including teachers, administrators and students themselves. For more information visit our About Us page.

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