Students at Hettie Halstead Elementary School line up to put their toys in the donation box for charity. Students donated their toys as part of a financial literacy lesson after learning about the homeless and wanting to help other children in-need.

Courtesy of CCISD

Upon learning they could have a part in charitable giving, first-graders in teacher Yvonne Miller’s class at Hettie Halstead Elementary School decided to host a gently used toy drive, an idea that sprouted after some personal finance lessons that taught the difference between saving, spending and charitable giving.

During a read aloud of the book, “Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting,” the students demonstrated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills of making connections, making inferences and predicting. They became genuinely concerned about the fictional character, Andrew, who was their age, homeless and lived in an airport with his dad. In class, they worked in self-selected small groups writing and recording book reviews to share what they liked about the text and why.

“I liked the part when Andrew got upset at children in the airport meeting their moms, and he could not do that because his mom was dead,” first-grader Karina Lathan said. “He wanted to scream, but he did not because he did not want to be noticed.”

Noticed was a word the students had learned to use context clues to understand the meaning. This book opened a conversation about the homeless and family problems; the students shared some very personal situations.

After another read aloud titled, “If Jesus Came to My House” by Joan G. Thomas, the class wrote a letter to Andrew inviting him to their homes.

“I chose this lesson to make as many connections as possible including text to self, text-to-text, text to world, and text to math. As the students shared their work, I began to cry as I realized how much they wanted to do something kind for someone in need,” Miller said. “I mentioned to them that if they wanted to do something nice, perhaps they could bring in one of their toys to give away.”

First-grader Robert Phipps came to school the next day and removed the stuffed minion clip-on from his backpack saying he wanted to give it to another child in need. Miller asked if he was sure, he replied yes and put it in the box. He was happy to share. One by one, the students brought in their toys, gladly sharing with other children who had nothing.

Working through Communities in Schools, the toys were donated to local Cove charity, Thanks For The Little Things, who gives toys, books, shoes, clothing and more to families in need.

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