Poverty Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

Use this lesson plan to teach students about poverty. Students will investigate examples of what poverty means to many people around the world and will also look at the meaning of 'necessity' to develop an understanding of what poverty is not.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define poverty
  • Identify items that are considered necessities vs. wants
  • Identify ways to decrease poverty


45-50 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.


  • Poverty
  • Unemployed
  • Working poor
  • Life necessity


  • Copies of the What is Poverty? - Lesson for Kids text lesson
  • Copies of the lesson quiz
  • Tape
  • Prepared index cards (5-6 stacks of about 20 cards each)
    • On half of the cards, write the names of items that would be considered necessities (food, clothing, a home, etc.).
    • On the other half, write the names of items that would be considered wants (popular shoes, fancy home, sporty car, etc.).


  • Write the word ''Poverty'' on the board and invite students to share what they know about the word. Ask guiding questions such as:
    • What do you think it means to be in poverty?
    • Who are the people living in poverty? Are they local? Are they around the world?
    • Is it possible to help people who live in poverty?
    • Do you think it is possible to know if someone in your community lives in poverty?
  • Introduce the What is Poverty? - Lesson for Kids and read the description aloud.
  • Read the 'Is Amy Poor?' and 'What is Poverty?' sections of the lesson. Ask:
    • Would you consider Amy to be poor? Why or why not?
    • What is poverty?
    • What does it mean to be unemployed?
    • Who are the working poor?
    • Name some things that are necessities.
  • Read the 'What Poverty is Not' section aloud. Discuss:
    • What is a life necessity?
    • How can we tell the difference between a necessity and a want?
  • Finally, read the lesson summary, emphasizing the key terms listed above.
  • Follow up by asking some deeper questions:
    • Describe how you think it might feel to live in poverty.
    • How is a life in poverty different than your or your friends' lives?
    • What are some things you might have to give up if you lived in poverty?
    • How do you think we can help those who live in poverty in our community?
    • How can we help people outside of our own community? In our country? Around the world?
  • Allow time for any additional discussion and answer any questions that students might still have.
  • Administer the lesson quiz to check for understanding. Students can work together or independently. Be sure to go over the questions and answers and provide further guidance as needed.

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