Processing Service Experiences

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Looking for some good ideas for processing service experiences with your students? This resource includes four "tried and true" classroom ideas.

I have been involved with our school's service-learning program for over ten years as a classroom teacher. Because the program is integrated fully in the religion, English, and social studies curriculum, we have made a commitment to processing the material with students. There are a variety of ways for students to process their service experiences on a regular basis, but some of the best activities I have used or been part of with students include:

  1. Student-led prayer: The students plan prayer services for the class. I divide them into groups based on who they serve (elderly, children, handicapped, poor), and they discuss what they have learned or can learn from these people. Included in each prayer is Scripture, music, and a short reflection that calls us to action.
  2. Weekly journal writing: Jounral writing is incorporated into English classes. The students do free writing around various prompts that challenge them to connect their experiences with our school's mission, the Gospel, and their life experiences. These are collected periodically and graded by the English teacher. At timesI use these prompts as large-group discussion openers in religion class.
  3. Student-led discussions: Students form groups and plan a creative way to discuss their service experiences from that week. The discussion and activity must last at least 20 minutes, include a thoughtful focus (theme, idea, thought to ponder) related to service, include everyone in their group, and engage the rest of the class in some way. (In other words, it can't be "boring"!) The type of processing uses multiple-intelligence theory. Each group is assigned one of the following genres: drama, music, video, food, mime, games. These have been very successful.
    • The last mime group used the song "Hands," by Jewel, and mimed what they did on service. They did face painting and included the rest of the class.
    • Video clips from movies are always effective with students. They have used some creative ones, including clips from
    • Simon Birch, where the boy risks his life to save another.
    • The Lion King, where Mufasa appears to Simba and reminds him to "remember who you are" (we are to be like Christ).
    • Where the Heart Is, highlighting the relationship between Natalie Portman's and Ashley Judd's characters as an example of being present to another.
    • The food group always has fun with it, and the rest of the class loves to eat. Some of the items focused on this year:
    • LifeSavers: We can be life-giving and fun!
    • Sunny Delight drink: We bring sunshine to those we serve.
    • Candy hearts: We bring love and positive messages to our service.
    • Fresh bread: We are called to be leaven for others and help them rise to a new place of being.
  4. An analysis of issues affecting those served is coordinated in social studies classes. Students are required to find one article a week that in some way connects to those they serve. These are kept in a notebook and discussed weekly in social studies classes.


Published April 20, 2001.