Students reflect on the question, “What is purpose?” They watch video clips and read stories about real-life examples of people who have demonstrated a sense of purpose in their actions. Students reflect on how these stories connect to their own sense of purpose. Then, they begin the process of creating vision boards to illustrate ideas they have about their own purpose.


Students will be able to:

  1. Articulate “the power of purpose” using real-world examples of people with purpose
  2. Apply these examples of people with purpose to their own purpose
  3. Create a vision board to express their purpose


Computer/projector, printouts with “the power of purpose” questions, pen/paper


Time Activity Notes
2 min

Begin with a quick introduction to the idea of purpose.

For example, give students a short writing prompt, such as the question, “What is purpose?” or one of the quotes in the sidebar to the right. Or, provide a short anecdote of a time in your own life where you found or displayed purpose, and ask if anyone has a similar story.

Before transitioning to the videos, preview that you are going to watch several videos to examine real-world examples of people with purpose, and, as students watch, they should listen and try to identify each person’s unique purpose.

Suggested writing prompts:

  • What is your purpose?
  • Respond to one of the quotes below:
    • “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ― Mark Twain
    • “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” – David Viscott
10 min

Choose 2-5 videos or stories (as time and your class needs permit) that feature people with a clear sense of purpose to show students.

Optional: Have students take notes on each person’s purpose.

Some suggested individuals:

  • Kid President
  • Wilma Mankiller
  • Mohandas Ghandi
  • Oprah Winfrey
8 min

Give students up to 8 minutes to reflect silently on the videos and stories.

Provide prompts to encourage students to identify each person’s purpose as well as connect their stories to their own purpose in life.

Suggested reflection prompts:

  • How were the purposes you saw or read about similar to each other? How were they different?
  • What kinds of things did each person do to find their purpose?
  • What were the outcomes of each person’s purpose?
  • Did you identify with any of the people? If so, how are you similar? If not, what makes you different?
  • What is your purpose?
Differentiation: Provide students with a graphic organizer to take notes. For example, a simple three-column chart with “Person,” “Purpose,” and “Impact” in the top row would provide structure to their notetaking. You can pre-fill in some of the more challenging sections to the extent that it is appropriate for the developmental level of your students.

The level of guidance you provide should reflect your class’s abilities and engagement in the process. You could provide them with a very simple prompt, for example: Reflect on the people in these stories and on your own purpose in life. How do their stories help you to think about your own purpose?

5 min
Pair Share/Share out:
  • Have students share their reflection responses with their partners or a small group.
  • Encourage sharing by ensuring that students will not be required to share out with the whole group.
  • Spend 2-3 minutes in small groups, or in pairs, sharing and then open up the floor to sharing with the whole group for 2-3 minutes.
25 min
Vision Board:

Give students the remainder of class to take their reflections and the class discussion and create a vision board.

A vision board should be a visual articulation of each student’s unique purpose.

See “criteria for success” below for specific suggestions for guidance, but adjust this assignment to your class’s needs.

One way to execute this assignment is by providing magazines and craft supplies and allowing students to cut out words and images from magazines to create their vision board.

Another way is to allow students to digitally cut and paste images to create a collage.

Use these or other approaches to the vision board as appropriate for your class setting.

Students will continue to work on these vision boards as part of lesson 2.

You may wish to allow students to take their work home and continue working, depending on the timing and needs of your class.

Student visions may be generic at this point in the process, as this lesson is likely the first time they are thinking about their individual purpose. This is okay for purposes of this activity. However, if you would like to guide students to a more narrowed and specific vision of their purpose, you can walk them through an activity identifying generic or vague purposes and making them more specific. For example, you could suggest turning “help others” into “become an occupational therapist” or “create beauty” into “get an art degree” or “start a citywide mural project”. (Although, as stated before, “help others” and “create beauty” could work as visions just as well.)

Tips and Suggestions:

Choosing biographies of successful people from a diverse range of backgrounds or lines of difference (race, sex, sexuality, physical ability, etc) can help build the feelings of respected and valued, especially for students or populations of students who are often marginalized. There is also room for discussion around social justice and inclusion with these biographies that will build the emotion of respected/valued.

Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment

Students will be assessed on their vision board as the formative assessment for this lesson. Vision boards should:

  • Clearly identify a purpose (may be vague or general, like “build community” or may be specific, like “become a surgeon”)
  • Include images, words, and ideas in their vision board that explain how and why the student wants to pursue this purpose
  • Demonstrate engagement, effort, and positivity in the final product