Social Responsibility Lesson – Paying it Forward (Film)



In this lesson, students watch the film (Paying it forward) and think about whether or not 1 idea can really change the world. They explore the issue of social responsibility and respond to various questions about the film.

Australian Curriculum Links:

  • Identify and explore ideas and viewpoints about events, issues and characters represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1619)
  • Reflect on ideas and opinions about characters, settings and events in literary texts, identifying areas of agreement and difference with others and justifying a point of view (ACELT1620)
  • Discuss aspects of texts, for example their aesthetic and social value, using relevant and appropriate metalanguage (ACELT1803)


  1. Discuss the concept of social responsibility with your students. What is it? How would it look in our society? What social responsibilities do we have as citizens?
  2. Watch the movie ‘Pay it Forward’ featuring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment (PG-13+) IMDB LINK


Part A: After viewing the movie answer the following questions with at 50-100 words:

  1. Is it possible for one idea to change the world? Why/why not?
  2. Could the idea of “paying it forward” actually work? Why or why not?
  3. Would you be willing to do something nice for someone else, with absolutely no expectation of receiving anything in return? What about if the person wasn’t appreciative? Do we always expect something in return for everything we do?
  4. Do you think the recipient of a good deed would go on to do good for others? Would you be more inclined to do something good for others if someone engaged in a random act of kindness towards you?
  5. Could you devise a scenario whereby a simple smile to someone else could translate into a series of events that might ultimately change someone’s life?
  6. Is there a moral duty or obligation to do good for others especially when there is little cost to oneself?
  7. Are there opportunities where we can do good for others? or do we fail to notice them?
  8. If you had the power to make the world a better place in one way, what would you do?

Part B:  Explain in your own words the meaning of the following quotes:

  1. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa
  2. “The only time you should look down at someone, is when you are helping them up.” Jesse Jackson
  3. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi
  4. “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke
Part C: Enjoy and discuss the youtube clip. The Kindness Boomerang.



  • Collect responses for assessment purposes


  • Textbooks
  • Pens/Pencils


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  1. This is an excellent and engaging film – I have also used life vest short film and the butterfly circus in my classes. Mainly because they are shorter and allow more re-viewing opportunities. In schools were attendance is poor or erratic showing feature length films can be difficult. I think too the idea of linking a photo essay task to the lessons is good if the students have viewed a shorter film with similar content goals.
    Thanks for the resource ! JH