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Lesson Plan

Using Children's Literature to Develop Classroom Community

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Grades 3 – 6
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Elvira DiGesu

LaSalle, Ontario


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • "What's in the Sack" in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1974, p. 111)

  • The Name of the Tree by Celia Barker Lottridge (Groundwood Books, 1989)

  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (Nord-Sud Verlag, 1992)

  • Chart paper

  • Magazines, scissors, and paper bags

  • Personal reflection journal (for each student)

  • Posted notes

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Sessions 1 and 2: Preparation (before school begins)


Review the Cooperative Learning article, which provides a good overview of the benefits of using cooperative learning structures in the classroom and helps to develop an understanding of the foundations of cooperative learning.

2. Assemble a mailing list of the students in your class. A couple of weeks prior to the commencement of school, send each student a letter (see sample letter to students), and include a copy of Shel Silverstein's poem, "What's in The Sack." [Note: If you are unable or uncomfortable sending a letter to students prior to the start of school, you may introduce this activity on the first day of school and assign it as homework (see Preparation, step 3).]

3. Have students read the poem "What's in The Sack" and assemble a sack (i.e., a paper bag) with three or four items that represent themselves. Alternately, students can look though magazines and cut out pictures that represent themselves. Students will be introducing themselves to their classmates by sharing the objects or pictures in their sacks.


Session 3: Preparation

1. Obtain a copy of the book The Name of the Tree by Celia Barker Lottridge, which is based on an African legend. After a long draught, the animals are hungry. They know there is a tree that can provide nourishment; however, they can only obtain the fruit if they know the name of the tree.

2. Ensure that the Skills for Group Work chart is accessible and visible throughout this lesson.

3. Make a list of all the animals cited in the book on chart paper, including a gazelle, giraffe, monkey, rabbit, zebra, ostrich, lion, elephant, old tortoise, and young tortoise.

4. Have students complete the Time for Partners activity sheet. Students are to set up appointments with different students in the class for the purpose of working with a partner on a given activity. Based on a time provided by the teacher, students can quickly and easily identify their partner for an activity.


Session 4: Preparation

1. Obtain a copy of the book The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, which tells the story of a beautiful fish who has many shiny scales and many friends. When the friends ask her to share her scales, she refuses, but then becomes lonely and sad. Only when she learns to share does she understand what it means to be a real friend.

2. Ensure that the Skills for Group Work chart is accessible and visible throughout this lesson.


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