Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Character Traits and Morals with Fables

By Rhonda McDonald, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger

Fables offer engaging opportunities for you to teach kids about character traits and morals. In today's blog post, I'll describe fun activities that you can use after reading level G fables, which will help facilitate social-emotional learning among your students.

Understanding the Significance of Helping Others

The Elephant and the Mouse is another level G fable that teaches kids about helping others no matter a person's size. In this guided reading leveled book, a mouse begs an elephant not to step on his house and promises to help the elephant one day. The elephant agrees but laughs at the idea that the little mouse could ever help it. The next day, the elephant is trapped in a hunter’s net, but the little mouse gnaws at the rope to free the elephant. In this story, the elephant learns that size is not an important factor in friendship and helping others.

Walk in Someone Else's Footsteps is a hands-on activity that you can use to teach kids about the same lesson that the elephant learns in The Elephant and the Mouse. Ask your students to trace the footprints of three people. These could be a friend or an adult. Cut out the footprints from different colored construction paper. Have students label each footprint with the owner’s name. Then ask the students to stand on the footprints of someone else and say what it might be like to be that person.

Here's an example that you could demonstrate for your students: If I were my mom, I would cook my favorite food for dinner. If I were ___ (my friend), I would show my friends how to build a Lego tower. If I were my teacher, I would let the class have extra recess. You can switch the footprints on different days to give the children opportunities to be a different person. This activity will help to build empathy among the classmates for one another, which will foster a climate of caring and thinking of others.

How Can I Help? is an activity that empowers kids to ask this question to an adult. Ask them to make a list of ways they could help a grown-up, such as walking the dog, folding laundry, mixing ingredients for a cake, planting seeds, picking up toys, etc. Facilitate a discussion about why size does not always matter when you are helping someone and ask students to use examples from their lists. Like the elephant and the mouse, your students will begin to value their own contributions at home, around the school, and in the classroom. They may even list activities that their friends would like to try.

Improve content-area literacy with paired texts in Fables & the Real World by  clicking here.

Teaching Kids About Greed

The Boy and the Gumballs is a level G narrative text that teaches kids about greed. A young boy sees a jar full of different colored gumballs and puts his hand into the jar to grab as many as he can reach. He isn't able to pull his hand out of the jar because it's full of gumballs. Since the boy is not willing to let go of any gumballs, he has to sit with his hand in the jar, but by the end of the day, the gumballs melt into a sticky mess. At the end of this narrative text, the boy does not get any gumballs but learns if he would have let go of some of the gumballs, he could have enjoyed a few.

Survey the Class is an activity that involves asking questions that you can use to engage kids in oral language development while they make real-world connections about the character trait of greed:

  • What is your favorite treat?
  • What would you be willing to do to have as much of the treat as you would like?
  • Would you sit all day with your hand in a jar hoping that you could have all you wanted?
  • Do you think the outcome would be worth the price to pay for the treat?
  • Do you think it might be wiser to share the treat with a friend or eat a smaller amount?

After taking a survey of students' responses, you can discuss the word greed and ask if they can make a personal connection to an experience with greed. Then talk about sharing with others and thinking about how it makes others feel when they share. To improve writing skills, you can ask students to rewrite the ending of this fable with a different outcome.

Explore more narrative and informational texts that are available as Paired  Texts by clicking here.

Learning the Importance of Working Together

A Bundle of Sticks is another level G fable, but this fiction book for kids may be less familiar to some readers. It is a tale about three sons who boast that each one is the strongest. The father teaches them a lesson by asking them each to break a bundle of sticks. Each son attempts to break the bundle, but none were unable to break the sticks. The father untied the bundle and broke the sticks one by one. The sons learned that they are stronger when they work together instead of arguing.

Caught You! is an activity that results in a visual reminder of good deeds that can be observed in the classroom. You could make a bulletin board of a large camera and leave spaces around the camera for students to add their observations of good deeds. When a student observes a good deed, have them draw a picture on a square and write a sentence to explain the picture. Then add it to the space around the camera on the bulletin board. Review the added pictures and sentences periodically with the class to praise the observed good deeds.

To help kids make more real-world connections and practice content-area literacy skills, you can use the nonfiction books for kids that correspond with each of the fables mentioned in today's blog post. You can even use big book versions of each of the level G fables for shared reading.

Choose from many big books for shared reading at guided reading levels A–I by  clicking here.

Be sure to visit our blog soon for more ideas you can use for social-emotional learning to build a positive classroom culture.

Rhonda was a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia. She now substitutes and visits schools and libraries to lead writing workshops, story time, and parent workshops. She is also an author of children's books and several titles in our Kaleidoscope Collection and Zoozoo Animal World series. Neat Feet Two Voices is the second nonfiction book available in the fall of 2019 in a reader's theater format that follows Nest Quest Two Voices, both of which Rhonda has authored. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more by Rhonda on our blog.