Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Moral of the Story (The)
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students will be exposed to positive children's literature to be able to recognize and critique appropriate picture books.


Five Forty-Five Minute Class Periods


The learners will:

  • define the words “fable” and “moral.”
  • recognize the “moral” of a children’s story and interpret the author’s message.
  • determine the moral/positive messages in Aesop’s Fables.
  • compare the story line of children’s literature to real life situations.
  • identify the elements of a traditional fable.
  • compare a modern children’s story to a fable.


  • A read-aloud copy of Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Suess
  • Student copies of the handouts (Handout four is used by the teacher to create handout five.)
  • A selection of pictures books if a trip to the library is not possible
  • Field trip permission slips if students are traveling to the local library
  • A read-aloud copy of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
Handout 1
The Moral of the Story Recording Sheet
Handout 2
Little Gestures, Big Payoffs
Handout 3
Scoring Guide for Children’s Literature
Handout 4
Suggested Fables
Handout 5
Story Cards
Handout 6
Stories Worth Sharing

Teacher Preparation:

Using the fable titles and link on Handout Four: Suggested Fables, select eight fables for your students to read. Copy and paste the text from those eight fables into the story cards on Handout Five. Duplicate the story cards for students to read the eight brief fables.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Journal Entry: Write the word “moral” on the board.

  1. What does “the moral of the story” mean?
  2. Write a definition for the word.
  3. What are other forms of the word? (morale, morality, moralize, moralist, immoral)

Day One:

  • Go over students’ answers together. Write a good definition of moral on the board and instruct students to rewrite their original definition, if needed. Have students brainstorm synonyms for the word moral (upright, honest, virtuous, and honorable). Brainstorm a list of principles people should live by. (Instruct students to create a list in their journals as you record their answers on the board.) Ask them if they should include acting philanthropically. Define the term philanthropy as “the giving of one’s time, talent or treasure for the sake of another- or for the common good.” Another definition is “voluntary action for the public good.” Have the learners give you suggestions for what it means to act philanthropically. Ask students if all cultural groups live by the same morals.
  • Distribute The Moral of the Story Recording Sheet (Attachment One) and ask the students to complete questions one and two. As a whole group, report out. Answers may be similar to: 1) the teaching or practical lesson contained in a story; 2) generally accepted customs of conduct and right living in a society.
  • Present the story Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. Using The Moral of the Story Recording Sheet (Attachment One), have students complete question three with the graphic of “the baby” using the following instructions:

    • Use one color (red pen, blue pen, etc.) to record Horton’s morals or virtues on any features that came from Horton.
    • Use a different color (red pen, blue pen, etc.) to record the bird’s principles on any features that came from the bird.
    • Have students respond to question four on Attachment One by describing Horton’s opportunity costs (what he gave up in order to keep his promise) and benefits for Horton during the story.
    • Instruct students to complete the remaining questions and take their recording sheets home and share them with their parents/guardians. Each should have their parent/guardian sign the bottom of the handout.
  • Tell students they will be starting a unit on children’s literature. Distribute a copy of the Scoring Guide for Children’s Literature (Attachment Three) to each student and go over each of the assignments together. Be sure to clear up any questions or areas of concern before going on. Instruct students to take the Unit Guidelines home and share them with a parent. Parents are required to sign the bottom, stating they have seen and understood the unit.


Day Two:

  • Journal Entry:
    1. Define the word “fable.” (a short story which teaches a lesson)
    2. What is the purpose of a fable? (to teach and entertain)
  • Present the story Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. Distribute a copy of Little Gestures, Big Payoffs (Attachment Two). Allow students time to complete the sheet and have students share their answers. Take a few minutes to talk about the way the story is put on the paper, the story line as well as the illustrations. Ask students to talk about the message of the story and “the power” of the good deed. Ask students if this is an appropriate message for children and have them explain their opinions.


Day Three:

  • Fable Challenge. Game Preparation: Divide students into groups of three to five. Give each group a copy of Story Cards (Attachment Five), which should now have the Aesop’s Fables of your choice pasted into the table. Instruct students to become familiar with the fables that are listed on the handout. Instruct each group to choose one fable to present. They are to come up with the “lesson” or “moral” the fable is teaching and then create an improvised scene depicting that particular lesson. (Example: In “The Grasshopper and the Ant” the lesson is to “be responsible.” Students may create a scene that depicts one student working on homework while another watches television or talks on the phone.) Explain to students that each presentation needs to include a beginning, a middle and an ending. Have them say “curtain” once the presentation is over.
    Teacher’s Note: This may seem unimportant, but many students will not know when to end the presentation.
  • Game: Assign each group a number, starting with group one, and have them present their “role plays” to the class. Tell them no one is allowed to make any guesses while the group is performing. When the performers say “curtain,” groups may be allowed to guess which fable is being presented. The group that guesses correctly gets one point. If they are able to guess what lesson the fable is teaching and explain “why,” they earn an additional two points. If they are unable to come up with the lesson, the other groups are given a chance to answer for two points. The performing team will earn three points if a group is able to guess their fable. (Teacher’s Note: It may be easier for classroom control if you start by having group two respond first and then go to three, etc., rather than allowing random calling out by the groups.) When a group is able to correctly identify the “matching fable” ask them to tell what was done that helped them come up with their answer.

  • Homework: Instruct students to write the following reflection:

    • Describe the process you went through to come up with a “scene” for your improvisation. Questions to consider: How did you come up with an idea for your presentation? Did one partner facilitate, or direct, the group? What steps did your group go through to come up with an idea?
    • What are the similarities and differences between Horton Hatches the Egg and the fables?


Day Four:

  • Go over procedures for proper conduct at the library. Take students to the school (or local) library. Instruct students to check out two picture books, at kindergarten or first grade level, with messages or “morals.” Teacher Note: If you are unable to visit the library, bring in a large selection of picture books to be used for Lessons Two and Three. After students have visited the library, distribute a copy of Stories Worth Sharing (Attachment Six) to each student. Instruct students to read their two selections and complete the sheet according to directions. Inform them that that they will be required to share this information in the next class.


  • The Moral of the Story Recording Sheet

  • Little Gestures, Big Payoffs worksheet

  • The homework reflection piece

  • Stories Worth Sharing

  • Group presentation

School/Home Connection:

  • Interactive Parent / Student Homework:
    Students will take the Scoring Guide for Children’s Literature (Attachment Three) home and share it with an adult. It contains all the requirements for this unit.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

After the fable game, the students may stay in their groups and write their own fable.

Bibliographical References:

  • Geisel, Theodor Seuss. Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss {pseud.}. Random House: New York, 1968.
  • Aesop’s Fables Website http://aesopfables.com/ 
  • Spinelli, Eileen. Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. New York: First Aladdin Paperbacks, 1996.

Lesson Developed By:

Cheryl Larkin
Pontiac School District
Madison Middle School
Pontiac, MI 48340


Handout 1Print Handout 1

The Moral of the Story Recording Sheet

1. Write a definition for the word “moral” (as related to children’s literature).

2. Write a definition for the word “moral” (as related to standards of living).

3. Using the graphic of “the baby” below, record any principles Horton lived by on the features of “the baby” that came from Horton (example: trunk) and record the principles of the bird on any features that came from the bird (example: wings).

4a. What were Horton’s opportunity costs (what he gave up in order to keep his promise) for staying on the egg?

4b. How did he benefit?

5. Why was Horton willing to sacrifice his own interest in order to save the egg?

6. Did any of the characters exhibit philanthropic actions? Explain your answer.

7. Compare the events of the story to things that happen in real life situations.

8. How might the baby’s upbringing be different with Horton as the caregiver rather than Mayzie?

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Little Gestures, Big Payoffs

Handout 3Print Handout 3

Scoring Guide for Children’s Literature

Assignment Criteria for an A X When Completed Grade
The Moral of the Story Recording Sheet All sections are filled out.(Lesson One)    
Little Gestures/Big Payoffs All sections are filled out.(Lesson One)    
Stories Worth Sharing/Homework All sections are filled out and include a parent signature.(Lesson One)    
Necessary Steps (Lesson Two) All questions are completed. Answers are written in complete sentences.    
Critiques Page (Lesson Two) All columns are completed and contain correct definitions and information.    
Graphic Organizer (Lesson Three) Includes correct information regarding the five parts of the story. Has an example of the characters (drawn and colored at the bottom of the page).    
Cube(Lesson Three) Information from the graphic organizer is placed on the cube. Each square describing a part of the story has a colored illustration. Each square has a label. All parts of the story are depicted easily (if using only graphics, the graphics clearly represent that part of your story.) All words are written neatly and easily seen. All artwork is clear and clean.    
Rough Draft(Lesson Three) It is written (in pencil) on notebook paper and double-spaced. There are two spaces between each page break. The rough draft has been peer-edited and teacher-edited. All corrections have been made.    
Final Copy(Lesson Three) There must be a minimum of six illustrated pages. All pictures must be created by taking your time and making a “professional” looking copy. Color or shading is used to create detail. The text is written in clear, clean printing. There is evidence of a ruler or stencil being used to create a “professional” looking copy. Story is error-free.    
Presentation Techniques All columns are completed. Signatures are included from two listeners at home. (Lesson Four)    
How Did It Go Reflection Sheet All questions are completed. Answers are written using complete sentences. (Lesson Four)    
Planning and Procedures All boxes are completed. (Lesson Five)    
Final Reflection All questions are completed thoroughly, using complete sentences.(Lesson Five)    
Web Site Are completed according to directions.    
Publisher Piece Completed according to directions.    

Adult’s Signature: ______________________________________________

Handout 4Print Handout 4

Suggested Fables

This is just a small sampling of the fables that are available on http://aesopfables.com/. Choose from these titles below using the search function on the Aesop's Fables site, or make your own selections from the website. Choose eight fables and paste the contents into the blank table included as Attachment Five. Duplicate the story cards for the students.

  • The Ant and the Grasshopper
  • The Bear and the Two Travelers
  • The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
  • The Boy and the Filberts
  • The Miser
  • The Lion and the Three Bulls
  • The Boys and the Frogs
  • The Lion and the Mouse
  • The Lioness
  • The Father and His Sons
  • The Serpent and the Eagle
  • The Lion and the Statue
  • The Crow and the Pitcher
  • The Dog and the Hare
  • The Fox and the Goat

Handout 5Print Handout 5

Story Cards

Handout 6Print Handout 6

Stories Worth Sharing

Use the hearts to identify any good deeds in the story and describe how those good deeds made a difference. Record any positive features of the characters in your story on Horton’s features and negative principles on Mayzie’s features.


Philanthropy Framework:


Ann, Educator – Minneapolis, MN3/2/2007 12:45:05 PM

Thanks for your ideas.

Chad, Teacher – Columbus, OH4/25/2007 1:53:32 PM

I found your lesson plan quite useful.

Ted, Teacher – Des Moines, IA11/13/2008 11:36:46 PM

I really like the lesson. Wish I had found it sooner! Thanks!

linda, Teacher – Pikeville, KY11/28/2010 11:19:37 PM

This is just what I was looking for. I am planning to use it with sixth graders. Thanks for your generosity!

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Through the Eyes of a Child Summary


Moral of the Story (The)
On the Same Page
Peace by Piece
Sharing Talents
Hidden Treasures

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