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

Community Sharing
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson is part of a literacy unit that teaches about the importance of community and giving. Students read and respond to the book The Rainbow Fish and think critically about sharing how giving brought more happiness to the Rainbow Fish and harmony to the whole community.


One Thirty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • participate in creative brainstorming.
  • describe how Rainbow Fish felt at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
  • discuss how sharing helped solve a problem.
  • identify characteristics associated with good citizenship.
  • identify personal treasures to share.
  • state the lesson of the story.


  • read-aloud copy of The Rainbow Fish (see Bibliographical References)
  • two papers per student (may be predrawn and cut out fish shapes for younger students)
  • watercolor paints, brushes
  • scissors
  • aluminum foil (small piece for each student)
  • glue
  • stapler
  • cotton batting for stuffing (large handful per student)


 The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is the story of a beautiful fish that is unique because he has silver scales all over his body. The other fish are impressed by his beauty and want one of his scales. He does not want to share and consequently the fish do not play with him. Confused, he seeks a solution from the other ocean life. The advice was, "Give a glittering scale to each of the other fish, then you will discover how to be happy." While he was reluctant at first, he discovered that the advice was correct.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Have students raise their hands if they are often asked to share. Ask students how they feel when an adult tells them to share. Ask whether sharing is easy. Ask students to share a story about a time they shared something and felt pleased or proud afterward.
  • Arrange the children in small groups of five to seven students. In their groups they will do a three-minute creative brainstorming. The object is to come up with as many ideas as they can. Each member takes a turn in order, no skipping students allowed. One group member has the job of tallying the number of responses. Another group member has the job of keeping the group on task as they take turns around the circle. These two may also participate in the brainstorming. Tell the students they are going to fill in the blanks of the following unfinished sentence with two related things: I wish people asked me to share ______; I wish they didn’t ask me to share ________. For example, a student might say, “I wish people asked me to share my broccoli; I wish they didn’t ask me to share my cake.” Encourage creativity and tell them they may go around the circle several times, if possible. Give them one minute of quiet thinking time and then time the groups for three minutes. At the end of the time, ask each group how many sentences they completed in the three minutes. Reflect on how they felt about the activity. What went well, and what was challenging?
  • Hold up a copy of the book The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. Tell the students that in the brainstorming activity, they thought of “treasures” they didn’t want to share. In this book, the main character has a special treasure that might be hard to share.
  • Read the book to the class. As you read, discuss the artwork and point out the different types of ocean life that are pictured. Encourage students to make predictions, reflect on how the characters feel, and propose solutions.
  • After reading, ask the students what treasure Rainbow Fish shared with others. Ask how he felt about sharing at first, and how he felt after sharing. Discuss why it was a good solution for Rainbow Fish and for the community. Have the children discuss how giving something away can make someone feel good. Encourage them to give other examples.
  • Discuss good citizenship in a community, using the characters of the story as models. Tell the students that being part of a community may involve doing things that benefit everyone--the common good.
  • Engage the students in an art lesson. They make a rainbow fish using the materials listed (see Materials). The children use watercolors to paint two sides of a fish (either pre-designed or of their own creation). When the paint is dry, they glue on a shiny foil scale. They cut out two sides and attach by staples with the teacher's help (leave one side open for stuffing). They stuff the fish with cotton and finish stapling. Display fish by hanging them from a string.
  • Ask the children to brainstorm some lessons learned from The Rainbow Fish. Work together to write one sentence about the lesson learned for their own lives (example, Sharing makes everyone happy). Write the final sentence on a poster and hang it up along with the fish.
  • As an exit ticket, have each child write or draw a picture of a personal treasure he or she has (this may be a smile, a talent, time for a friend, or a toy) and would be willing to share to make someone else feel good.


  • Children are able to give story details that occur at the beginning, middle, and end of the book (list these on the board). Ask children if they can suggest alternative solutions to the problem faced by Rainbow Fish. Ask them which solutions are examples of "good citizen" characteristics, especially those related to concept of "individual action for the common good."
  • As children make their fish, observe how well they share materials and resolve material sharing problems.

Curriculum Connection:

Social studies: Compare and contrast the community of fish with a community that the students belong to. Use a Venn diagram to list traits they share and that are unique to each.

Math: Sort and graph the student-made fish by unique traits.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Student Voice: Encourage students to personalize the discussion by expressing their own "lesson learned" about their ability to give to the community.

Bibliographical References:

  • Pfister, Marcus. The Rainbow Fish. Translated by J. Alison James. English Translation, New York: North-South Books Inc., 1992. ISBN: 1558580093.

Lesson Developed By:

Betsy Flikkema
Associate Director
Learning to Give


Philanthropy Framework:


Viveca, Teacher Albion, MI10/13/2007 6:39:53 PM

The book is great! The message is wonderful and easy to understand.

Heather, Teacher Flat Rock, MI10/13/2007 6:41:51 PM

Students loved the book. A lot of them read aloud with me. The way the lesson was set up it was a topic a lot of students could easily relate to. Open group discussion went really well. Each student openly contributed to the questions.

Sarah, Teacher Richmond, IN10/13/2007 6:45:51 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) we had just been working on listening, sharing, etc. so it fit right in. The students love the Rainbow Fish book and they loved making the fish

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