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

Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students will pantomime a book; identify the themes of community, caring and sharing; describe the advantages of cooperation for the common good; and describe how the characters experiences are alike and different from their own experiences.


One to Two Forty-Minute Class Periods


The learner will:

  • demonstrate pantomime skills and the ability to dramatize a character in a story.
  • explain the benefits of volunteering for the common good.


  • Swimmy by Leo Lionni (see Bibliographic References)
  • Open area in the classroom

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Solicit from the students the definition of community as it was learned in the previous lesson. Ask if anyone knows what a "community" of fish is called (school). Tell the learners that they will be listening to a story about a school of fish. Remind them that after they listen to the story they will be pantomiming the story so they must pay attention to the characters' actions and attitude.


  • Read the story Swimmy by Leo Lionni.

Teacher's Note: Swimmy, the little black fish and lone survivor in a school of red ones, devises an ingenious cooperative scheme for protecting a new school of fish friends.

  • Discuss the main character - his needs/wants, problem and how he goes about solving the problem. Do students believe that the school of fish in this story could constitute a community? Why or why not? (They are a community to the degree that they come together for the common good.)

  • Ask students to state the similarities of their wants/needs to that of Swimmy and his friends. Point out that Swimmy volunteered his talent. Ask students why they think someone would volunteer their time, talent, or treasure. Have students predict what might have happened had the "school" not worked together to protect each other. As a result of reading this story, ask students to describe a benefit of group cooperation.

  • Choose a student for the part of Swimmy and the rest of the class will be the "school" of fish.

Teacher Note: Be sure to set specific space parameters for the performance of this story. The students need to be aware of any off-limits areas BEFORE you begin dramatizing.

  • Read the story aloud as the students act out the parts from the prompts in the story. Read slowly enough and allow wait time so that the students have time to act.

Teacher Note: You may want to play the story twice so that different people are allowed to play different parts and the students will really know the story.

  • Question students as to what they can do for their "school" that would benefit everyone in it.


Allow students to retell the story in their own words (prompting first, next, etc.).

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Allow students to create their own ending to the story. It is best to work in small groups to create a short, new ending.
  • Read the story again while the students draw/color a picture of their favorite part of the story.
  • Have students create a picture of cooperation taking place in the classroom, school, or community.

Bibliographical References:

Lionni, Leo. Swimmy. Knopf (Paperback), 1992. ISBN: 0394826205.

Lesson Developed By:

Jennifer O'Toole
Buchanan Community Schools
Moccasin Elementary School
Buchanan, MI 49107


Philanthropy Framework:


Kathy, Teacher Holland, MI9/23/2007 2:06:19 PM

The book helped the children understand the sharing of talent and how one small someone can impact a big problem.

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