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

Lonely Fish (The)
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson introduces the concept of sharing and its relationship to a harmonious society. It also introduces good citizenship as learning how to solve problems, increases listening comprehension and use of critical thinking skills.


One Thirty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • identify letters in the story.

  • identify and describe the behaviors of the characters and describe how Rainbow Fish felt at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

  • discuss how the concept of sharing helped solve the problem.

  • identify characteristics associated with good citizenship.

  • learn how to resolve conflicts.


The art lesson will need:

  • Water color paints
  • Optional fish outline for students to paint --two mirror images to staple together after painting
  • Foil
  • Glue
  • Stapler
  • Cotton for stuffing


 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:

    "Did you ever have something that other people wanted? Did you show off a little? Did you want to keep it for yourself? What does it mean to share?" Explore the answers that the children contribute and then tell them about the story and its meaning,
    "Sharing is brings happiness to the person sharing and the person they share with."

  • Hold up the cover of the book The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. Activate prior knowledge by asking children to describe what they see.
  • Read the book to the class. Discuss the artwork and the different types of ocean life that are seen on each page.
  • On selected pages, stop and encourage the students to interact with the book in the following ways:

    • What may happen next? Why did the character do that? Why do you think that happened?
    • Discuss what else could have been tried. What might have happened?
  • Reread the book and invite the children to add further comments on what they see and think about the story. Discuss examples of good citizenship in the story.
  • Art Activity: Construct a rainbow fish using the materials above. The children will paint a fish (either pre-designed or of their own creation), cut out two sides and attach with the teacher's help. They will then stuff the fish with cotton and attach a piece of foil to be the shiny scale. Display fish by hanging them from a string in a central location for all of the students to enjoy along with a sign of the sharing principle.
  • Follow-up: Science lessons will further explore ocean life habitat. Show real pictures of ocean life to the children and discuss their similarities and differences to each other and to us as humans.



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. Use the suggestions that contain "good citizen" characteristics, especially those related to concept of "individual action for the common good." Note letters of the alphabet children had problems identifying in the story. As children make their fish, observe how well they share materials and resolve material sharing problems; also, assess for appropriate psychomotor skills.

Science follow-up: note how well children sort and group pictures of ocean life.

Curriculum Connection:

Language Arts: Identify letters in the story's text.

Science:  Explore different types of ocean life and conditions.

Art:  Construct a rainbow fish of the students' own.

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:

Pamela McIntosh
Detroit Public Schools
Woodward Elementary School
Detroit, MI 48208


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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