Teaching Peace through Literature and Song (3-5)

3, 4, 5

How can our positive and negative behaviors affect others who we perceive as different from us? Through reflection on the story Thank You, Mr. Falker, students explore empathy and respect for diversity of people and talents. The students relate the definition of philanthropy to the treatment and respect of others. They learn a song and create new songs to share with others their new understanding of these themes.

PrintOne Forty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • discuss the words respect, diversity, teasing, bullying.
  • analyze how the definition of philanthropy relates to treating diverse people with respect.
  • reflect on personal experiences with positive and negative behaviors.
  • reflect on the major themes from the story, Thank you, Mr. Falker.
  • read-aloud copy of Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (see Bibliographical References)
  • large drawing/construction paper (11 x 14)

"I Think You're Wonderful" YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPg7i9nIEf0 by Red Grammer

Polacco, Patricia. Thank You, Mr. Falker. Scholastic Paperback, 1998. ISBN: 043909836.

YouTube reading of Thank You, Mr. Falker by actress Jane Kaczmerek https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abN2aP_Dzd0 

Helpful Web Sites: www.redgrammer.com  and  www.patriciapolacco.com.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Share with students the quote by Plato, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Ask the students what kinds of "hard battles" people could be fighting. Give examples, such as someone may not have enough to eat, someone's parent may be ill with cancer, or someone may be struggling to learn to read and feels embarrassed about it. Listen to their ideas and discuss how they treat people when they know they are going through these hard things. Ask them what the quote tells them to do if they don't know what others are facing. Ask them what their classroom would be like if everyone treated each person with kindness and respect.

  2. Introduce the book Thank You, Mr. Falker to the students. Tell them that this book is based on a true story about a girl who was fighting a hard battle, and other children were not kind to her about it. In fact they teased her because they saw her as "different."

  3. Read the book aloud or share the YouTube reading (see Bibliographical References). Ask them partway through the book to name some of Trisha's strengths and qualities, the good things in her life. Ask how they feel about the way the other children are treating her.

  4. After reading, discuss how different people (family, classmates, teachers) behaved toward Trisha and what effect their behavior had (positive and negative).

  5. Introduce the definition of philanthropy as "giving time, talent or treasure and taking action for the common good." Discuss and have students give examples of what it means to give time, talent, or treasure (ask for specific examples of volunteering, teaching someone, making something to share).

  6. Ask the students for adjectives to describe Mr. Falker and his personal qualities. Discuss how Mr. Falker was a philanthropist (ways he shared his time, talent, or treasure).

  7. Ask the students if everyone in the classroom is the same, looks the same, has the same beliefs, and has the same talents and strengths. For what traits are people seen as “different”? We all have different gifts and we all bloom at different times. Discuss whether classroom diversity (in ability, interests, appearance, experience) makes a stronger or weaker community and why. 

  8. Analyze how the definition of philanthropy relates to treating diverse people with respect.

  9. Extend the discussion of subtle ways people show disrespect for people who are different. 

  10. Teasing and bullying can be shown with looks, neglect, unkindness, and gossip. Ask the students what they think they can do to not only stop those negative behaviors themselves but also raise awareness in others about the positive and negative effects of how people treat one another.

  11. Reflection Activity: Give each student a large sheet of drawing paper and have them fold it into four sections. Tell them to label the sections as indicated below and make a quick drawing in eachpart:

    1. How we are different
    2. How we are the same
    3. A hard battle
    4. A kindness to share
  12. Have students discuss their reflections (how they feel and what the effect will be) in pairs or small groups. Ask for a few volunteers to share their reflections and the reflections of their group with the rest of the class.


Teacher observation Reflection activities Reflection by learners of the service opportunity Quiz on philanthropy content Evaluate each student’s response to the following question, “How has refraining from teasing, and learning how to treat and compliment others affected or will affect the climate of the room and entire school?”

Cross Curriculum 

Ask the students to think of ways to teach others about treating all people with respect. They may teach other students the Red Grammer song or share their original songs to spread a message of kindness and respect for the varied talents and experiences of all students.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Define philanthropy and charity.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify ways that trust is important in all communities.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.8 Describe classroom behaviors that help the students learn.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.7 Give classroom examples of when a student does not need the teacher's permission to act philanthropically.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.