K, 1, 2

Students will listen to a story and then act it out together. They identify the themes of community, caring and sharing and describe the advantages of cooperation for the common good. They describe how the characters' experiences are alike and different from their own experiences.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • 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

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


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students to recall 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. Tell them to listen carefully because after they listen to the story they will be acting out the story so they must pay attention to the characters' actions and attitude.


  2. Read the story Swimmy by Leo Lionni. 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.

  3. Discuss the main character. Name his needs/wants and problem, and how he goes about solving the problem. Discuss whether the school of fish is a community. Why or why not? (They are a community to the degree that they come together for the common good.)

  4. Ask students how their wants/needs are like 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 if the "school" had not worked together to protect each other. Describe a benefit of group cooperation.

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

  6. 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. 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.

  7. Question students about 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.).

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define community as the degree that people come together for the common good.
  2. 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.