Small Fish Stick Together (Kindergarten)

K, 1, 2

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.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 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

Draw a picture showing how the class can help someone together differently than working alone. 

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


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask if anyone knows what a “community” of fish is called (school). Review philanthropy and its concepts. 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.

  2. Introduce the concept of community. Explain that a community is a class, school, town, etc. or other place where people live and work together. It is also a group having common interests and likes. Ask students to give examples of a community of which they are a part such as a neighborhood, classroom, school, church, etc. Ask students how easy it would be to see acts of philanthropy in their own community.

  3. Read the story Swimmy by Leo Lionni.

  4. 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.

  5. Discuss the main character – its needs/wants, problem and how it 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 a common purpose – the common good.)

  6. 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 for the good of the group. (Teacher Note: If appropriate to the class, you may want to introduce the word “philanthropy” defined as giving time, talent and treasure for the common good.)

  7. 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.

  8. Choose a student for the part of Swimmy, the sea weed, the crab, etc., and the remainder of the class will be the “school” of fish. (Teacher tip: 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.)

  9. 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 tip: You may want to read the story twice so that different people are allowed to play different parts and the students will really know the story.)

  10. Ask the students to apply the concept of group cooperation in a community by asking the students 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.1 Define the word <em>trust</em> and its role in all communities.
      2. 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.