Words Bring Peace (elementary)

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

In this lesson, the students learn to use their voice to say something to make the world a better place. This is an opportunity to demonstrate and feel the impact of kindness, inclusion, and listening on a caring community. Students learn from a community helper about the needs they observe in the community. They make and donate a "calming box" so the tool may help youth calm themselves. Use this at the beginning of the year to set a tone and learn skills of effective language that are good for all. 

PrintTwo 45-min sessions, plus time for a project

The learners will ...

  • connect the story to real life situations where they can use their voice.
  • build empathy and use language of respectful dialogue.
  • propose ways they can use their voice to build a peaceful, just, and inclusive society.
  • build community connections when they create tools to fill “calming boxes” for local fire departments or other groups.
  • reflect on the impact of generosity in the community.
  • read-aloud copy of Say Something! by Peter Reynolds
  • three strips of paper per person in the class to make a paper chain, roughly 1 ½ inches by 6 inches
  • stapler, paper, markers, or crayons
  • Optional: graphic organizer from Literacy in Focus for "Text Connections"
  • materials for the calming kits, which can be collected from homes or for low cost 
  • handouts below for overview, printouts, and directions for making calming kits
Teacher Preparation 
  • Collect and prepare for the construction of the calming box items. Directions included in the handouts below.
  • Collect shoeboxes to put the items in and duplicate the instructions provided to place in the box that explains how the box of items can be used for self-calming. 
  • Invite a community helper for Day Two to tell the class about their work. This may be a police officer or firefighter, a therapist/yoga instructor, or a nonprofit organization representative. Ask them to talk about the needs they see in their work, especially something the students might be able to help address with their calming boxes. 
Home Connection 

Following Day Two, students take home a letter describing the community service project and inviting families to participate in writing letters and helping to create calming boxes.

  • Each one of us has gifts and talents we can use to make the world a better place. Some examples from the book included writing a poem, sitting with someone who is lonely, or planting a garden but there are so many more things we can do.  In what ways do you like to use your “voice” to make a peaceful and kind community? 
  • How can we as a class create a community in which everyone’s ideas are heard and valued?
  • How does it feel to create something that is intended to show kindness to someone?  How does it feel to practice giving back to our community?

Say Something! by Peter Reynolds

Think - Pair - Share strategy description at Read Write Think


  1. Anticipatory Set: Using the Think-Pair-Share strategy, that respects different learning styles and promotes peaceful participation, ask students to think of and name three people who help others in the community. Examples can be people in our school, community, or homes. Discuss the variety of people that come up as examples. Tell the students that communities need helpers, and anyone can be a helper. [Note: invite one of the helpers they mention to visit the classroom in the next session.]

    Tell the students that through this lesson they are part of a world-wide effort to build peaceful and inclusive societies. There are classrooms all over the world learning through this lesson, and there are people in countries all over the world - in an effort led by the United Nations - working on the Sustainable Development Goal - #16.

  2. Introduce the book Say Something! by Peter Reynolds. Show the cover of the book to the class and explain the purpose of the word bubble on the front. The author uses word bubbles throughout the book to show personal dialogue and personal voice. Say, "As you listen to the story, I want you to notice the different ways the people in the book 'say something.'"

  3. Read the story aloud, beginning with the pages inside the cover that show multiple word bubbles. Pick a few of these words to read and then tell the class you are going to come back to this page later. To help students participate in identifying the different ways people are challenged to use their voice, pause after reading “If you see an empty canvas … say something with your brush.”  Tell the students, “Already the author has mentioned a couple of different ways people ‘say something.'  How is the girl on this page using her voice?”

  4. Continue reading the story. Pause again after reading “If you see an injustice, say something peacefully. Inspire others to do the same.”  Discuss the meaning of the word injustice by using the context clues provided on the poster the boy is holding on the page with “No more hurting people.”  Discuss what it means to “inspire.”

  5. Finish the story and show the inside back cover page. Ask students to notice the word bubbles on this page. They are blank.  Now, show the class the front inside cover page again. These word bubbles have words. Read a few more of these to the class.  Say, “Let’s read the very last page of the story again and then look at the final inside cover page.”  After re-reading the page, ask the class why they think the author left the last word bubbles blank. 

  6. Note: This discussion may lead students to thinking beyond themselves to use their voice to build peaceful and inclusive communities. Encourage that reflection and action if the discussion leads that way. On Day Two, students will have an opportunity to use their talent to Say Something! 

  7. Make a Talent Chain:

    Give each student three strips of paper. Ask them to think quietly first about the things they are good at, or the "gifts" that they have. On each strip of paper students write one gift or talent. Once everyone has their three strips ready, invite students to read aloud their gifts. Collect the strips as each individual reads them and staple them together into a classroom chain -- bringing their diverse talents and gifts together into the caring community. 

    Discuss how our differences make us better. Ask the students to reflect on all the great talents that make up this community. "Just like the world, our classroom is made up of different people who give in different ways, and those differences just keep making us grow a better community."

  8. Day Two

    As arranged in advance, a community helper (police, fire, medic) visits for 30-60 minutes to talk to the classroom about the good they do as well as some of the community’s needs. Prepare the visitor by telling them about the book you’ve read; this may give your guest speaker ideas for their presentation.

    After the presentation, allow time for the students to ask questions.

    "Now it is up to us to use our words and talents to build caring communities." Challenge students to use their talents to express encouragement [Say Something!] to give support to the people who the guest speaker described. [Note: these expressions may be displayed at school, in the community, or go in the calming boxes.]

  9. Service-Project:

    Students make "calming boxes" filled with homemade items that sooth someone who is feeling anxiety or experiencing trauma. Directions are in the handouts below. They may choose where they donate their finished boxes, which could be the organization associated with their guest speaker, or they may review the brainstormed list from the beginning of class of people who help others.  Say, “Some people we talked about serve the common good in our communities. Their jobs are to help others. Firefighters help people when there has been an accident, or someone gets sick at home, or their has been a fire.  They help people who are old or young, boys or girls, white or black, Asian or Hispanic. They help everyone.” 

    Use cooperation and respectful communication to come to a consensus about which community helper organization will receive the donations of calming boxes. The boxes may be donated to a classroom, police station, hospital, or other place where self-calming tools and words can help a young person self-regulate their anxiety. 

    Additional Project Ideas: Use our talents to express words of kindness, peace, and inclusion. Paint a picture that shows a kind act, make cards with words of comfort and support to send with the firefighters when they go out on calls;  collect donations of gently used soft comfort items like stuffed animals that firefighters can give to children they help.  

  10. Reflection: Students use drawing and writing, as well as conversation, to reflect on how they felt and what they observed. Then talk about what is next for growing a peaceful and inclusive classroom, community, and world. 

  11. Sharing Ideas: There are many wonderful children’s picture books that could be used to build a caring classroom community. Use the comment section below to share additional book titles.

Cross Curriculum 

In partners, have students complete the “Text Connections” Graphic Organizer (see Materials, above). Teachers support a more engaged reading experience by helping students think through the ways the text connects to their lives, other text, and the world around them.

Building a Caring and Inclusive Classroom is a three-lesson elementary unit great for building tools of community. 

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.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.