Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ethics and The Giving Tree

I like this story for different reasons than I think most teachers do. I believe many teachers use this book with the intention of discussing the benefits of being a giving person. As I look at other blogs describing this story-it's "heartwarming" and a "great lesson about morality". Being the consummate rebel that I am, I read this story and am flabbergasted at this boy, who turns out to be just an entitled taker. I wonder why the tree wouldn't just tell him to "talk to the branch" when he kept coming back for more. I don't share my opinions with my kiddos before the read-aloud; but let them come to their own conclusions. Although this group audibly gasped when I got to the part where he took her trunk and all that was left was a stump.

I do love this story as a beginning lesson in ethics. We talk often about how ethics are not always black and white (although that is the representation on the icon for this concept)--there is often grey area. And 2 people may believe 2 different things to be true and neither of them is necessarily wrong. We read the story and I asked my students to write about who was right and who was wrong in this situation. This is what they came up with:

It is wrong because it's hurting the tree.

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1 comment :

  1. First of all, I have to say I enjoy reading your blog, even if I don't comment all the time. I see what you do with the little ones and I am inspired to do more with the loveys I have in my job.

    I just did a lesson similar to this one with the third grade classes at my school. I used the book as a way to introduce the concept of plot vs. theme. We were examining themes like happiness (who is happy in the book, and how do we know?) and generosity (what did we think of the tree giving everything away like that?).

    It also introduced the kids to the idea that sometimes in books, things are "messy." We don't have a full answer, and sometimes we don't even have a satisfying answer. That's actually when the discussions start getting good!

    The kids were also interested to know that Shel Silverstein himself knew the message of the book to be unclear, and he was okay with that.

    Now on to the Missing Piece (and the Big O, while we're at it...)