This post shares tips on how to use life lessons to teach children’s literature. It also gives an example from a popular novel that shows how life lessons enrich the story for students.
I am very excited to welcome Christine Quimby as a guest writer to The Butterfly Teacher! She shares a wealth of knowledge about using life lessons to teach children’s literature in a way that students can understand and enjoy.
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Why Combine Life Lessons with Children’s Literature?
Bringing the literary world to your students in the early years nourishes them in ways that they will hunger for more pages of worldly advice and admirable characters as they grow older. Talented authors teach life lessons that apply to childhood years and reach out to grown-up life, too.
Reading children’s literature should be a hallmarked place in your plan book because that practice alone goes straight to the heart of why we teach reading and writing. Here are some questions to guide your lessons of teaching children’s literature:
- Why did the author write the book?
- What is his message?
- How does this book’s message make us smarter?
- How does this book’s lesson make us a more caring and kind person?
- What does the book teach?
Tips for Teaching Children’s Literature
Select a time during your day that is dedicated to reading and talking about good books.
Establish a comfortable book corner or space. Young children are happy to sit on a carpet; older students do better in a circle of comfy chairs like these.
After a short while, you will find that your students look forward to this time of day. They will be attentive to your book choices. They will be inquisitive and talkative about what the book teaches.
Helpful Post for Book Choices: The Best Novels for 4th & 5th Graders
What does the ‘reader-life’ look like and feel like in your classroom? What life lessons will you talk about today?
These questions will help you establish a culture for reading and help students prepare for discussions on the different life lessons you present.
Read on for examples of life lessons that can be learned by reading Charlotte’s Web.
An Example of Life Lessons from Children’s Literature
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was written in 1952 and maintains it’s honorable place in Children’s Literature.
E. B. White weaves a beautiful story of farm life that teaches the reader about big life lessons of love, friendship, loyalty and death. All the farm animals, and especially, a pig and a spider, show us about true friendship.
There are many places to stop and talk about life lessons in this book with students. You can find discussion task cards and ‘book talk’ questions for Charlotte’s Web.These resources are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Examples of Life Lessons from this Novel
Life Lesson #1: Never underestimate small things.
Wilbur is the runt of the litter. Fern is just a small child. Yet each have big goals to make things right in the world. And Charlotte, is the smallest yet, but oh, so very wise. All the animals learn to trust Fern because she is true. She is friendly and quiet but the animals can sense her altruistic nature.
Life Lesson #2: Doing nothing can sometimes be pretty amazing!
Wilbur stands perfectly still and thinks of what it is like to be alive. Taking time to immerse yourself into deep thought and contemplate your existence isn’t such a bad way to spend your time, really.
Life Lesson #3: Life Is Everywhere
Take time to notice the trees and the immense beauty they bring to our earth and habitat. Be thankful for each plate of food that nourishes your body. Be amazed at the intricate and delicate web a spider weaves after a rain…think of the insects you never see. Realize that no matter how sad or grim things might be for you, the beauty in all things will never cease.
Life Lesson #4: Show Compassion Whenever Possible
Charlotte shows compassion by insisting that her victims are sleeping before eating them. She doesn’t want them to feel or know pain. This small act of compassion in the story makes the reader think about our actions and choices. People may be just as fragile as flies; or maybe more so.
There are so many ways to use life lessons to teach children’s literature in a meaningful way. Hopefully this example gives you more insight into how engaging your novel studies can be with young learners!
Christine Quimby, M.Ed. is an elementary teacher and a Reading Specialist. She has taught in New Hampshire, Hawaii and Massachusetts. She has been teaching for 22 years, Grades K-5, and also has taught college preparatory classes in Literacy and Children’s Literature.
You can visit her website at MrsQuimbyReads.com and find her teaching resources and many book companions to go with children’s literature at her MrsQuimbyReads Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Great article! I already make it a point in the classroom to focus on books that teach valuable life lessons and have a discussion afterwards with the students and I completely forgot about Charlotte’s Web! Great example and there are some helpful discussion questions that I’ll be using. A book I read to the class recently that really generated meaningful discussion was “The Dyno Dinosaur Family Presents: Waves of Kindness” by Sharida McKenzie (https://dinosaurfamily.wordpress.com/). The Dyno family are a fun and loving group of characters that focus on kindness to all (neighbors, friends, and even planet earth). It is so important that our children know that they can make a difference in this world no matter how small their act of kindness is; something as simple as turning off the water while brushing their teeth! That’s why I love this book so much. It’s not teaching complicated over-the-top concepts. It’s teaching the importance of simple acts of kindness. I asked the class “What do you do to make the world a better place?” They then drew pictures of what they do to help and be kind and I think it was a really special activity. Highly recommend! Thank you again
Wow Diane, thanks so much for sharing how you’ve used The Dyno Dinosaur book to teach life lessons to your students. 🙂