The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, is a beautiful book which is beloved the world over, and is available in multiple languages including Spanish. The tale is quite well known and its vivid personification of the tree also lends itself to some great activities to emphasize learning in the classroom.
This tale tells of the love between a tree and a boy and the phases they go through in their relationship.
It is suggested that you select activities for your classroom that will emphasize the meaning of The Giving Tree’s message of unconditional love and generosity. Once several activities have been exercised to develop student understanding of the book, as well as vocabulary exercises, you can then go on to doing some interesting activities for The Giving Tree book that will focus on community service and kindness or generosity.
Community Service Project
Building on the theme of service from the book, have your students think of a community service project they can all do as a class or in groups. This should start small and be supervised. Here are some key points for community service projects:
- Have your students think of significant changes they could make in the community. What could count as selfless acts of generosity?
- Try to keep the service project small at first. They can think of spending a day painting a youth recreational center, helping with disadvantaged areas, offering to do tutoring or homework activities, or anything else they might want to come up with.
- Make sure it’s something they can monitor the progress of over time. Have the students record their findings. Has it made a significant change in the society they are in?
Classroom Generosity Trees
For this ‘Giving Tree’ activity you will need :
- Foam for tree cut-outs and apple cut-outs (see below for other alternatives)
Prior to this activity, you need to go to the craft store and find foam, felt, rubber, or wood to make cut-outs of trees. Cut-out foam is a good choice for this activity. Have the template of the tree ready, making sure to cut using appropriate measurements, so that the tree is big enough to allow enough room for the apples and leaves that will be given over time.
Students can decorate their trees as they wish, but they should allow room for the apples. Students make apples out of the foam and are asked to save them over time. They are also given a generosity journal. The generosity journal records all the acts of generosity they observe in their classmates, and each time this happens, they assign an apple to this particular student, writing their name and the reasons for their generous act on it. To avoid this being a popularity contest, have students pair up with different diverse sets of students who otherwise, would not be “friends”. They will also have cut-outs of “generosity” leaves to be added to their own tree when they witness acts of kindness or generosity towards them from outside the classroom. This can be from other students, family members, or community members.
At the end of this The Giving Tree activity, students hand in their generosity journals containing kind actions they have observed throughout the week. You could also assign them an essay on the meaning of generosity and how they would see living a generous life to be important to them.