Chrysanthemum Lesson Plan by Kevin Henkes: A Think Aloud Lesson

Chrysanthemum Lesson Plan by Kevin Henkes:  A Think Aloud Lesson
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Prior Reading

I strongly recommend reading my first article in this series, Think Aloud the New Read Aloud, before reading this read aloud lesson. See the series option below. A think aloud is a little bit different from a read aloud and I use the book Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes as a think aloud lesson. The first article in the series will help to make this lesson easier to understand.

This is a planned think aloud using the book, Chrysanthemum. Provided is a model of how to think aloud about Chrysanthemum’s dilemma of being teased about her name and the effect that the teasing caused to her self-esteem. You are still doing a read aloud, but without interaction from the students. Instead of having the students discuss the story by way of turn-and-talks, use the think aloud plan to model what you are thinking in your mind (i.e., comprehension) to the students.

It’s a great book to use for lessons on friendship, bullying, feelings and/or self-esteem.

Think Aloud: Chrysanthemum (Henkes, 2005)

In the first few pages of the book, before Chrysanthemum began school, we learn that she loved her name. She loved the way it sounded and looked on paper. Her parents told her that her name was absolutely perfect, like she was, and she believed it. Henkes writes:

  • Chrysanthemum thought her name was absolutely perfect. And then she started school.

Put a Post-it on this page and think aloud: “Wow, Chrysanthemum believes she has a perfect name, just like her parents said.” (Teaching Point: cause and effect- her parents said she had a perfect name and she believed it.)

On the next page, at roll call, everyone in her class giggled upon hearing Chrysanthemum’s name and for three more pages of the book the students in the story tease her about her name. We learn that (Henkes writes),

  • “Chrysanthemum wilted. She did not think her name was absolutely perfect. She thought it was absolutely dreadful.”

Place a sticky note this page and think aloud: “Wilted. Hmm, I know that plants wilt when they don’t have water (lean over in the chair as if to be a wilting flower). “Chrysanthemum wilted” must mean that she felt pretty bad about herself and pretty sad. Chrysanthemum is upset about her name because the other students are teasing her”. (Teaching point- cause and effect- the students tease her and she no longer likes her name.)

The next day Chrysanthemum returns to school and the teasing continues. The students tell her that she even looks like a flower, and that a chrysanthemum is a flower that lives in a garden with worms and other dirty things. Again Henkes tells us that:

  • “Chrysanthemum wilted. She did not think her name was absolutely perfect. She thought it was absolutely dreadful.”

Put another Post-it here and say, “Wow, Kevin Henkes said that again. He must really want us to see that Chrysanthemum believes everything that the students are saying about her name. She must be so sad (empathy to character). In the beginning of the story she really loved the name that her parents chose for her, but not now. I might not like my name right now either if I were her (relation of self to text), but I hope she remembers what her parents had said about her name and how special it is.”

At school the next day, the pregnant music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle introduced herself to the class. The students admired her. When the music teacher chose Chrysanthemum to be a daisy in the school play, the teasing erupted in the classroom. Again we hear from Henkes:

  • “Chrysanthemum wilted. She did not think her name was absolutely perfect. She thought it was absolutely dreadful.”

Stop at this page (Post-it) and notice to yourself (aloud) that he repeated the words again and keep reading.

Mrs. Twinkle overheard the students teasing Chrysanthemum and disclosed to the class that she too was named after the flower, Delphinium. She was considering naming her baby Chrysanthemum if it was a girl. This was validation for Chrysanthemum.

Place a Post-it on this page and say, “Wow, see someone else thinks her name is pretty special too. In the end Chrysanthemum finally believed that her name was perfect, just like her parents had said.”

As in a read aloud, now ask for a summary of the story; ask the class to tell you:

  • What effect did the teasing have on Chrysanthemum?
  • What happened in the story to change Chrysanthemum’s sadness?
  • What did we learn about other people’s differences?
  • What would you say to Chrysanthemum if you could?

Book Jacket


  • Book jacket courtesy of
  • Henkes, Kevin. Chrysanthemum. Mulberry Books, 1991.

This post is part of the series: Thinking Aloud when Reading Aloud

Here are a few lessons on think alouds and read alouds to supplement your teaching by Laurie Patsalides.

  1. Think Aloud: The New Read Aloud
  2. Chrysanthemum Lesson Plans: Modeling a Think Aloud
  3. ‘You are Special’ Think Aloud Lesson Plan
  4. Read-Aloud Lesson Ideas With “A Chair for My Mother”