The Ballad of Little Joe
Before beginning the preschool activities for The Ballad of Little Joe listed below, it is helpful to have working knowledge of the plot.
In the story, Joe’s brothers are jealous and feel that he is their father’s favorite son. When Joe receives a colorful vest for his birthday, his brothers are overcome with jealousy and dump him in an old mine shaft. They sell Joe into slavery and he ends up working at the Rootin’ Tootin’ Pizza place. Here, Joe becomes employee of the month and then Miss Kitty focuses her jealousy on him. She has Joel thrown in jail. Joe never lets all of these roadblocks get him down, he knows God loves him and he just needs to focus on doing what is right.
Eventually, Joe helps the mayor interpret a dream and they all realize that in seven years, the town will suffer from a famine. They believe Joe’s vision and prepare for the pending doom. Joe’s family does not fare as well and they come to the town of Dodge Ball City looking for food. Joe realizes that he can forgive his brothers for what they did, and they have a wonderful reunion.
Kids have all experienced what it’s like to fight with a sibling or not get along with a friend. Before you read the book The Battle of Little Joe, talk with the class about the following:
- What does it mean to be jealous? How does being jealous hurt others? Have you ever been jealous of someone? What did it feel like to be jealous of someone? (trying to get them to see that jealousy does not make them feel good)
- Share some examples of when you were upset with something a sibling or friend did to you? Was it easy to forgive them? Does God expect us to forgive people who hurt us?
- Depending on how much of the Bible you have studied, ask students to share examples of when Jesus forgave people who went against him. What does it mean to "turn the other cheek"?
Before reading the book, you can decorate the room with a western theme. You can even send out a letter in advance telling students to wear cowboy hats or boots for school on the day you will read the book. When you read the book with the class, put together a pretend camp fire with sticks and paper flames. Then, it will be just like reading it out west on a ranch.
Ballad of Little Joe Activities
Part of this story focuses on family and how much Joe’s father loves him, and the trouble that causes for his brothers and their jealousy. Have students either paint a tree trunk or cut one from brown construction paper. Using these leaf patterns, students can draw pictures of family members or write their names on the leaves. Students can then cut out the leaves and glue them to their family tree.
The trouble between Joe and his brothers began when Joe’s father gave him a colorful western vest. Have parent volunteers help you to cut vests out of brown paper bags. The students can then decorate and make their own colorful vest just like Joe’s.
Talk with the students about how Joe’s faith in God helped him through many difficult times. When he was in jail, Sheriff Bob asked him "…why is all of this bad stuff happening to you?" Joe replied, "I don’t really know. But God is good. I reckon I just have to keep doin’ what is right."
This quote from the Bible is the perfect example of what Joe was telling the Sheriff.
- "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28
Discuss it’s meaning with the class and talk about times when God has caused everything to work together in their lives. You may need to begin with an example to get them started.
Connect the book with the letter J for Joe. Students can work on printing the letter J and then move to work on the sound that the letter makes.
Key Concepts from Ballad of Little Joe
The focus of the story should be on forgiveness and family. It is important to point out that Joe’s brothers were jealous and how hurtful that can be to everyone. But, the true message is that Joe believed all along that God was there for him through all of his struggles, and in the end, he was taken care of. The love he had for God and his family shone through in the end.