How to use Chicken Soup in the classroom
by Rhonda Thomason
Before Reading the Story
Share with students a time when you gave something away and it was easy, and a time when you gave something away and it was hard. Briefly describe how the experiences were different and the same for you. Ask students to think of similar experiences in their own lives and reflect on them. Encourage students to volunteer to share their experiences with the class.
After Reading the Story Discuss:
Both the peasant and the rich neighbor shared hospitality and food with the stranger. Did their gifts have the same meaning for the Tsar? Why?
How did the Tsar express gratitude?
The Russian Tsar wanted to learn what life was like for the people in his country. Do our nation's leaders try to understand what life is like for people here? How?
In the story, there were great differences in the resources available to each family. Is that true in our community? Why?
Does your culture value giving? How do you know?
What is the moral of this story? What does it mean to you?
Companion Activities for K-4
Ask students to either write or tell about something that they will share with someone. Then ask students to reflect on their "giving" experience verbally, in writing or through artwork.
In the story, the Tsar expresses his gratitude by giving away money. Help students explore what they are grateful for in their own lives and how they can express gratitude without using money.
Introduce students to Boker Tav (PDF), one of the songs included in Teaching Tolerance's free music anthology for the early grades, I Will Be Your Friend. The song is based on a Jewish prayer of Thanksgiving.
Ask students to reflect on what they are thankful for in their own lives and what makes them grateful for each new day. Ask students to write new verses for "Boker Tov" expressing their personal sources of gratitude.
Students can take turns reciting their verses of thanks, with the class joining in to sing the refrain. Alternately, students can perform their new song for those to whom they are grateful.
Companion Activities for Grades 5 and up
Break students into diverse small groups of four, and ask the small groups to rewrite the story from their cultures' perspectives, i.e. "Chicken Soup, An American Story of Giving," or "Chicken Soup, A Muslim Story of Giving." In it, students should carefully reflect and focus on aspects of their cultures that relate to generosity and gratitude. Encourage small groups to share their stories and discuss the similarities and differences between them.
Adapt "Chicken Soup, A Russian Tale of Giving," or students' rewrites, in script form, and use them as the basis of a class play.