Teaching Theme with Each Kindness

Teaching theme with the book Each Kindness as a mentor text helps students learn life lessons as well as what themes are commonly found in literature. Freebie included.
How we treat others matters, and one of the best ways to build character in the classroom is through literature. There are so many great books, and of all the picture books I've used for mentor text lessons, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is one of my favorites. It isn't a book that gives you a warm fuzzy, but it is one with an important lesson for life. Students need to hear it read orally and talk about it deeply. This is important because how we treat others matters, and our students must apply the lessons in this book to their own lives.

Introducing Each Kindness

In this post, I'll be sharing ways to use Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson for teaching theme, but also ways to carry its theme through the rest of your year. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend you add it to your shopping list. You will want your own copy to revisit again and again.

Book Summary

The book is about how a young girl who joins a class after the school year has started. She is left out by her classmates because she's poor and dirty. The children stare at her and giggle leaving her to play alone until one day, she suddenly doesn't return.

Unfortunately, many children experience school the way this young girl does, and the powerful message for our students must be given. Children must be kind to each other because we don't get second chances to do the right thing. We are ALL valuable. I was lucky enough to hear the back story first hand from Jacqueline herself at our state reading conference, and it truly made me love it even more.

Themes in Reading

This post includes step by step ideas to help the classroom teacher demonstrate theme using the book, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Theme is a common standard no matter what state you live in, but kids often confuse theme with the main idea. To begin this lesson, you might consider sharing or creating this anchor chart with your students. I love using printable anchor charts since I create interactive notebooks with my kids in our guided reading groups, so we often refer to them later. It's important to compare/contrast theme to main idea because there is a difference. You might even sort themes and main ideas to help your kids see how many books can fit a theme, but each has its own independent main idea.

Connecting to the Text

This post includes step by step ideas to help the classroom teacher demonstrate theme using the book, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson.
Once you've introduced the difference between theme and main idea, then you might share various themes found in literature and see what books your students have read that would fit the themes you share as well as the text evidence that leads them to categorize in this way. After all, a theme builds through the plot of the text as well as through character development, right. With Each Kindness, you can use these text examples to discuss possible themes beyond friendship and kindness.

Freebie for Teaching Theme with the book Each Kindness
This free resource includes before reading activities, a brainstorming page for discussing various themes in literature, the main idea and theme comparison chart, and an application page for students. To download the freebie I'm sharing with you for this lesson, click [here] or click the image to the right.

Other Teaching Options

Check out this post to learn more about the book, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and how to use it in the classroom.
[THIS RESOURCE] includes many other teaching options on the theme of kindness. You can use it at the beginning of the year, after winter break, at Valentine's Day, for Anti-Bullying Week, or any time you need to address kindness in the classroom.

It is set up in a  before/during/after format and includes materials for the book (vocabulary, comprehension skills, question task cards) as well as a Kindness in the Classroom lapbook project and a Class Book (Meet Us). To complete all of the activities, you could easily spend a few weeks or you can spread them out throughout the year too. Below you can check out the full color digital options as well as the black and white pdf.


Check Out Past Link Ups for your Favorite Fall Texts

Check out this post if you're teaching theme. Use Each Kindness as your mentor text for modeling.
The books we're highlighting today are just a few back to school mentor text favorites, and if you like to teach with mentor texts, check out our Mentor Text Lessons Pinterest Board. You can follow it to access all of the great lesson ideas we've shared over the past few years.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Celebrating Gifts from the Heart

5 Ways to Build Character in the Classroom

Five Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom

Building Character in the Classroom with Great Literature

Below, you'll find links to other mentor text blog posts. Check those out for ideas you might like for your next reading lesson, and as an added bonus, I'm sharing these fun conversation hearts that you can use for book
reviews in the coming weeks.


  1. Carla, I love the compare/contrast with theme and main idea. I love this book!

    1. Very sad book, but excellent message. Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Wow..what a great and timely post! I love your message of spreading kindness from classrooms and out into the world. So cool that you got to meet Jacqueline.
    The Techie Teacher

    1. It was, Julie! This book is a great one, and certainly, there are a lot of classrooms in Houston and now Florida that will be needing our help. :-)

  3. Hi Carla,
    Thank you for another wonderful, informative, and timely post. I love this book and it fits perfectly into Back to School and working to establish a caring community in the classroom! The freebie is one that I plan to use right away!
    Thanks, again, for creating a great opportunity for our group to share and make a difference. You're awesome!
    xxoo -Janiel

    1. Ah...glad to hear it! Take pictures, friend! :-) Glad you could link up this time!


Thanks for visiting my blog today. I love to hear from my readers, so if something from my post speaks to you, please let me know. Feel free to share what has worked well for you or anything else on your mind.