Pay It Forward

1 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to demonstrate a connection to the text by narrating about a time they were kind.

Big Idea

Recalling an act of kindness helps student practice narration skills.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

Once the students are sitting on the rug I ask the students, “What does it mean to be kind?” I usually find I have one or two students who are able to tell me that being kind is when you are nice or you do something nice for someone else. “Okay, can someone give me an example of someone being kind?” There is usually a student who is able to tell you something like “Sebastian was being kind when he helped Bryan pick up the blocks in block area and he didn’t even play there.”

“Great. How does it make you feel when someone is kind to you?” I usually get words like “good” and “nice.”

“Well today we are going to read a book about a little boy who was kind to his mother and how it affected a whole lot of other people.” 


35 minutes

“This story is called Because Brian Hugged His Mother. The author is David L. Rice. If he is the author of the story, what did he do?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and state that he wrote the words, if not then tell the students that the author’s job is to write the words of the story.

“The illustrator is Kathryn Dyble Thompson. If she is the illustrator what was her job?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and tell you that she drew the pictures. If not then explain to the students how the illustrator’s job is to draw the pictures to support the author’s words.

The first thing I do in this book is read the little poem at the beginning of the story. I ask the students what they think it means when the poem says, “A circle that never ends?” Sometimes I have a student who tells me that a circle just goes round and round, but more often than not it baffles the students. I tell the students that we will read the book and come back to the question at the end of the story.

This book has great feeling vocabulary words – words like appreciated, cherished, competent, loved, etc - within the text. I cover some of the words, mostly the ones that the students ask about, but not all as it would make the story too long and this would cause me to lose my audience’s attention. It is a good idea to discuss the words in context because it aids with student comprehension.

At the end of the story I read the beginning poem again and ask them if they understand the meaning of the “circle that never ends” now. Many more students will now raise their hand and tell me it means that you do one thing and it goes round to the next person and the next.

I explain to the students how it is helpful to do something kind for one person because it makes the other person feel good and want to be kind to others. “Just imagine what our classroom would be like if everyone was kind to each other. What do you think would happen?” I often have a student who raises their hand to tell me that the kindness would go out of our classroom into another classroom. “Wouldn’t that be great?” I ask them. I explain to the students how this is often called “Pay it forward. That means you do something kind for someone, and they do something kind for someone else just like in the book.” 

I tell the students that they are going to write about a time when they were kind to someone. They will express their idea to an adult who will write it down for them and then they will need to copy those words onto their "I was being kind when I..." paper.

I tell the students “You will also draw an illustration that supports your statement, just like the illustrator of this book used her illustrations to support the author’s words.”

“You will have 15 minutes to complete this assignment so you will need to focus on your assignment and not on your friends. Remember you can always look at the visual timer to see how much time you have left.”

I dismiss the students a few at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. 

"Station number one go have some kind writing fun.

Station number two you know what to do. 

Station number three I hope you were listening to me. 

Station number four shouldn't be here anymore."


Over at the tables I have pencils and a copy of the writing paper at each student’s location. I also have Post It notes for me to note down what the student says and then I stick it to his/her paper for him/her to copy onto their writing paper. I do this because my focus for this assignment is not what they can write themselves but whether they can recall and narrate a single event which relates back to the story we have just read. By drawing a picture which supports their writing they are reinforcing their narration and I find this can often lead to better descriptive use of language later on. 

Students working 1                                     Students working 2  


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin and those that are not complete go into the “under construction” bin.  

Student reading their narration 1 - middle student sample

Student reading their narration 2 - lower performing student

Student reading their narration 3 - higher performing student

Once everyone is seated on their spot I tell the students that their “exit slip” to get their snack is to tell me one way they could be kind today. 

"Room 203 your exit ticket for today is to think of one way you could be kind to another student here in the classroom today."

I specifically do not give an example to the students because I want them to think of a way to be kind on their own. I find the students will sometimes repeat back to me my own idea. 

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students. 

If a student is not able to come up with a way to be kind then they can do one of two things:

  1. Ask a friend for help, or
  2. Wait until everyone has gone and then we can come up with a way to be kind together. 

When the student has told me his/her way of being kind he/she is able to use the hand sanitizer and then go to get snack. 

This exit ticket is another way for the students to practice their narration skills. Only this time the student is practicing the skill by applying it to the classroom. 


For this assignment I would use the Being Kind Checklist to go over the student's piece of work. Using the checklist helps me to stay focused on whether the student was able to meet the objectives or not. The checklist is also a good way to convey to the student's family how he/she is performing in the classroom. The student can also use the checklist to see where he/she can improve in the classroom.  


Later on in the day I also read the book Be Polite and Kind, by Cheri J. Meiners. This is just one in a series of books published by Free Spirit which can be found on their website. 

These books are wonderful character building discussion starters. The books have great ideas in the back to extend the lesson. The website also has the Common Core Standards right on the page of the book – just scroll down to see.