November 11, 2011

Teaching about Friendship with the Rainbow Fish

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As you know, I teach K-2 Autism Support.  As my students become more socially aware of eachother, the need to teach them about the basic skills of being a friend are crucial!  BUT – this is NOT just for kids with Autism!  Actually, many times I observe the other kids in regular ed., the more I am convinced that EVERY one of them needs lessons in how to be a kind friend!

One of the ways I love to teach this is through the book The Rainbow Fish:


First, I read the book to my students.  The VERY abbreviated summary is that there is a beautiful fish with lots of sparkly scales, but he is lonely.  He doesn’t want to play with other fish, but he just wants to admire his own scales all day.  He is sad because he’s lonely.  One day, a little fish asks for one of the rainbow fish’s scales, and the rainbow fish is horrified.  He swims away and finds an octopus, who tells him if he wants to have friends, he should give one of his scales to another fish and share his beauty.  He reluctantly gives a little fish one of his shiny scales, and discovers that it feels great to share his beauty.  He gives away almost all of his scales to his new friends, and he isn’t lonely anymore.

I had no idea that this was a controversial book until I wrote up this post.  Um, wow.  People are reading into this book and saying it’s socialist propoganda etc…for the sake of simplicity let’s please just see this as a sweet book that can teach kids to be kind to one another.  Sheesh.

OK, moving on 🙂

There’s a really fun website that has famous actors read fun stories to kids (it’s sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild).  My kids LOVE it!  The website is Storyline Online – just click on the Rainbow Fish book.

Once we’ve read the book, we discuss the rainbow fish’s feelings at the beginning of the book versus the end of the book.  We then discuss why his feelings changed.

Next, I have the kids color in their own fish.  I projected this picture of the fish, traced it onto a sheet of white paper, and made one for all of my kids.

None of the kids fishes should have sparkly scales right now.  Then, I’ll pull out some glittery blue “scales” (cut out from 99 cent sheets of scrapbook paper from Michaels Craft Store).  I will have each student draw a name from a bucket of another student in our class.  They will have to come up with a kind word to describe this student.  Then, we will write it on the scale, and give it to their friend to paste on their fish.

This is a fun way to teach kids to think about others, and to realize that by giving a friend a kind word, they can make someone feel really special!  For the population of students I work with, thinking  of a nice word to say about a friend was HARD!  But, I’m going to continue working on this concept, and hopefully it will become more natural over time.  They DID love getting a scale from a friend…they kind of “puffed up” when they received their compliment.  So cute! 🙂

Here’s some of the ideas they came up with:

BTW – in first grade, being called a “Good Tagger” is a pretty big deal 😉

I displayed them all together on our bulletin board in our classroom.  This way, our students are constantly seeing this visual reminder to use kind words with friends.

There’s lots of ideas and resources for this book – check out these two websites for more ideas:

The Virtual Vine



Do you have any fun ativities you’ve done with your kids to teach them about being a kind friend?  Any other lovers of “The Rainbow Fish” out there?

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  1. I loved that book when I was little! We did a school play about it in elementary school too haha 🙂

  2. Haha! The Rainbow Fish always bugged me because I thought it was really rude of all the other fish to ask the Rainbow Fish for scales. That’s just impolite. Whenever is it okay to admire something someone else has and then ask to them to give it to you? And then shun them if they don’t? I had no idea there was a whole cult that felt the same way. Righteous. :p

    Really though, there are a lot of fun artsy spin-offs that can be had from the book. That part is nice. 🙂


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