First Friday Freebie: Lending a Helping Hand

Each year as September 11 nears, I begin thinking about the best ways to honor this day, to help people’s sacrifices never be forgotten. For young students who did not live through this day in 2001, it can have little, if any, meaning, but all children can understand the importance of lending others a helping hand. So that has become my focus for this year.

One creative way to help students begin to see the positive effects even seemingly small acts of kindness can have on others is through a study of the life of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Born September 26, 1774, his legacy lives on centuries later and can be explored through texts and resources like these:

Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg


Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh


Johnny Appleseed by Jodie Shepherd

Johnny Appleseed Enchanted Learning activities

Johnny Appleseed biography


Seeing Johnny Appleseed’s impact on the world can help inspire your students to make a difference in the lives of those around them. Even small deeds can make a difference… just like planting one apple seed at a time.

Using this month’s freebie, the Helping Hands activity, students can share ways they plan to use their hands to help others.

helping hands


Need more inspiration? Here are ten other stories that show the power of a helping hand:

Always Copycub by Richard Edwards

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern and Marni Backer

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Jones

The Three Questions by Jon Muth

First Friday Freebie #9: Flower Seeds and Lifelong Dreams

Each time I read the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, I am inspired by Alice’s dedication to her dreams and her quest to make the world more beautiful.

Over the years, these themes have quite naturally become a part of the way my classes commemorate Patriot Day, September 11th. Although young students today have no personal memories of that event, they can still join others in service and work to promote beauty, happiness, and good in the world.

This month’s freebie is an activity based on the story of Miss Rumphius to help students identify practical ways they can change the world for the better.

Click here or on the picture below for a pdf of the activity: includes directions, worksheet, templates, and examples of completed display.



See previous September 11th posts for other books, activities, and resources.


New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne was written to honor the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11. This story of the 19th century legendary New York firefighter Mose Humphreys explores the themes of bravery, courage, hope, and honor.


See the following links for lesson plan ideas:

Random House Teacher’s Guide

Learning from the Challenges of Our Times (see pages 15-16)

Looking for more lesson plans? See my post from last week.


And for a different perspective, you may want to check out I Was Born on 9/11, by Cindy L. Rodriguez.

How do you teach about September 11th in your class? Do you have a book or activity that you find especially helpful?

In Remembrance

As I turned the calendar today, the date jumped out at me.

September 11, 2011

It is hard for me to believe that ten years have passed. Life is so different than it used to be, but our younger students haven’t known it any other way.

The following is a collection of resources that can be used to teach about the location and/or events of that fateful day:

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein

“Man on Wire” Remembers Twin Towers  – pictures and videos

The Little Chapel that Stood, by A. B. Curtiss  [click here and here for lesson plans based on this story]

Lesson Plans

9/11/2001: The Day that Changed America

9/11 Education Materials

Remembering September 11

September 11: Bearing Witness to History

September 11th Theme Lesson Plans

Teaching 9/11: Lessons to Inspire Your Students

Another text I like to use as a tie-in to Patriot Day and the President’s call to Americans to commit to serving our communities and nation is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.

Miss Rumphius’ mission to make the world more beautiful is a great way to inspire students to create their own plans for how they will positively impact our world.

Moments of silence, increased vigilance, and a focus on service to others… what better way to honor and remember those who our nation has lost.