Patricia Polacco’s Mr. Lincoln’s Way provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to introduce the topic of respect. Mr. Lincoln, an African American principal, tries to help Eugene, a school bully, overcome his attitude towards people of another race. He helps Eugene realize that even though people are different (race, gender, etc.), everyone should be treated with respect. Mr. Lincoln uses the school’s atrium to help him accomplish his task.
This lesson offers connections to reading/language art skills (cause-effect, plot, setting, character, and writing); character education (caring, respect, kindness); and art (creating and painting birds, creating an “indoor” atrium).
- Identify story elements in a story
- Identify the main characters in a story and tell their character qualities based on actions in the story
- Identify ways to respect others
- Identify ways to treat others with kindness
- Mr. Lincoln’s Way by Patricia Polacco
- Brown paper bags (sandwich kind)
- Construction paper
- Rubber bands
- Paint (any colors)
- Wiggly eyes
- Pipe cleaners
- Butcher paper (this is only necessary if you choose to create vines and leaves to display in the “atrium”)
- Directions for making birds
- Begin the lesson by showing the cover of the book. Ask students to tell what they see and predict who Mr. Lincoln may be. Write their responses on the board.
- Remind students of story elements (setting, character, problem and solution). Have them listen carefully as you read aloud, so that they can identify these elements. Also have them listen to see how one of the main characters makes a drastic change in attitude from the beginning to the end of the story. Have them think of a character trait that would best exhibit this change in behavior.
- Read the story. After page 1, stop and ask students who Mr. Lincoln is and why the children adore him. Pause often throughout the story asking questions such as the following:
- Where does this story take place?
- Who are the main characters?
- What is the problem?
- Who is unkind to children and disrespectful to the teachers?
- How does Eugene change his behavior? Who helps him?
- What character qualities does Mr. Lincoln help Eugene acquire?
- After reading and discussing the story, ask the students if they have ever met someone like Eugene. Discuss how we can always treat others with respect even though they may not treat us the same way.
- This is a good time to role-play situations in which having a lack of respect can lead to hostility or violence. Then role-play again with actions of respect. (Example: Students making fun of or teasing other students because of the way they talk, dress, etc.) Use situations that are typical for the grade level you teach.
- Then have students complete the Handout. This will give you information on how well the students understood the story and the lesson to be learned.
- Next tell students that they will make a bird to be used in an indoor atrium that you will create in the hallway (you could do this inside your classroom in a small area if you do not wish to use your hallway) to remind each student that they are like birds. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They must treat one another with kindness and respect if they are to coexist peacefully in society. See the directions for making birds.
- Once the handouts are done and the birds have been made, display everything in the hallway for others to see and enjoy. See Photo below for the end product. Some birds shown in the forefront of the picture are paper plate birds. These are fun and easy to make too.
Extensions and Adaptations
- Have students role play different scenarios in the story where Eugene was making poor choices or not behaving nicely and show what would have been better actions or choices.
- Read other books by Patricia Polacco. After reading and discussing several of her books, have students vote on their favorite and graph their choices.