The Power of Words
Wilton Manors Elementary School

The children’s classic The Ugly Duckling is an excellent read aloud to prompt discussions on caring, empathy, tolerance, and respect. Throughout the story, the main character (ugly duckling) is treated poorly by the other animals he encounters. As the duckling continues on his journey, he finds one character (the farmer) that accepts him for who he is. With time, caring, and respect the duckling develops into a swan proving that there is something beautiful in everyone.

  • Identify story elements
  • Identify and discuss character traits (attitudes) that are and are not demonstrated by the characters throughout the story
  • Discuss how words leave a lasting imprint on a person
  • Identify ways to treat others with kindness
  • Use problem-solving strategies to brainstorm how the main character could have handled the negative comments of the other characters
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • drawing paper
  • markers
  • scissors
  • journals (these are needed if you choose to have children problem solve or reflect in writing)
Session 1:

  1. Begin the lesson by having students draw and color likenesses of their faces on drawing paper.
  2. Have the students cut out their faces.
  3. Discuss how the faces look focusing on how each is unique yet still beautiful.

Session 2:

  1. Explain to the students that they will be listening to The Ugly Duckling read aloud.
  2. As the story is read aloud, have the students listen for story elements (characters, setting, problem, solution). Chart story elements as they are discussed.
  3. As the story is read, discuss the character traits (attitudes) demonstrated by the characters in the story. At this time, you may also discuss the character traits that are not demonstrated. For younger students, you may record their responses in a t-chart. The older students may record their own responses in a reading journal.

Session 3:

  1. Explain to the students that they will be listening to the story The Ugly Duckling for a second time.  This time they will be holding their faces created in session 1.
  2. Each time the students hear the characters in the story using “hurtful words” they are to crumple their faces.
  3. As you continue to read the story, stop periodically to ask the students to describe what is happening to their faces.
  4. When you have finished reading the story, have the students unfold their faces.
  5. Discuss how their faces have changed.  Have the students try to get the wrinkles and folds out of their faces.  Discuss whether or not they are able to “undo” the damage they have done to their faces.

Discuss how the damage caused to their faces is similar to the “hurt” they feel inside when someone uses hurtful words.
Use student responses from the discussions to assess learning and understanding. You may wish to have students write or draw in their journal about what they learned from this lesson.