K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

Students will be able to see the importance of working together as a group to solve a problem.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

30 minutes


  • Swimmy by Leo Lionni
  • red construction paper
  • black construction paper
  • small fish patterns
  • light blue mural paper
  • large, scary fish - decorated by teacher
  • various colors of construction paper to complete an ocean mural

Technology resources

computer with internet access (optional)


Brainstorm with students the different ways that people solve problems.


  1. Have students trace one small fish pattern on red construction paper and cut out.
  2. Have one student trace the small fish pattern on black construction paper, cut out, and save.
  3. Have students place their red fish anywhere on the blue mural paper.
  4. Bring out the large, scary fish.
  5. Have students discuss what might happen and how they could solve the problem.
  6. Have the student bring up the small, black fish.
  7. Tell the students that you would like to read them a story about a little, black fish who helps the other fish in the sea to solve this problem.
  8. Read Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Discuss with the students how Swimmy solved the problem.
  9. Glue down the large, scary fish on the blue mural paper.
  10. Have students glue down their red fish on the light blue mural paper — the way Swimmy had taught them in the story — in the outline of a large fish.
  11. Have the one student glue the black fish, Swimmy, as the eye.


Brainstorm with students other things to add to complete the ocean mural. Observe students as they work together to solve this problem.

Supplemental information


This is a nice activity for the beginning of the school year. It enables the children to see the importance of working together and allows them to participate in a simple project.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 1
          • 1.RL.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Guidance (2010)
      • Readiness/Exploration/Discovery

        • RED.C.1 Use creative strategies to make decisions and solve problems. RED.C.1.1 Identify problems that you have encountered or are likely to encounter. RED.C.1.2 Identify creative strategies and non-creative strategies to make decisions and solve problems....

    • Healthful Living (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • 1.ICR.1 Understand healthy and effective interpersonal communication and relationships. 1.ICR.1.1 Explain the importance of demonstrating respect for the personal space and boundaries of others 1.ICR.1.2 Explain the value of having a diversity of students...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 1

  • Goal 2: The learner will develop and apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed.
    • Objective 2.04: Use preparation strategies to anticipate vocabulary of a text and to connect prior knowledge and experiences to a new text.

Guidance (2001)

Grade K–5

  • Goal 6: Understand the relationship between personal qualities, education, and training, and the world of work.
    • Objective 6.04: Work cooperatively with others as a team member.
  • Goal 7: Acquire the attitudes, knowledge and interpersonal skills to help understand and respect self and others.
    • Objective 7.07: Demonstrate cooperative behavior in groups.
  • Goal 8: Make decisions, set goals, and take appropriate action to achieve goals.
    • Objective 8.03: Debate alternative solutions to a problem.