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The Giving Tree

by Early Math Counts

As a culminating project for your study of leaves this October, I would like to suggest an exploration of the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  This was one of my favorite books as a child and remains a favorite to this day. If you don’t have a copy, I bet you can find one in your local public library.

It tells the story of a boy who grows into a man and then into an old man; while having a friendship with a tree.  The tree gives him what he needs throughout his life even though at times he is greedy and unappreciative.  When he most needs the tree, the tree is there.  It is a beautiful story and a beautiful allegory for life.

For children, the book can be a vehicle to study the life cycle of a tree.  They can talk about how the tree produces apples (remember September?) and then how the leaves come off. Later the branches are used, and then the trunk.  Everything is gone until the tree becomes a stump.  Every part of the tree has a purpose and the tree loves giving to the boy.

We watch the boy age.  Let the children guess how old the boy is at different parts of the book.  You can ask questions like, “How old is the boy?” and “How old do you have to be to be a man?”  “How old is the old man?”  You may be surprised how hard this is for young children.  Age is an abstract concept for them and guessing at age is really hard.

This would also be a really great book to turn into a felt board story.  It wouldn’t be that hard, as I would simply make the tree parts and then remove each part as it happens in the book.  Here is a set of directions to create your own felt board story of The Giving Tree.

Some people see this book as sad, and perhaps one-sided as the boy doesn’t seem to reciprocate the love for the tree until the end.  I see it as a selfless tale.  One of pure friendship.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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