The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – Teaching Literary Skills with Picture Books
Description from Amazon:
‘Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.’
So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk…and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.
This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.
Literary Skills that can be taught with the book The Giving Tree?
Importance of Friendship
Identify changes that occur to the tree as it ages.
Students can complete a chart to show what gifts the tree and the boy gave each other throughout the story.
Students can identify the boy’s actions that made the tree happy or sad.
How does the tree show personification?
Draw a timeline of events from boyhood to manhood and draw a parallel timeline for the tree.
Cause and Effect
Create a cause and effect chart for each of the interactions between boy/man and tree.
– The tree keeps on giving to the boy until it has nothing left to give. The boy on the other hand does not give anything to the tree. Do you think the boy is selfish? Why or why not?
– Is there a word for someone who keeps on giving without thinking about him/herself or expecting something in return?
– Why do you think the tree is not happy after giving the boy her trunk?
The Nature of Giving and Gifts
– In the story, the tree gives the boy many gifts. Have you ever given something away and later wished that you hadn’t?
– Is it easier to give something away if the receiver truly appreciates the gift?
– When you give something to someone, do you expect something in return?
– When you are given something, do you feel that you owe something to the person who gave you the gift?
– Would you give something you really need to someone you love if they really need it, too?
The Nature of Love
– Early in the book, we read that the tree loved the boy. Why do you think the tree loved the boy in the beginning? Why do you think the boy loved the tree?
– Are the two “loves” the same type of love?
– Do people need to have a reason to love someone?
– Do you treat people that you love differently from the ones that you don’t?
– When you love someone, how do you show him or her that you love them?
– Have you ever been angry with someone you love because they went away for a while, or because they did something you did not like?
– Can you be angry with someone and love them at the same time?
– The tree is not really happy after giving the boy her trunk. Is the boy happy at the end of the story? Is the tree happy?
– If you were the tree would you be happy? Why?
– Have you ever done something just to make someone happy?
– Does doing things to make others happy make you happy?
– Do you need others in order to be happy?
– Do you need a reason to be happy, or can you be happy for no reason at all?
– Can you be happy and sad at the same time?