Primary Book – “The Little Red Hen”

Just like people, book characters often operate on more than one level!

Very often, the author has at least one character learn something about the discouraging outcomes of operating at the lower levels. In many cases, the character is transformed in some way during the course of the story.

Whenever I read such a book to children, I highlight this transformation by connecting it to the DWS Hierarchy.

  • What did this character learn as the result of experiencing or observing the outcomes of operating on a lower level?
  • What can we learn from this character’s experiences?
  • How might what has happened in this situation, affect how this character chooses to act in the future?
  • Have you ever had a similar experience in your own life?

Take the familiar story of The Little Red Hen…

Cover Illustration

The secondary animal characters are all operating on Level B; they refuse to help the Little Red Hen as she goes about the tedious work of slowly growing grain and finally baking bread. What’s the outcome for these characters who continue with this type of negative behavior?

Well, the Little Red Hen refuses to share the bread with them! She’s fed up with their negative and lazy attitudes!

  • How might this outcome – the fact that they didn’t receive any bread in the end – change their behavior in the future?
  • What might they be reflecting upon by the end of the story? Might they still be thinking about this in the days to come? You can bet that they won’t soon forget this experience. It will probably prompt them to do some self-reflection!
  • What about the next time someone asks them to pitch in? How might they choose to respond?

Here’s a great opportunity to discuss the fact that if they did decide to pitch in on another similar occasion, (specifically in hopes of receiving something at the end from someone else,) they would have raised their behavior to Level C–but not D. They would be choosing to do the right thing – pitch in and help- but their motivation would be based on something external. By operating on Level C, they would get the treat, but they would miss out on the feelings of personal power that the hen must be experiencing.

Imagine being as self-reliant and self-directed as the Little Red Hen! Whoa! When she sets her mind to it, she knows she can do anything she wants! Just look at her–she never gives up! She makes a goal and pursues it over time until she finally reaches it! Wow! What must she feel like inside? She feels personally powerful!! And not only that, she’s quietly setting a fine example for others. She is a leader, without even realizing it!!! Won’t others be inspired by her determination! Won’t others be motivated by her actions to set a goal of their own? Wow! That’s called “authentic power.” That’s the stuff of Level D!!!

Now, in Grade One, I know I couldn’t have such a conversation with my students on the first day of school, but as the year goes on such conversations are entirely possible.

By having such discussions based on quality literature, I am teaching about the Hierarchy and at the same time I’m helping a child to improve their reading comprehension.

Reflection is key in both situations:

  • Good readers think a lot as they are reading. They make connections to other books and to real life.
  • Effective people think a lot too! In a conscious way, they think about what they are doing and where it’s taking them in the long run. The DWS Hierarchy is a tool that can help people––of any age––think about what they want to choose in their lives.