Lesson Planning

Michael Foy


Unit:     Ethical thinking


Lesson:  The fallacy of The Giving Tree


Key concepts and terms:

ü      dichotomy

ü      altruistic

ü      need

ü      self-sacrifice

ü      virtuous

ü      delusion

ü      devoted

ü      self-respect

ü      ironic

ü      narcissistic (Narcissus)

ü      common good

ü      focusing the binoculars


Text:  The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein


Subject integration:  ethical thinking, critical thinking, religion, literature and language arts.


Guiding question:  What does it mean to be virtuous?


Purpose and process:  In taking this well-known (and loved) book and looking at it through a different lens (focusing the binoculars) we can examine the false dichotomy in a relationship that is one sided.  In fact neither the boy nor the tree act ethically if their interactions result in the tree losing herself without receiving anything in return that enhances her being or her relationship. We will compare and contrast the relationship between the two in the first half of the book with that in the second half.


We will read the book aloud stopping periodically to analyze the story and to infer what has transpired “off the page” to change the boy.  What choices or suggestions could the tree have made that showed self-respect as well as aiding the boy?   Was the tree virtuous?


Some have used this story as an example of Christian giving.  We will compare and contrast the actions of the tree with those of Jesus inferring purpose and motivation.


What was the author’s purpose?  Do you agree?  Is this different from what you might have said before we “focused the binoculars”?  What conclusions do you draw from this?