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Poppa's New Pants

PDF Version With Materials

Grade Level: 3

Character Education Focus: Compassion and Courtesy


Students identify examples from the story "Poppa's New Pants" of how the characters show compassion and courtesy towards each other. Students will then think and write about a time in their lives when they showed compassion or courtesy towards themselves or someone else.

(Two sessions of 45 – 60 minutes  each)

Materials Needed

  1. Medearis, A. S. (2003). Poppa’s new pants. In J. Cooper & J. Pikulski, Houghton Mifflin Reading: A Legacy of Literacy Grade 3 Theme 6.(pp. 283-301).Boston , MS : Houghton Mifflin.
  2. Student journals 
  3. Handout, “Pattern for Pants” (Two copies per student needed) 
  4. Crayons or marking pens  

Academic Character Education Objectives

Students will:

  1. Read a short story and identify ways the story’s characters exhibit traits of compassion and courtesy.
  2. Define the character traits of compassion and courtesy and provide examples.
  3. Identify the character traits of compassion and courtesy in their own lives and discuss opportunities for them to use these traits in their daily lives.
  4. Write a personal narrative using concrete sensory details to describe ways they have shown compassion and courtesy in their own lives. 

California English-Language Arts Standards Addressed


3.0 Literary Response and Analysis

  • 3.3  Determine what characters are like by what they say or do and by how the author or illustrator portrays them.


2.0 Writing Applications

  • 2.2  Write descriptions that use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.

Reprinted, by permission, California Department of Education

Lesson Procedures

    Part One

    1. Introduce the concepts of compassion and courtesy by providing examples that illustrate the critical attributes in each definition. Then ask students to share examples of compassion and courtesy they have observed in their lives.

    Compassion: Being kind, caring, and forgiving, even when others might not be.

    Courtesy: Being polite, listening to others, and using positive language.

    2. Tell students that they will be reading a story about a family who cares for one another and helps each other. Ask students to find examples of compassion and courtesy as they read the story with a partner. Tell them that after they read the story they will be recording some of the examples that they find.

    3. Give each student two copies of the pants pattern.  Have them label one waistband courtesy and the other waistband compassion.  Ask them to come up with three examples of courtesy and three examples of compassion. There should be one of each for each character who hemmed the pants. Then ask students to decorate the pants with designs relating to the story, such as red plaid on a gray background.

    4. Students will share their decorated pants in groups of four students. Each student will present to the group, sharing each example illustrating the character traits. Students may want to refer to the definitions as they explain how the example illustrates the definition of the character trait. Remind students to take turns talking one at a time and practice good listening with eye contact. After sharing, have each group decide on which example they want to present to the class and who will speak for the group. One student from each group will share an example with the class.

    5. Then have students identify a specific instance when they showed compassion or courtesy in their own lives. Have them write about it in their journals, including why their example illustrates compassion or courtesy..

    Part Two

    6. Have students reread their journal entries and share their entries with a partner.  Then they can develop their journal entry into a personal narrative using concrete sensory details. Give some examples of concrete sensory details and any other criteria you have for the narrative. See the writing rubric below.

    7. Students can share their narratives with their partner or a group of four students. Each group can be given the opportunity to share anything they discovered about themselves with the entire class. 

    8. The pants and narratives can be displayed on a bulletin board about character traits.

Academic – Character Education Assessment

Academic Assessment: Assess the personal narratives using the rubric below.  The rubric can also be used to assess the examples of the traits listed on the pants patterns.

Writing Rubric

1- not present
2- few or no examples
3- average examples
4- good examples
5- excellent examples

___________ Topic sentence

___________ Supporting details

___________ Correct use of capitals and end punctuation

___________ Correct spelling

___________ Addresses topic

___________ TOTAL points (25 possible)

Character Education Assessment: Teacher observation of the traits listed on the pants, in their journals, and statements made during class discussion.  

Reflective Journaling Prompts

  • Describe the last time someone was compassionate or courteous toward you.
  • Describe a time you observed your teacher showing courtesy or compassion toward someone.
  • How would you feel if someone in your family tried to help you and instead made things worse?
  • The family members were very compassionate and courteous toward each other.  How do you think Poppa would have reacted if the family members were not compassionate or courteous toward each other?

Extensions and Variations

  • Math can be incorporated into this lesson by having students measure a piece of butcher paper to the original length of the pants, 48 inches. Then draw lines and label with the person’s name, showing the correct length each family member hemmed the pants.  Students could then sign the pants at the length they would have chosen to hem the pants.  From: Medearis, A. S. (2003). Poppa’s new pants. In J. Cooper & J. Pikulski, Houghton Mifflin Reading: A Legacy of Literacy Grade 3 Theme 6.(p. 303). Boston , MS : Houghton Mifflin.
  • Students could work in groups of 3 to 5 to create a short skit about a way to show courtesy and/or compassion.

Based on a lesson by Jenny Watson

Edited by Mary Wilson

© 2005 Orange County Department of Education