Chrysanthemum teaches to Show Respect and Use Nice Words
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Chrysanthemum teaches to Show Respect and Use Nice Words

Book Title: Chrysanthemum

Author: Kevin Henkes

Illustrator: Kevin Henkes

Jewish Value: Respect

Additional value:

     Use Nice Words/ Avoid Hurtful Speech

Book Summary:

She was a perfect baby, and she had a perfect name, Chrysanthemum. When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. Students made fun of her name and Chrysanthemum wilted. Life at school didn’t improve. In fact, it got worse. But when the students were introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, things changed and Chrysanthemum blossomed.

Topic(s) Addressed:

Through an interactive read aloud of Chrysanthemum, children will consider and explore the importance of respect, using nice words, and kindness.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Treat one another with respect and kindness. 
  • Each of us is unique and should be appreciated for that which makes us special. 
  • Words matter; speak kindly.

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Rabbi Hillel said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to others” (Shabbat 31a). The value to show respect is one of the key elements to the Jewish worldview. It is part and parcel of almost everything that Judaism teaches, from how one is to approach G-d to how one should act with one’s parents and family members. G-d is respected as the creator of the Universe, just as parents are respected as the creator of children. The idea or value of respect extends beyond one’s own family to include others as well. The benefit of respecting others is not found in what might be gained by showing such respect alone, but also in adherence to the value in and of itself. To live a life respecting others means to realize that everyone is unique, and everyone should be valued as such. This is the essential element of the Golden Rule.

Questions for Reflection

1. How can you increase the amount of respect that is present in your personal and professional lives?
2. What is the difference between gaining respect from others and gaining respect from yourself?
3. How can we best show respect to young children, in a way that makes them feel respected?
4. How can you exemplify respect on a regular basis and incorporate this value in the classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Teach students the Hebrew phrase kol hakavod, which means “all the respect.” It is a Hebrew phrase used in congregational life whenever someone has acted with honor, and to express respect for what he or she is doing. Whenever a student does something respectful or demonstrates that he or she is being thoughtful, say, “Kol hakavod!” Encourage students to use the phrase as well.

Materials and resourcesmore


  • Copy of Chrysanthemum 
  • Introducing the Story: several blooming chrysanthemum plants, books, catalogs, or pictures showing many kinds of flowers 
  • After the Story: cut-outs of paper hearts—one per child, paper links for Kavod ChainPlease add your Content here!


Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Explain to students that you will be sharing a story with them today to help explore the Jewish value kavod, which means “respect.” Discuss what they know about the idea already and then supplement their understanding by sharing this video in which Elmo explains the word:

Share the cover and read the title. Ask, “What do you think the title Chrysanthemum refers to?” Explain that the story is about a little girl with a very unusual name and that she’s named for a flower—the chrysanthemum!

  • Bring in some real chrysanthemums. Let the students touch them, smell them, make pictures of them, wear them in their hair, gently play with them, etc. 
  • Show the students pictures of different flowers and teach their names. Find pictures online, bring in a gardening coffee-table book, and add gardening catalogs to your classroom library.

Reading The Story

Read the story aloud, stopping when appropriate to explore illustrations, address comments, clarify, predict, and guide students’ understanding of the story and the values to show respect—kavod and use nice words—lashon hara.

Discuss the following questions:

  • When you read the line “Her parents named her Chrysanthemum,” stop and ask, “Why do you think they chose that name? What does it mean?” 
  • Pause right before Chrysanthemum starts school and ask, “How does Chrysanthemum feel about her name?” Pause again after the students tease her and ask, “How does she feel about her name now?” At the end of the book, discuss the question, “How does Chrysanthemum feel now? What happened to make her feel this way?” 
  • Ask, “Do you think that the children showed Chrysanthemum respect?” 
  • Compare the picture of Chrysanthemum on the first day of school with the picture of Chrysanthemum when she goes home after the first day of school. Ask, “What clues tell you how she is feeling? What caused her to change so quickly?” 

After The Story

 Involve students in the “Crumpled Heart” activity.

  • Reread the story (or have students listen to the story being read on YouTube: 
  • Give each student a paper cut-out of a heart. As they listen to the story, ask students to crumple or fold the heart each time Chrysanthemum’s feelings are hurt by something mean the students say or do. At the end of the reading, have students unfold their hearts. Talk about how the paper hearts look. Explain that each time someone says something mean and hurts another’s feelings, it hurts his or her heart, meaning it makes that person feel sad. 

Create a class Kavod Chain. Students earn paper links each time they show respect—kavod in the classroom. Write the specific behavior on the link and read it aloud to reinforce kavod before adding each link to the class chain. Explain to students that they earn respect when they show respect and tell them “Kol hakavod!” Set goals such as thirty links each month.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

A Sack Full Of Feathers Storytelling

Use letter-shaped cookie cutters and play dough so students can create the letters of their names. Use prepackaged cookie dough and cookie cutters to help students make personalized cookies. Letters can also be constructed from healthier foods, such as fruits, veggies, etc.
Involve students in making collage nameplates. Supply a variety of materials (stickers, pom-poms, macaroni, cut straws, etc.) so that each collage ends up looking unique.
Have either the teacher or student write the student’s full name (English and possibly Hebrew) and age on the edge of the artwork.
Display the artwork in a place of honor with the title “Every Child Is a Masterpiece.”
Invite school administrators, faculty, staff, students from other classes, parents, etc., to visit the classroom so students can proudly share their nameplates.
Introduce students to the author. Visit his website and share other stories he has written:
Use a name dictionary to learn about one new Hebrew name every day. Begin with using the names of students in class, but also learn about new, interesting names. Address students by their Hebrew names, either on a daily basis or on special occasions (for example, during Shabbat).

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

Kol Hakavod

by Miss Emily Aronoff Teck

Evidence of Learningmore

Watch as the classroom Kavod Chain grows. As with a portfolio, allow students to periodically share their favorite link from their Kavod Chains. (This will help to reinforce the value throughout the year.)


Make toilet-paper tube binoculars. Decorate them and label them “respect seekers.” Take them home and use them to watch for acts or words that show respect—kavod in the house and around the neighborhood. This includes the students’ own acts and words or those of others. Remind parents that they are a daily role model for their children and that they can help their children learn how to behave with respect. Ask parents to help their children watch for examples of respectful and disrespectful words and deeds on TV, in movies, and in books. They may choose to use their “respect seeker” binoculars to help them do this.
Ask parents to discuss with their child the meaning of their child’s name, why they chose it, if they’re named after someone, what part of the world their name comes from, their Hebrew name, etc. Ask them to complete the form “What’s in a Name?” (download here) and return it to the class teacher.

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
One Kathryn OtoshiKathryn OtoshiRED likes to pick on BLUE. YELLOW, ORANGE, GREEN, and PURPLE don’t know what to do, but they know that RED isn’t being nice. ONE joins them when things get out of hand, and by example, shows the colors how to stand up for each other and for themselves.
The First Gift* A.S. GadotMarie LafranceA Jewish boy tells about the first gift he ever got—his name.
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners Laurie Keller A funny and helpful book about how to treat others nicely so they’ll be nice to you too.
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice SendakMaurice SendakMax is sent to his room when he is disrespectful to his mother. He goes off on a faraway adventure, but he ultimately discovers the very best place is home, where he is loved best of all!
The Crayon Box that Talked Shane DeRolfMichael LetzigThe crayons in the crayon box can’t get along until a small girl brings them home and begins using them to draw beautiful pictures. Ultimately, each color recognizes how special and important each is in contributing to the “whole picture.”
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors

Susan Shane-Linder, Andrea Brown, Heidi Estrin, Mindy Friedman, Deborah Lazarovic, and Amanda Rosenblatt Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, Florida