One teaches to Pursue Justice
Book Units
1 Ratings
Add to Favorite  

One teaches to Pursue Justice

Book Title: One

Author: Kathryn Otoshi

Illustrator: Kathryn Otoshi

Jewish Value: Pursue Justice

Book Summary:

RED 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.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Every human life is important. 

  • Each of us must treat others fairly. 

  • We must stand up for others and help them when we see something happen that we know is wrong. Each person can make a difference when he or she helps others.

  • Finding the courage to do the right thing is not always easy, but if we follow our heart, we can make a big difference.

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

The Torah teaches in the book of Deuteronomy “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” literally meaning “Justice, justice, you shall pursue.” The notion of tzedek tirdof—pursuing justice is a core Jewish value that not only refers to courts and laws, but perhaps more importantly, deals with how we treat others. The prophet Micah teaches that the idea of “good” is encompassed by the act of seeking justice. In doing so, one can walk with G-d (Micah 3:1-12).

To pursue justice means that we should live righteously, meaning it is our responsibility to ensure that the needs of others are as important to us as our own. Furthermore, righteous living involves us acting ethically—to be upright, just, and sincere. The commentator Nachmanides reminds us that tzedek tirdof challenges us to resolve conflict by compromising and teaches that being righteous is more important than the obligations of law. What is essential in being righteous and pursuing justice is our ability to act fairly and be inclusive of others. Because every human being is unique and was created b’tzelem elohim, in G-d’s image, they can make a positive difference and contribute to our world in special ways (Genesis 1:26).

The value of tzedek tirdof lifts up the messages of the prophets who sought justice and fairness for all. Like the prophets of our Hebrew Bible, we too can question how the world is and what it ought to be. We can keep Divine expectations for a better world and be better people at the center of our relationship with G-d. Furthermore, no one opinion is of greater importance than the other. In fact, in examining the phrase “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” we learn that the phrase is in the singular. Therefore, each of us must pursue justice. When we do so together and act in righteous ways, the pursuit of justice may be fulfilled.

As Pirke Avot teaches, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.…” We do not need to complete the task of tzedek tirdof alone, but should do our part in creating a just world. Our choice, then, is whether or not we should take action. When we do so, the pursuit of justice comes closer to being fulfilled.

Questions for Reflection

  • Is there a difference between acting ethically each day and specifically pursuing justice, such as by advocating publicly for a specific issue? 
  • Why is it important to understand that our concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, may differ from others? 
  • How can you make a difference in your classroom by pursuing justice or fairness for each child’s unique needs? How might you differentiate your curriculum, instruction, and classroom management strategies to exemplify this approach? 
  • How can you pursue justice—tzedek tirdof on a regular basis and incorporate this value in the classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Remind students of the power of ONE. Each and every one of us has a role in making sure that we are all treated fairly and kindly. If students see someone hurting another person with their words or their hands, they can help their classmates and themselves by telling the person to stop and / or by telling a trusted adult. Remind students that teachers are happy when friends help friends feel safe and valued. They are not a “tattler” if they report injustice. Additionally, take time to encourage and praise examples of students who seek justice or act like ONE in the story. Take action! Create a class and / or school-wide campaign to promote justice by showing kindness and fairness in the treatment of others. (See After the Story activity.)

Materials and resourcesmore


  • Copy of One 
  • After the Story: props for dramatization of the story, including large white circles and markers (green, yellow, purple, orange, blue and red) 
  • After the Story: large cutout of the number 1, craft materials, and markers


Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Have students draw a picture about a time when they felt that someone was being nice to them. Ask them to share their pictures and tell what happened. As appropriate, ask:

  • How did the person help you? 
  • Continue the discussion with examples of not nice or teasing behavior that children have seen on TV, in a book, story, or movie. As appropriate, ask:
    • How did the person in the (insert example here) feel about being teased? 
    • Did anyone help him or her? 
  • What does it mean to “stand up for” your friend or to “stand up to” someone who is not acting very nicely to others (for example, telling someone to stop calling your friend a bad name; telling a classmate that he or she can play with you, but only if he or she stops being mean to your friends)? 

Share the cover illustration and title of the book One. What do students think of when they hear the word one?

Explain that this is a book about the color BLUE and the color RED. (Review colors with students as appropriate.) BLUE is a quiet color; he keeps to himself. RED is a loud color and isn’t very nice to BLUE. Say, “Let’s find out what BLUE’s friends do, or don’t do, to help.”

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 value to pursue justice—tzedek tirdof.

When focusing on the pictures, call attention to the size of the colors and why they look different at various times during the story. (For example, sometimes they are the same size and they appear very close to each other. Other times they are flat and alone. For example, BLUE felt bad, felt “low” about being blue and so was very flat.)

Ask the following questions:

  • Why do you think YELLOW comforted BLUE but never said anything in front of RED? 
  • What happened when RED grew really big? What did the other colors look like when they were afraid of RED? (They became flat because they were all feeling a little blue.) 
  • What happened to the colors when ONE joined them? (They huddled around ONE and started to laugh.) 
  • How did this make RED feel? (He became angry.) 
  • How did each of the other colors change?

After The Story

Ask the following questions:

  • How does RED treat BLUE? How does this make BLUE feel? 
  • Why didn’t the other colors stand up to RED? 
  • How was ONE different from the colors? 
  • How did ONE take away RED’s power? Why did this make RED get smaller and smaller? 
  • What can we learn from ONE? 
  • What would you like to say to RED? 
  • Which character do you think is most like you? Which character would you most like to be? Why? What do we mean when we say everyone “counts”? 

Justice is the idea that we are all supposed to feel safe and cared for and be treated nicely by other people. Explain that speaking up when someone isn’t acting nicely helps ensure justice for everyone in the classroom. Sometimes, if we see that someone isn’t being nice, we need to tell a parent or teacher. This is not tattling; it is a mitzvah to help other people be treated the same as we want to be treated. The following Sesame Street videos reinforce these understandings: Sesame Street Videos:
Don’t Be a Bully”: The monsters teach their friend to “play fair”
Standing Up to a Bully”: Tell a grown-up if you are being bullied

“The Power of ONE.” 
  • List several statements from the book One that reflect the value of pursuing justice (for example, “Stand tall,” “It just takes 1,” “Everyone counts,” etc.). Let students add to this list. Have them vote on a favorite. Write the statements in English and / or Hebrew on a large cutout of the number 1, and title the poster “Pursue Justice—Tzedek Tirdof.” Have students decorate and display it in the classroom.
    • This phrase, “The Power of ONE,” and the number 1 logo can be used as part of a class or school-wide campaign to remind students of the importance of the power of ONE to promote the value of pursuing justice. (See Jewish Every Day.) 

    Create a class dramatization of One.
    • View a dramatized reading of One narrated by the author of the book, Kathryn Otoshi:
    • Discuss the way it reflects the value to pursue justice. 
    • Using ideas from your students in terms of props and costumes (keep it simple), plan, rehearse, and perform your own dramatization of One. 
    • Record and post your performance (with parent permission) and / or perform it for other classes as part of your school-wide campaign: “The Power of ONE.”


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore


Role-play using different colors of socks as puppets to represent the characters in the story. For ONE, select a special multi-colored sock.
  • Divide students into small groups, assigning each a different character from the story and give that group the corresponding puppet. 
  • Ask each group to pretend that they are that character and talk about what happened, what they would do the next time someone is treated unfairly or unkindly, etc. 

Read The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill. Mean Jean runs through the playground before her classmates so that she can kick, swing, and bounce before anyone else. No one says a word to her. But when tiny Katie Sue, a new student, arrives, things change. The new girl enthusiastically kicks, swings, and bounces before the Recess Queen gets the chance. Mean Jean is furious until Katie Sue invites her to play together.
  • Discuss how the students did not feel safe on the playground, yet no one stood up for themselves and each other to challenge Mean Jean. 
  • Help students connect the story with the Jewish value to pursue justice—tzedek tirdof

Literacy, Science 
Retell the story of One using food coloring.
  • Reread the story One. Each time RED says or does something mean, put a drop of red food coloring into a glass of water. Have students observe what is happening to the water. (The water appears more red each time RED says something mean.) 
  • Read the story again. Each time RED says something mean, put one drop of red food coloring into a second glass of water (with the same amount of water as the first.) However, this time, when ONE and the other colors stand up to RED , put in corresponding drops of food coloring (BLUE, GREEN, YELLOW) into the glass. What happens to the water? 
  • Compare the color of the water in both glasses. What is different about the second glass? (The color of the water becomes a muddy brown.) Ask students, “What do you think happened to RED?” (By standing up and saying something, the other colors took away RED’s color, that is, RED’s power to be mean.) 
Brainstorm with your students examples of super heroes or characters from stories in the Torah, books, or movies that they think worked to make the world more fair and better for others.

Art, Literacy 
Introduce children to the book Swimmy, by Leo Lionni: The story focuses on a school of small fish that fears the larger, more dangerous fish in the sea. Ultimately, Swimmy shows them how, by working together, they can overcome many dangers.
  • In small groups or pairs, have students recreate a favorite scene of the story by glueing the following materials to large paper plates: goldfish crackers for the little red fish, a chocolate goldfish cracker to represent Swimmy (and for the eye of the large fish), and craft materials, and markers. 
  • In chronological order, have students tell what happened in the story based on their image. 
  • Discuss the reason why the fish were able to stay out of danger at the end, emphasizing the importance of each individual working together to help one another. 

Note: Research has shown that children who have at least one good friend are less likely to be the victims of bullying behavior. Engage students in activities which involve them in working and playing together.

Community Building
Give each student a single wooden stick or tree branch. Ask them to try and break their stick. (They should break easily.) Explain that the branch or stick is like one person. It is hard for her or him to stand up to bullying. The bully can easily hurt one person or make him or her feel bad. Then tie five branches or sticks together. Pass this to one child. Ask him to try to break the sticks. (They can’t be broken.) Explain that these sticks represent people who stick together against the bully. By sticking together, each individual becomes stronger, which is why building community—kehilla is so important and special. Keep passing the sticks until all the children have had an opportunity to try to break them. Students should be aware that when they join together if they see a person being bullied, it takes away the power of the bully.

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

It Only Takes One

by Miss Emily Aronoff Teck

Inspiration Text

“Wake me up, G-d; ignite my passion, fill me with outrage. Remind me that I am responsible for Your world. Don’t allow me to stand idly by. Inspire me to act. Teach me to believe that I can repair some corner of this world.” - Rabbi Naomi Levy


Each person, no matter how old or young, big or small can make a difference--"It only takes One! " And each of us, working together to do what is right-well then, "it adds to a lot."

“Power of One” Song Writing Activity
Each of us has a role in making sure that we are all treated fairly and kindly, just like the character One in the story. What are some things you can do ? Ask students to brainstorm and discuss several of their ideas while the teacher documents their thinking.

• Invite someone who is alone to play with you and your friends.
• Send a card to a friend who is sick.
• Stand up when you see a person being hurt by words or by hands.

2. Select two of your ideas and use them to write a new verse for the song, “It Only Takes One” by Miss Emily. Follow this pattern, and attempt to make the first and third lines end in rhyming sounds to match the rest of the song:

It only takes one __________
To __________________________
It only takes one __________
To __________________________

For example:
It only takes one “join us”
To brighten a day
It only takes one kindness
To take pain away

3. How will you illustrate your stanza? List ideas or photos you can take or illustrations you can create. Plan a poster that can be used in a school-wide “Power of One” poster campaign or video. (When planning a video, individual students/pairs can sing their stanza as their picture is shown while the entire class sings the original chorus of the song, “It Only Takes One.”

For posters, be sure to include:
• The slogan “The Power of One”
• your stanza
• any pictures or illustrations
• other decorations


It only takes one
To change a mind
It only takes one
That will remind
It only takes one
To lead community
It only takes one
To change history


One leads to two, two then three
One brave first step can start with me
One leads two, then three, then four
Start making healthy changes, you’ll inspire more

It only takes one
To hurt a friend
It only takes one
To start amends
It only takes one
So what is new won’t be strange
It only takes one
To start a change


It only takes one
To grow a family
It only takes one
to share community
It only takes one
To be heard out loud
It only takes one
Good deed
To start to feel proud

One, leads to two, two then three
One brave first step can start with me
One leads two, then three, then four
Start making healthy changes, you’ll inspire more
Start making healthy changes, you’ll inspire more
Start making healthy changes, you’ll inspire more
It only takes one

Additional Music Connections

Evidence of Learningmore

Students are involved in cooperative learning activities, dramatizations, role-playing, and discussions that reflect their understanding of the pursuit of justice.

Students are observed being “upstanders.” (See Jewish Every Day.)


Encourage parents to begin a conversation about bullying using the Sesame Street video as an impetus: Following the viewing of the video, suggest they discuss the questions and engage their child in some of the “Practice and Play” ideas (listed below the video screen) to support understanding of the significance of pursuing justice.


  • Lend each family one of the age-appropriate books concerning the Jewish value of pursuing justice listed in the Literature Connection section and websites suggested in this lesson. 
  • Ask families to read the book with their child, focusing on the importance of helping to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. 
  • Have parents and child create a “book box,” a collection of objects and pictures related to the story. (Remind them to decorate the outside of the box and include the book inside it.) 
  • Select a special day to honor the “Power of ONE” and invite parents to come to school and along with their child, share the book box and tell about the book. 
Encourage parents to talk about “The Power of ONE,” sharing stories from their own lives, family, and community about how one person can make a great difference as they stand up for others in the pursuit of justice.
Create a community, school, or synagogue bullying council where parents and teachers can meet to discuss issues related to bullying. Topics can include:
  • statistics about bullying / definition of bullying 
  • signs that your child is being bullied 
  • tips for parents to help children stand up for others and what is right 
  • support for parents whose children are being bullied 
  • friendship building

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Zero Kathryn Otoshi Zero sees herself as a big round number with only emptiness inside. She thinks the other numbers have fun, and they count. Ultimately, Zero listens to some wise words, “‘Every number has value,” says Seven. “Be open. You’ll find a way.”
The Recess Queen Alexis O’NeillLaura Huliska-BeithEach day at recess, Mean Jean runs through the playground before her classmates so that she can kick, swing, and bounce before anyone else. No one says a word to her. But when tiny Katie Sue, a new student, arrives, things change. The new girl enthusiastically kicks, swings, and bounces before the Recess Queen gets the chance. Mean Jean is furious until Katie Sue invites her to play together.
The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others Bob Sornson and Maria DismondyKim ShawHave you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete's new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When Pete begins to behave badly, his classmates teach him about "The Promise."
Swimmy Leo LionniLeo LionniA small group of fish learn that by swimming together in a formation that resembles one huge fish, they can protect themselves from larger predators in the sea.
Don’t Laugh at Me Steve Seskin and Allen ShamblinGlin DibleyThis beautifully illustrated version of the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” (with accompanying CD) focuses on all types of diversity, challenging us with the moving refrain, “Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names, don’t get your pleasure from my pain …”
The Rat and the Tiger Keiko KaszaKeiko KaszaRat and tiger are best friends now, but at one time tiger was a bully, telling rat what to do and not giving him his share of the food. One day rat stands up for himself and refuses to be tiger’s friend until tiger learns to play fairly.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors

Shari D. Silverstein Director of Professional Development & Educational Resources, Orloff CAJE