The Story of Ferdinand teaches Be Content and Grateful
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The Story of Ferdinand teaches Be Content and Grateful

Book Title: Ferdinand The Bull

Author: Munro Leaf

Illustrator: Robert Lawson

Jewish Value: Be Content

Additional value:

     Be Grateful,Peace,Protect Animals

Book Summary:

Ferdinand is the world's most peaceful--and--beloved little bull. While all of the other bulls snort, leap, and butt their heads, Ferdinand is content to just sit and smell the flowers under his favorite cork tree. Leaf's simple storytelling paired with Lawson's pen-and-ink drawings make The Story of Ferdinand a true classic.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Self-contentment and appreciation bring greater happiness in life

Essential Questions:

  • What makes you feel content (what do you appreciate in your life)? 
  • How often do we take time to appreciate and notice the things growing in nature all around us? 
  • What would our world be like without trees, grass, and flowers? 
  • How do we respond to others who want us to act or do something we don’t want to do? 
  • How can we resolve conflicts with others in a peaceful way?

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

Same’ach b’chelko literally means “happy or content with one’s lot.” In other words, this Jewish value reminds us that we need to be content with what we have. This not only refers to our belongings, but also implies that we should not envy what belongs to others, live in the present moment, be happy with our own talents and accomplishments, and accept who we are. There is no limit to what we don t have, and if that is where we focus, then our lives are inevitably filled with endless dissatisfaction.

In essence, we need to be grateful for what we have and who we are. Therefore, same’ach b’chelko is closely connected to another Jewish value, hakarat hatov, gratitude. When we are content with and grateful for what we have, we don’t feel threatened by the success and good fortune of others. We can celebrate what they have by appreciating what is our own. How we feel about ourselves can have an impact on our attitude toward others. As we give thanks, our practice needs to be to recognize and honor what we have received and to be grateful for its sufficiency.

Our own contentedness, then, truly is reflective on our perspective on life: the why and how, the meaning and purpose of our existence in the world. The rabbis of the Talmud teach that we should give thanks for the ability to give thanks. The very first words we are to speak in the morning are Modeh Ani—I am grateful to You. Beginning the day with thanks, our eyes are attuned to blessing and our spirit renewed.

Questions for Reflection

  1. We learn from Pirke Avot 4:3 that we should not underrate the importance of anything. What is the reasoning for not underrating the importance of anything? 
  2. Do you feel more content when you have a sense that all things have their place? 
  3. What makes you happy, and what are you grateful for?
  4. How can you incorporate the value of same’ach b’chelko in your classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Each week, highlight a student and have students share with the class special things that they appreciate about this student. Then, have students recite the blessing formula: Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, “Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, For Making x Special Because He/She is (helpful, considerate, polite, friendly, etc.).”

Materials and resourcesmore


Copy of Ferdinand The Bull


Musical Narration with Seth Rogan
Suggested Additional Resource: Teacher Guide from "Book It" 

Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

A portion of The Story of Ferdinand takes place in the bullring. Discuss what students know about this custom. List their ideas on the board and share the following information about bullfighting.

  • In Spain, bullfighting is called corrida de toros (running of the bulls).
  • Popular in both Spain and Portugal, bullfighting is important to their cultures. Over 400 bullfighting arenas are located in the two countries. (Locate Spain and Portugal on a world map.)
  • A bullfight is usually comprised of three matadors who trick the bulls into coming closer to them by teasing them with their red or pink capes. Interestingly, it is the movements they make, not the color of the cape, that attract the bulls because bulls are colorblind. Eventually, the matador will use his sword to kill the bulls.
While some might argue that the bullfight is of cultural importance, there has been tremendous controversy because many others believe the way in which the bulls are treated is particularly cruel. Where do students stand on this issue?
  • Put a long piece of string along the floor of your room. Have the students who believe that bullfighting should not be allowed stand at one end of the string and those that believe that bullfighting should definitely be allowed stand at the opposite end. Students can also stand along the line either closer to one end or the other depending upon how strongly they feeling about the issue.
  • Have students explain why they stood where they did. Be sure the class is reminded to listen and respect each student’s right to his/her own viewpoint. Involve students in discussing the mitzvah, “Kindness to Animals”-Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim.
The Story of Ferdinand resonates with so many, young and old alike, perhaps because of its message of contentment. References to contentment, Sameach B’Chelko, are found throughout Judaic writings and teaching.

Share and discuss the quote, “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot…” (Pirkei Avot 4:1) What does the word rich mean? Does it refer to money, gold, or to something else?

Reading The Story

Ferdinand’s mother was worried that Ferdinand might be lonely sitting by himself all day long rather than playing with all the other bulls.

  • Would you describe Ferdinand as lonely?
Ferdinand showed courage to be who he was.
  • How did he demonstrate individuality? Have students share examples of times when they might demonstrate individuality (e.g.,choosing the clothes they like to wear, decorating their own bedrooms with pictures and objects they like, listening to their favorite music, etc.).
  • Why do you think Ferdinand avoided fighting?
  • What would do if you were a bull like Ferdinand and were being forced to fight?
Have students discuss the pictures of the banderilleros, the picadores, and the matador as they all tried to persuade Ferdinand to fight. Ask:
  • Why wouldn’t Ferdinand get up and fight?
  • Were the banderilleros and picadores being kind to the animals, pricking them and making them mad?
  • The Matador wanted to be feared. Do you want people to be afraid of you, or think of you as a kind friend?
  • Do you think it would have been easier for Ferdinand to get up and fight or sit in the middle of the bullring with everyone trying to convince him to fight?
  • How did Ferdinand pursue peace?
Do you think that it is easier or more difficult to go along with the group and do what others want you to do or is it easier to do things the way you think they should be done? (You may wish to introduce the concept of peer pressure at this time.) Can students give an example from their own lives when they either went along with the group or did it “their way”? Which made them happier?

After The Story

How would you describe Ferdinand, the Bull? How was he like other bulls? In what ways was he different? Have students create a Venn diagram to help with this comparison.

Revisit the quote, “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot…” (Pirkei Avot 4:1) to help reinforce understanding.

  • Would the farmer, at the end of the story, consider himself rich? 
  • If Ferdinand could talk, would he consider himself rich? 
  • What things in your life make you rich? 
Ask students whether or not they think that Ferdinand the Bull was content with what he had in his life (meaning, satisfied with or appreciative of his life)? What can they find in the story to support this? 
Have students imagine they are in the field sitting under the tree next to Ferdinand, smelling the flowers. Divide a piece of chart paper or make four columns on the board. What do they“see,” “hear,” “smell,” and “feel?” List their responses.

How do they think Ferdinand felt when he was in the field, under the cork tree, smelling the flowers? Reinforce the concept of being content. Ferdinand was content (satisfied) with his life.
Rabbi Akiva said, “If people are satisfied with what is theirs, it is a good sign for them. If they are not satisfied with what is theirs, it is a bad sign” (Tosafot Brachot 3:3). Why is being satisfied a good thing?


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Peace and Reflection Garden: Stop and Smell the Flowers
Involve students in creating a “peace garden” where they can both appreciate beauty and take time to smell the flowers. Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav encouraged people to pray in nature, to take some time every day to get away from the noise of life and spend some time along with nature. Called “Hitbodedut” this approach can be very meaningful for young children, consider researching this idea and encouraging aspects of this prayerful reflection with your students.

  • Discuss with your school administrator the possibility of creating a “peace garden” on the school campus. Invite a horticulturist and/or local landscape architect to visit with your class.
  • Help students create questions to learn more about what a horticulturist and landscape architect are responsible for doing. Encourage students to discuss their visions for the garden.
  • What would students like to see in their garden (e.g., butterflies, flowers, vegetables, a bench to sit on, large rocks, etc.)? 
  • Generate a discussion with the guest speaker on such topics as, “What do plants need to survive and thrive?”; “What types of plants will grow best in the area?”; “Which locations on the school grounds would best provide the best light/shade needed?” 
  • Work together to grow and care for your garden and your community.
  • Discuss the responsibility of caring for a garden and the various “jobs” students can hold in terms of planting, watering, charting plant growth, etc. Create and display job chart which lists the title and job description of each. Periodically assign different students to them. Create additional job cards as needed.
  • Invite parents and partners from local community organizations to help support this project with their time, talent, or with helping to provide the materials needed.
  • Involve students in Acts of Loving Kindness-G’milut Hasadim. As flowers and/or vegetables mature, share them with members of the community. For example, bring flowers or bread made from the zucchini you grow to a local senior center!
Musical Narration of Ferdinand
Share with students this video that features a narration of the story by Seth Rogen with musical accompaniment: Identify the instruments and discuss with students how the music effects the story and the mood of the story.

Perceptions in a Venn Diagram
One of the critical aspects of this story is that Ferdinand does not give in to the perceptions that the men have of him. He holds firm to his identity. His self-perceptions are fixed. How do students see themselves?
1. Perceptions About Ferdinand
Draw two intersecting large circles on the board. Have students brainstorm how Ferdinand sees himself (quiet, happy, etc.) and list these traits in one of the circle labeled “How Ferdinand Sees Himself. ” Then brainstorm and list in the second circle “How Other People See Ferdinand” including the men looking for brave bulls, the matador, and Ferdinand’s mother and friends. If any traits fit in both circles, place them in the area of the circles that intersect.

2. Children’s Own Self-Perceptions
Remind students that Ferdinand seems to know who he is and what he likes. Invite students to use art to represent what they are like and what they enjoy as individuals. Students can use photos from home, magazine clippings of their favorite foods or sports/activities they enjoy, and/or they can draw their favorite items on their paper or poster board. Students may like to contrast their self-perceptions with Ferdinand’s (loves life, friendly, content, likes the outdoors, peaceful, free, loves flowers, individual, strong, amazing, powerful, etc.)

Time Line
Ferdinand goes through a variety of experiences. The students can be asked to plot those experiences on a timeline. Students might then interview family members to learn about important events that have happened in their families and produce a timeline of their own or their family’s special events. Students can add dates or ages to the events they plot on their personal time lines. Then, have students share their special events and explain how these events make them content with all they have and grateful for what they have.

Many find that exercise gives them a sense of contentment and well-being. With the assistance and support of your administration and parents, initiate “yoga in the classroom” or an “after school yoga” program.
Research has shown that students involved in yoga make significant gains in academic achievement, raising self-esteem, and behavior. Yoga nourishes their mind, body and spirit and paves the way for a life-long tradition of health and fitness. Yoga helps them find a “peaceful place.”
Invite a yoga instructor from the community to visit your class to give an introductory lesson on yoga as well as discuss safety issues. Invite parents to attend.
Alternatively, view and practice yoga videos with students. Here is one of many excellent options: How much is enough?

To further the conversation concerning being content with what we have, discuss the concept of Dayeinu - it would have been enough for us. In the Passover Haggadah we read that as a people, we would have been satisfied if G-d had only done the one thing, or the next, etc.
Remind students the familiar melody by singing the refrain of the song;
“dai, dayeinu, day dayeinu, day dayeinu, dayeinu dayeinu!” Ask students what the word “Dayeinu” means in English then review the lyrics, in English or Hebrew as appropriate to your student’s understanding. The following verses are most common, full lyrics can be found online.

If G-d had fed us the manna, and had not give us the Shabbat- it would have been enough for us!
If G-d had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai-it would have been enough for us!
If G-d had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah-it would have been enough for us!
If G-d had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel- it would have been enough for us!

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

“You Get What You Get”

Inspiration Text

Ben Zoma says, “Who is rich?  The one who appreciates what he has …”  -Talmud, Avot 4:1


This value can be a struggle for many people of diverse ages to practice. Adults might find comfort in a more grown-up version of this approach in a prayer that comes from another tradition, the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

When friends or family become upset, encourage students to use the chorus of this song to remind them to try to be content. The phrase of the chorus is a popular saying in many elementary education settings, so many children will delight in a flood of confidence when they learn a ‘new’ song that they feel they already know.


You get what you get, and you don’t get upset
You get what you get, and you don’t get upset

All the toys are great but there is one I like the best
When we share toys, I want one more than all the rest
If I don’t get what I want, I know I’ll be be okay
If I start to get sad, my friends know what to say


When I sit at the table and its time to eat
I know I should eat healthy foods but I want something sweet
I see what’s on my plate, and I sorta want to cry
But I make a better choice and give new healthy foods a try


It is time for bed, time to read with Mom or Dad
They let me choose two books, but I want more and I get mad
I’m cranky and it’s late, and I see my parents sigh
‘Til I have a good idea, sing this as a lullaby …


I’ve slept all through the night. I’m in a happy morning mood
I’m thinking about this song and about my attitude
With a small shift in how I think, I will better understand
If I’m grateful, I’ll feel rich, feel my life is grand!

I have what I have, and I am quite glad
I’ve got what I’ve got, I’m content with my lot
I have what I have, and I am quite glad
I’ve got what I’ve got, I’m content with my lot

Evidence of Learningmore

Students are able to explain the concept of contentment and gratitude.


Share with families the lessons on contentment and perspective that the students have explored. Ask families to work with students to create a piece of art to be displayed in their home to act as a reminder of their positive approach. Families may choose to utilize and illustrate one of the phrasings that is utilized in the lesson,:

“You Get What You Get And You Don’t Get Upset”
“The Glass is Half Full”
“Find The Silver Lining”
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” “Dayeinu!”
Ben Zoma says, “Who is rich? The one who appreciates what he has …” -Talmud, Avot 4:1

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes Eric LitwinJames DeanPete the Cat goes walking down the street wearing his brand-new white shoes. Along the way, his shoes change from white to red to blue to brown to WET, as he steps in piles of strawberries, blueberries, and other big messes! But no matter what color his shoes are are, Pete keeps movin' and groovin' and singing his song … because it's all good!
A Bad Case Of The Stripes David ShannonDavid ShannonCamilla Cream loves lima beans, but she never eats them. Why? Because the other kids in her school don't like them. And Camilla Cream is very, very worried about what other people think of her. In fact, she's so worried that she's about to break out in...a bad case of stripes!
* PJ library Books