The Mitten Tree by Candice Christiansen - Teaching Ideas

This is a beautiful story about kindness and is a must have for any classroom. Sarah is a lonely woman whose kids have moved out. One day she is watching the children out her window and notices a little boy with no mittens. She sees him standing back from the others, a little sad, a little lonely. She wonders why he has no mittens and then decides she will make him a pair. She spends the night knitting him a blue pair of mittens and by morning she attaches them to the tree. The boy finds the mittens and immediately puts them on. He looks happy! He plays with the other children when they come to the bus stop. As Sarah watches the boy, she is happy, and she also notices a little girl wearing mittens that don't match. That night she makes a pair of red mittens for the girl and attaches them to the tree. The girls is excited about her new red mittens, and Sarah is happy. As the days go by Sarah knits mittens and the kids look for them on the tree, until one day there is a big basket of yarn on her porch. Where did it come from? The kids never saw her knit the mittens nor did they see her put them on the tree, so who could have given Sarah this beautiful gift?

Here is a bit more information you might find useful if you use it in your teaching.

Reading level: 2.5
Theme: kindness
Genre: realistic fiction

Suggested Vocabulary: shutters, sunk, lingered, shades of blue, hedge, knit, blue spruce tree

Reading skills and strategies:
  • asking questions - {before} Why is the book called the Mitten Tree? I wonder if her children visit her? I wonder why the children don't smile at Sarah? Why does the boy have no mittens? Why is the boy not playing with the other children? {during} How did the boy know those mittens were for him? I wonder if the boy did see Sarah? Why was Sarah knitting so many mittens? I wonder who gave Sarah the basket of yarn? {after} Do the children have an idea who is knitting the mittens? Does Sarah have an idea who is leaving her the yarn?
  • author's point of view - 3rd person point of view
  • author's purpose - entertain
  • beginning, middle, end - {beg} Sarah was an old lonely woman. She noticed a boy with no mittens waiting of the bus. Sarah knitted a pair of mittens for the little boy and left them on the spruce tree the next morning. The boy found the mittens and was very happy.{mid} Day after day Sarah made mittens for the children and would leave a par on the tree every morning. The children did not know who was leaving them the mittens. {end} The morning before winter vacation Sarah left mittens on the tree for all the children. They stood there and stared at all the mittens. After the kids got on the bus and Sarah walked home she saw a big basket of yarn on her porch. She still knits mittens for all the children and leaves them on the tree and when she runs out of yarn she finds a new basket of yarn on her porch.
  • cause and effect - Why was Sarah so lonely? because her children were grown and moved away. Why did Sarah leave the blue mittens on the tree? because she saw a boy with no mittens.  Why was the boy so happy? because now he could play in the snow and not freeze his hands. Why did the children look on the branches and boughs every morning? because they like the game. Why did the children just stare at all the mittens on the mitten tree? because they were amazed at all the mittens that were there for them. Why was there a basket of yarn on Sarah's front porch? because someone must have known she was the one leaving the mittens on the tree and they wanted to return the kindness.
  • characterization - describe Sarah, describe the boy in blue
  • classify & categorize - things that show kindness and things that don't. Activities you would wear gloves/mittens and activities that you wouldn't.
  • compare & contrast - compare Sarah to the boy in blue. compare the boy in blue to you. Compare Sarah to your grandmother.
  • connections - text-to-self connection - When someone has left you a surprise gift. Having a neighbor that you don't talk to. Making a gift for someone. Doing something special for someone. Having a grandmother or mother as giving as Sarah. Not having matching gloves.
  • drawing conclusions & inferencing - What kind of person is Sarah? What kind of boy is the boy in blue? Who is leaving Sarah the basket of yarn?
  • predict - Will the children figure out who is leaving the mittens? Will the children ever thank Sarah?
  • sequencing - Sarah is lonely. Sarah sees a boy with no mittens. Sarah knits a pair of mittens and leaves them on the tree for the boy. The boy finds the mittens. Sarah knits another pair of mittens for the girl in red. Sarah leaves a new pair of mittens on the tree every morning. The night before winter break she leaves mittens for all the children on the tree. After the children get on the bus for school she walks home and sees a basket on her porch. It is a basket of yarn.
  • story elements - title, author, genre, characters, setting, beginning, middle & end.
  • visualize - what the big blue spruce tree looked like with all the mittens hanging on it.
I have created a packet to go along with this book which includes worksheets for each of the above mentioned skill and strategy. It also includes 3 math and 3 language arts  activities to use with this book {all of which are based on the Common Core Standards}.

Reading skill & strategy worksheet from the packet.
Math and Language Arts activities from the packet.

Happy teaching!


  1. Oh, a new title for my collection . . . sounds PERFECT for our character building!!! And I so LOVE those intergenerational tales . . . and anything knitting connects with our third-grade knitting club . . . YAY!!

    Thanks, Shawna, for scouting for me; I am DeFiNiTeLy going to check out this book!


    1. Oh Barbara, if you don't have this book, you must get it! It is such a wonderful story and yes the knitting is a perfect connection to your knitting club! I hope you find it and enjoy it as much as I do!

    2. Yep, I ran right out to Barnes and Noble and - you were right - it's perfect! Thanks again.

  2. I love this book and had completely forgotten about it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh yeah, I am glad I was able to remind you of is such a wonderful story and one that I think your kiddos will like!

  3. Wow that's a lot of work! It will be great to go in depth and materials to support you!
    I am your newest follower.

    Going Nutty!

    1. Thanks for following! I love picture books and think they have so much to offer the kiddos so trying to figure out all the ways to incorporate them into teaching and learning is a lot of fun for me! I hope you find something useful here.

  4. Wow, your blog is awesome!! I'm your newest follower!! Love your owl layout too b.t.w. Have a great week!!

    :) Nancy

  5. Thanks! I love the owls too...LeeLou blogs has some really cute stuff!!

  6. Replies
    1. Laurie, thanks for being a fan! I love your blog too, I just spent some time on your site exploring.


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