10 Lessons from The Little Red Hen

by Tolovaj

Little Red Hen is a simple story with great potential for school lessons. We present ten possibilities to use it to advantage of your classroom.

The story about a little red hen who decided to plant wheat and take care of it until the bread is ready to be eaten inspired numerous artists to retell it and reinvented it, what is one of the obvious signs of an artistic masterpiece. But this time we'll not deal with it as an evergreen tale. Instead of that, we'll focus on its potential as a starting point for a school, or if you want, a life lesson. We'll see the possibilities are man, if not countless.

Let me present the Top 10 lessons, we can take from The Story of Little Red Hen!

1 Lesson on personal initiative

Little red hen found a seed. She could do many things with it. Or she could do nothing. Instead of that, she decided to plant it. This makes her an example of industrious character. She sees an opportunity and she grabs it. The story doesn't give any clues on possible risks related to growing wheat, so we can safely presume the red hen is not aware of them. She just gets an idea and tries to realize it.

The idea for the classroom: Name a few ideas and tell others what you did about them!


2 Lesson on planning and patience

Through the story soon becomes clear the planting is not the only step to the final result. Tasks follow each other and it takes some time and skills before the wheat grows. But this is still not the end - it has to go through several additional proceedings before the loaf of bread (obviously the main goal) comes on the table.

The idea for the classroom: Can you find another food where a lot of planning, work, transport, etc. had to be done before we can serve it?


3 Lesson on ethics/selfishness

Little Red Hen is all about ethics. A hen works and other animals don't. She feels something should be done with a seed, understands she could use some help on the way to the final result, but others just don't care to give her a hand. She righteously expects others should participate on the journey from the seed to the bread, invites them on several occasions, and, when nobody lifts a finger, does all the job because she still believes the job should be done.

She had her set of morals and other, well, don't. So it's fair they are punished for their laziness. They failed at ethics, so they should not enjoy the final result. But, on the other hand, despite the hen investing all the work and time, necessary to make a loaf of bread, she could still show some mercy. While all lazy (we never heard for any other reason) animals failed at their moral principles, the hen failed in the lesson on humanity.

Such behavior was found iffy among many authors all over the world and this is one of the reasons we can find so many different versions of The Little Red Hen today. Some added her chicks to justify her deny of sharing and soften her cruel punishment. Some added an enemy from outside who opens the eyes of other animals and gives them a perspective on their acts in the past helping them to make better decisions in the future.

There is a whole article on the moral of the story of Red Hen.

The idea for the classroom: How do your students see the last decision of the hen and what they suggest as an alternative if any?

Should the little red hen share bread with others?

(Despite the fact nobody helped her?)
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4 Lesson on second chances

Red hen asks other animals for help at each step of her project. He continues to aks even it became crystal clear nobody would help her. Yet she still offers them a second, third, fourth, etc. chance. We find such situation in many popular stories for children. Characters make mistakes and repeatedly got second chances. They got a chance to learn from the mistakes. Some succeed in that and some don't.

Animals around little hen obviously don't. But the listeners of the story can still learn a valuable lesson - a life will give you second chances. You'll make your share of mistakes and you'll get a chance to make things right. Just learn to recognize your opportunities.

The idea for the classroom: Talk about second chances!


5 Lesson on decisions and consequences

Each character in the story about the red hen makes a decision at each stage of bread making. Each decision leads to a specific consequence and the final consequence for everybody but the hen is to stay hungry. Our actions always cause reactions. It's the fact of life, not only another lesson of basic physics. Our acts have consequences - positive or negative. Human relationships are no exception.

The idea for a classroom: Make a story based on one of your decisions which led to a surprising result.

6 Lesson on cycles in nature

One of the most popular lessons in this story is about life cycles. We need a seed to get a plant, a plant is only a sprout at first, but eventually, it grows to a full grown plant capable to produce more seeds. Each of these seeds possesses an ability to grow into another full-grown plant etc. Nature is full of such cycles.

The idea for the classroom: Draw a few cycles in nature!


7 Lesson on food

Food doesn't come by itself on our tables. It takes a lot of work before we can sit down and enjoy our meals. If somebody doesn't do his job, like most of the animals in the story, somebody else must do more. Bread is a basic staple, but we can name many much more complicated meals, right?

The idea for the classroom: Try to list all the tasks necessary to get your last lunch on the table.

8 Lesson on forms in literature

Little Red Hen is not useful only as a story for little children. It can be helpful in the class of a bit older pupils who are already capable of basic literary analysis s well. This story clearly doesn't qualify as a fairy tale. Apart from talking animals (which are actually representations of two diametrically opposite forces), there are no magical elements. What is even more important, there is no transformation of the main character, the most important element of all classic fairy tales. The conflict is simple, predictable, without escalation, the resolution doesn't change anything.

But there is still a strong moral message, what makes The Red Hen pretty obvious example of a fable (check the article on fables). If we want to find a fairy tale, similar to Little Red Hen, we wouldn't be very successful, but among fables, there is an indisputable favorite: The fable about the Cricket (Grasshopper) and the Ant.

Here is a short condensed info on the difference between fairy tales and fables.

The idea for the classroom: Compare both stories (fables) and have a debate about the characters!

9 Lesson on business (you need seed capital and resources)

This fable posses everything that a beginner in the business world should know (and needs to understand to be successful):

  • Before you start a business you need an idea (growing wheat).
  • Then you need a so-called seed-capital (in this case a seed).
  • You also need a focus on the final result (sequence of different tasks should be performed).
  • You need business partners (Red Hen lacks them, yet she is capable to do everything by herself), otherwise, you (and your profit) will be limited (at the end only one loaf of bread is baked, what is not very profitable) too.

The idea for the classroom: Assume other animals help the hen. Which limitations of productions will be overcome? How will such collaboration impact on profit sharing? Which limitations would still be there?

10 Lesson on dynamics in human society (feminism), the symbolism of red color

We can read the fable of the red hen as an allegory of human society. She obviously represents the role of a woman in a majority of most human societies.

A woman is expected to do almost all work at home, take care of children, entertain men and silently deal with all products of her work with everybody around her (namely men and kids).

But in this very story, the red hen fights back - she invites everybody else to participate at each stage of bread making, but they don't want to.


When they want to eat, she refuses to share the bread. If we think in the perspective of a traditional woman's role in human society this act can be understood as a revolution. In this case, the red color in her name gives strong symbolic meaning.

Red is the color of action and revolution. It's the color of change and in a way, we can say this little seemingly unimportant story for kids already played a part in changes which already started in human society. While the woman is still discriminated to the man in so many areas, things are changing already. Hopefully for good.

The idea for the classroom: Talk about the role of a mother and a woman in a family. Do we give our mothers enough credit?

Updated: 05/01/2019, Tolovaj
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Do you have an additional idea for a classroom lesson based on The Little Red Hen?

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Tolovaj on 10/28/2023

Yes, DerdriuMarriner, I think so.

Tolovaj on 10/28/2023

Most of my articles are linked to my other articles on HubPages or different blogs.

Tolovaj on 10/28/2023

I strongly believe Perrault's version is more successful but a pinch of vengence is still expected.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/28/2023

The third lesson on ethics/selfishness caused me to ponder engagement, non-engagement, involvement, non-involvement, participation, non-participation in activities beneficial, contrary to group or individual welfare or innocuous.

Is it possible that the other animals need to see that benefits will accrue to all?

DerdriuMarriner on 10/27/2023

In particular, I appreciate the link to your Red Hen article on Hub Pages.

Might it be possible to link your other wizzlies to the articles that you've written elsewhere?

DerdriuMarriner on 10/26/2023

Previously, I meant to ask you about the information in your answer July 19, 2023, to my prior question, June 12, 2023.

Which version weathered the ups and downs of disliking and liking plot twists and turns: Perrault forgiveness or Grimm vengeance?

Tolovaj on 07/19/2023

Sure, Cinderella is a great example of transformation and classic fairy tales are always about transformation. Yet, this may not be enough - at Cinderella, for instance, we have two famous variations: Perrault's where Cinderella forgives her step-sisters, and Grimm's where birds peck her sisters' eyes.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/12/2023

Wow, that's so awful to think of the little red hen becoming indifferent and lazy like the others. But that's definitely a possibility.

An appeal for me of fairy tales is the happy transformational ending that you suggest.

A good place would be one that wasn't connected to her life personally or professionally, correct? Fairy tales with happy endings, such as Cinderella, would suggest a good place as one removed from the normal, right?

(Cinderella turning from stepmother's and stepsisters' drudge into royalty would be an example of transforming, wouldn't it?)

Tolovaj on 06/12/2023

Well, one example would be that the red hen becomes just like the others - lazy and indifferent. The other would be to break up the connections and find a good place where she could prosper (that would be closer to fairy tale lessons).

DerdriuMarriner on 06/10/2023

The 8th lesson on forms in literature intrigues me.

What is an example of how the little red hen could have been transformed or transformed herself?

Would listing the transformational options and consequences make an effective, interesting classroom lesson?

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