Story-Based Lessons – Discovering Values through The Story of Ferdinand

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This is a Story-Based Lesson. This lesson has been built around The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Story-Based Lessons are instructional tools that can be used by teachers in class and parents at home to generate discussion on a variety of topics.

The_Story_of_Ferdinand“Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand. All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand. He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers. He had a favorite spot out in the pasture under a cork tree. It was his favourite tree and he would sit in its shade all day and smell the flowers.”

 

Story Title: The Story of Ferdinand
Author: Munro Leaf
Illustrator: Robert Lawson
Storyteller: Karishma Modi
Cover Illustration: Sneha Malani
Language: English and Hindi
Story Title: The Story of Ferdinand
Author: Munro Leaf
Illustrator: Robert Lawson
Translated By: Arvind Gupta
Storyteller: Ajay Dasgupta
Cover Illustration: Sneha Malani
Language: English and Hindi

1. Key Themes and learning objectives

  • Conformity – should everyone be alike?
  • Gender roles – is it necessary to fight and be violent?
  • Stereotypes – does big and strong equate to fierce and aggressive?
  • Violence and fighting: is fighting and violence good?
  • Animal rights – is violence towards animals (in any form) justified

2. Discover the story

Use these resources to create a story listening activity. Some ideas on how the listening session may be organized:

  1. Make groups of up to 5 students and ask them to sit in a circle and listen to the story together. They can also take turn reading out the story from a book.
  2. Ask students to listen to the story at home and then discuss their thoughts and reflections from the story with their sibling/friend/parent. Follow this up with a discussion on the story in class.
  3. If you are a home-schooling parent, it may be a great idea to call friends over to do a group reading/listening session followed by a discussion on the story. Please see the section on “Explorations by Home Schooling Parents” below for more ideas.

Read the full text of the story below
Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand. All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand. He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers. He had a favorite spot out in the pasture under a cork tree. It was his favourite tree and he would sit in its shade all day and smell the flowers.

Sometimes his mother, who was a cow, would worry about him. She was afraid he would be lonesome all by himself. “Why don’t you run and play with the other little bulls and skip and butt your head?” she would say. But Ferdinand would shake his head. “I like it better here where I can sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.

As the years went by Ferdinand grew and grew until he was very big and strong. All the other bulls who had grown up with him in the same pasture would fight each other all day. They would butt each other and stick each other with their horns. What they wanted most of all was to be picked to fight at the bull fights in Madrid. But not Ferdinand–he still liked to sit just quietly under the cork tree and smell the flowers.

One day five men came in very funny hats to pick the biggest, fastest roughest bull to fight in the bull fights in Madrid. All the other bulls ran around snorting and butting, leaping and jumping so the men would think that they were very very strong and fierce and pick them. Ferdinand knew that they wouldn’t pick him and he didn’t care.

So he went out to his favourite cork tree to sit down. He didn’t look where he was sitting and instead of sitting on the nice cool grass in the shade he sat on a bumble bee. Well, if you were a bumble bee and a bull sat on you what would you do? You would sting him. And that is just what this bee did to Ferdinand. Wow! Did it hurt! Ferdinand jumped up with a snort. he ran around puffing and snorting, butting and pawing the ground as if he were crazy.

The five men saw him and they all shouted with joy. here was the largest and fiercest bull of all. Just the one for the bull fights in Madrid! So they took him away for the bullfight day in a cart.

What a day it was! Flags were flying, bands were playing…and all the lovely ladies had flowers in their hair. They had a parade ino the bull ring. First came the Banderilleros with long sharp pins with ribbins on them to stick in the bull and make him mad. Next came the Picadors who rode skinny horses and they had long spears to stick in the bull and make him madder. Then came the Matador, the proudest of all–he thought he was very handsome, and bowed to the ladies. He had a red cape and a sword and was supposed to stick the bull last of all. Then came the bull, and you know who that was don’t you? –FERDINAND.

They called him Ferdinand the Fierce and all of the Banderilleros were afraid of him and the Picadores were afraid of him and the Matador was scared stiff. Ferdinand ran to the middle of the ring and everyone shouted and clapped because they thought he was going to fight fiercely and butt and snort and stick his horns around. But not ferdinand. When he got to the middle of the ring he saw the flowers in all the lovely ladies’ hair and he just sat down quietly and smelled.

He wouldn’t fight and be fierce no matter what they did. He just sat and smelled. And the Banderilleros were mad and the Picadores were madder and the Matador was so mad he cried because he couldn’t show off with his cape and sword. So they had to take Ferdinand home.

And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favourite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly.
He is very happy.

Here is a 1938 Walt Disney film based on the same story

Here is a picture story of The Ferdinand the Bull

3. Reflection and Discussion

Questions for reflection

  • What do you think about the character of Ferdinand? Did you find him strong/weak/inspiring? Why?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation like Ferdinand found himself in? What did you do? Why?
  • What do you find particularly interesting about Ferdinand’s nature?
  • If you were to rewrite this story, which animal would you chose Ferdinand to be? Why?

Additional questions for exploration

  • Who is Munro Leaf? Why is he an important writer?
  • What have important leaders of the 20th century said about the Story of Ferdinand? Why?
  • What are Bullfights? When did they start? Why are they so popular?
  • Who are Picadors, Banderilleros, and Matadors?
  • What are the various thoughts that people have about Bullfights in Spain?

4. Curated Online Resources

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on teaching children to make “ethical choices,” but it would be difficult for any of us to determine a clear set of criteria that makes an action “right” or “wrong” each time. The Story of Ferdinand is an example of a young protagonist who grows up very comfortable in his own skin and with his own decisions but is soon confronted with difficult situations that challenge his peaceful way of life. Young children can use Ferdinand’s story to confront their own questions about ethical dilemmas. Each question set deals with the larger issue of how we make choices in our interactions with others, but this question can be broken up into more specific topics. Looking at how the men interact with Ferdinand can spark a discussion on Animal Rights. The next three topics deal with Ferdinand’s choices, rather than the men’s. Ferdinand’s passivity informs a discussion on Violence. Considering why Ferdinand does not follow the other bulls’ example of rough play leads to a discussion on Conformity. Finally, examining why Ferdinand does not follow the men’s orders leads to a discussion on Obeying Authority.

by Madeleine Lifsey, http://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/wiki/The_Story_of_Ferdinand

More Curated Resources

Here are some fantastic resources curated by us on The Story of Ferdinand. If you have a resource that you would like us to add to this list, please use the Comments section below to notify us. You can also email us: editor@thekahaniproject.com

Additional Teaching Resources
Explorations by Home Schooling Parents

Hope you enjoyed this Story Based Lesson. Please do leave us a comment on what you think about this.

Happy Exploring!

Thanks to Sneha Malani for the wonderful cover illustration of Ferdinand.

Ajay Dasgupta

Storyteller, Game Designer, Facilitator, and Social Media practitioner who believes that technology, intent and the Agile methodology can change the world. He is the founder of The Kahani Project and also the co-founder of Epiphany Learning (www.epiphanylearning.co.in)

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1 COMMENT

  1. Love the story and the instructional treatment of it. Makes me feel that just good stories are all we need to learn the most important things in life!!

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