Do Unto Otters‘ by Laurie Keller is one of my all-time favorite back-to-school books!  It is perfect for helping to create a caring, empathetic classroom.

It's a delightful story of Mr. Rabbit, who worried (perhaps terrified) about his new neighbors who just moved into his woods – the otters!

Fortunately, he has a wise owl for a friend who wakes him up from his worried frenzy with a wise saying: ‘Do unto otters as you would have others do unto you'.

We of course know it as ‘The Golden Rule'.

How to Use it in Your Classroom

Mr. Rabbit takes the words of wisdom from the owl and starts pondering how he would like the otters to treat him. This is the perfect story use to inspire your new students to follow the Golden Rule, which in turn will foster a safe, caring classroom community from the start.

BEFORE READING: Making Predictions & Accessing Schema

I love to gather my students to the rug area for all our read-alouds.  It is easier to capture and keep their interest and attention there.
Before reading the story, show your students the cover and encourage them to make observations and connections.
Some may recognize the play on words that the title is making – otters for others.  Encourage your students to access any prior knowledge (schema) they may have.
Ask leading questions:
  • Does the title remind you of anything you have heard before?
  • What do you think this story might be about?
  • What do you know about rabbits?
  • What do you know about otters?
  • How are rabbits and otters different?
  • How are otters and rabbits alike?
  • Even though rabbits are different in many ways, how are they alike? (They have many of the same needs.)
  • Do you have new friends that are different from you?  Do they have some of the same needs?
This is crucial in developing empathy for others – understanding that we all have the same basic physical, social, and emotional needs!
A Venn diagram
is perfect for using their
to compare and contrast.

DURING READING: Making Connections & Reflections

The story unfolds with Mr. Rabbit knowing exactly how he wants the otters to treat him.  The book is rich with great ideas on using good manners in the things we say, do, don't do, and are.
Encourage your students to make connections with the things Mr. Rabbit would like the otters to say, do, not do, and be.
Record these ideas as you go through the story so that the students will have lots of ideas to refer to as they apply the Golden Rule to what they are going to say, do, don't do, and be to others.
You may want to create an anchor chart with the 4 questions, or use the flap book and have the students fill in the information as you all read through the story.

AFTER READING: Making Reflecting & Applying

After reading, discuss with your students how they want others to treat them.   Encourage them to refer to the anchor chart or flap book that they filled out while you were reading the story.

Record some of their responses on a new chart (using the included header and questions).
Now ask them, “If we want others to treat us like this, how should we treat others?”
Students use the triangle flip book to record four things they want others to do for them and then the corresponding things they are going to do for others.
After they have completed the flip book, have them share it with a partner, and/or ask for volunteers to read to the entire class.


This fun story can provide great motivation to learn in other academic areas!  I love to start with a story because the students' imaginations have been activated, which enhances learning!

I have included two bump games in the FREE download for you!  These games are so much fun your students will forget they're practicing math. Plus, there's no grading required!

I hope you will read this story to your class!  I know you will love it, and they will love it, too!
I have included all of the printable and anchor chart pieces in the book companion.
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My name is Peggy Means. I am a child of God and a retired elementary teacher. I loved teaching and creating engaging resources for my students. Now, I love sharing my resources and ideas with busy teachers around the world.

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