Maggie's Chopsticks - A Story About Finding Your Own Path





Maggie's Chopsticks by Alan Woo and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant  is a charming story based on the universal theme of learning a new skill.  

Universal Theme: Feeling Self Conscious When Learning  

Maggie is learning to use chopsticks and gets advice from her family. All the family members have their own way of using chopsticks. Developing the fine motor skills needed for using chopsticks takes practice and time. Learning and feeling self-conscious can add stress to the process. 

When I read Maggie's story to kids, I stop just before the turning point of the story and ask: 

"How do you think Maggie feels?"

If the kids respond that they think Maggie is worried or embarrassed, it is an an opportunity to have a conversation about what Maggie might do with her emotions. Kids discuss what emotions feel like and what they can do with their emotions.  

Of course, if the listeners do not relate to Maggie's emotions, you as the leader can choose to focus on other learning opportunities from the story. 

Learning about Learning

Researchers who study learning come from many fields of science. This activity helps kids reflect on the learning process as well as experience how to set up a simple social science experiment.   

Objective: Students learn about setting up and tracking a simple learning experiment. 

Outcome:  Students will discuss the differences in the way people learn. 

Explain: Researchers often determine a starting point before they can see the results of an experiment. We will  do a learning experiment about using chopsticks. We first need to know who has already used chopsticks. 

Chart: Make a chart that shows how many kids have used chopsticks before.   

Explain: Now that we know how many people have experience with chopsticks let's design a test to determine if we have learned to use the chopsticks.  (Example:  Students will be able to move 5 raisins from one container to the other.)

Remind the students that people learn at different rates and that not everyone will be able to learn this skill in class. Some people might decide this is an important skill and they will keep practicing this skill beyond today.  

Allow kids to determine different ways to learn chopsticks. Make a list. (video, practice, practice with a coach, or other ideas.)

Ask:  How did Maggie learn?  

Track results on a chart. 


Discuss the results with student highlighting the impact on experience on learning,  practice, and people have different rates of learning based on different brain development

Remind the students that people do sometimes feel embarrassed about the length of time it takes them to learn. When this happens, they often feel stress.   

Ask: What are some things that helped Maggie when she struggled to learn?  

Discuss:  If you learned this skill quickly, consider a time when it was hard to learn something.  

Explain: Just because a person doesn't learn they are not less capable of learning. People have different rates of learning different types of skills. 

Cup of Leadership is a blog for people who lead children

Deanne Bryce is a writer for young children and an advocate for personal leadership at all ages. This post is part of  a category of posts that explore universal themes from childhood.  As leaders of children, we can help kids reflect on experiences and grow.   

It is also part of  a project called Book Drops for Kids. The project promotes using picture books to inspire interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) thinking. 

At least once a month a picture book is purchased from an independent book store and “dropped” in a little library to for someone to use.  STEM lesson plans for these books are posted on Cup of Leadership.  Check the Facebook page to see other books that have been dropped.