“Stone Soup” is a fun story to read and to act out, and it presents a classic message.
In the story, three soldiers traveling through a town ask for food, but in vain. The villagers feel too poor to share, and they decide together to hide their food and refuse to shelter the soldiers. The soldiers offer to show the villagers how to make soup out of a stone, and the thrifty villagers help to build a fire and bring a pot of water. The soldiers pick out just the right stones and cook up a pot of stone soup while the villagers watch. They taste it and tell one another how good it is, suggesting that it would be better if it had carrots, cabbage, and various other ingredients added to it. The villagers gradually join in, eventually providing all the ingredients for a delicious soup. In the end, everyone eats.
Most online versions of this story are very similar, but OK State has one set in frontier Oklahoma, with okra and a cowboy.
Picture book versions of this book abound. Here are some of our favorites:
- Marcia Brown’s classic Caldecott-winning 1947 Stone Soup
- Heather Forest‘s updated multicultural one (PDF lesson plans for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade)
- Jon J. Muth‘s story with monks instead of soldiers as the heroes (see comprehension questions for Muth’s book here).
Alternate tellings of the story include these:
- The Real Story of Stone Soup by Yang Ching Compestine
- Bone Button Borscht by Aubrey Davis and Dusan Petricic (find ideas for this book, including Jewish religious education concepts, at PJ Library)
- Tony Ross’s Stone Soup has a greedy wolf and a sassy hen.
- Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel (listen to the story and find a PDF guide to this book here)
Once you’ve read the story a few times, have your class act it out. The basic structure of the story is simple enough that you can do the whole thing as an improvisation. The soldiers’ ability to convince the villagers that they have special skills that allow them to make soup out of stones is the key to the story, so take advantage of any acting ability in the room.
There are some resources and ideas available for the book or story as a whole:
- Teacher Created has done A Guide for Using Stone Soup in the Classroom, using Marcia Brown’s picture book. The Teacher Created units are uniformly excellent, including vocabulary study, quizzes, and cross-curricular connections. This unit includes pocket chart activities, patterns for stick puppets, French language and culture connections, and fraction practice.
- Learning to Give has a nice hands-on lesson plan for making soup as a way of “overcoming scarcity by working together.” This lesson plan includes cooking, graphing, and descriptive writing.
- While there are a number of different geographical settings in the versions of this story listed above, the folktale is generally identified as a French story. Start with a virtual visit to Paris with FreshPlans. Lonely Planet has an interactive map of France which you could also print.
- Challenge older students to figure out which war the soldiers might be returning from, using print and online resources to research the history of France. Add the most interesting dates to your classroom timeline.
- One of the big issues in our region during the Civil War was the problem of having soldiers come through town and take food from families when food was very scarce. Many stories are told about hams being thrust into chimneys and root vegetables buried to preserve them from requisitioning. Perhaps your region has a similar historical event. Have students do some research and rewrite the story of “Stone Soup” in a new setting, incorporating plenty of authentic details.
- Have students write out the recipe for Stone Soup from the information in the story. Show some cookbooks or recipe cards to acquaint them with the format. Get some technology practice in by using free printable recipe cards or Canva’s online design tools. Follow up and get some more tech practice by asking kids to bring a soup recipe from home. A classroom soup cookbook could be a fun project either online or in print.
- Help students work on their online research skills by discovering ways to look up recipes for soup. Use the Google Advanced Search page, and the search operators page. You may learn some new tricks yourself! Use the best recipes you find for your classroom cookbook.
- If you make soup in the classroom as a follow-up to the story, or do the recipe projects, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice with fractions, measurement, and counting.
- Have young children use math manipulatives or Jumbo Sorting Beads to make pretend soup. Count out the “carrots” and other ingredients as you add them to the pot. Set up a soup pot in the Dramatic Play area of your classroom and encourage children to repeat the experience.
- This is a good opportunity to study vegetables. Find or have students draw pictures of all the vegetables in the story (you can add some when you tell the story, too!) and sort them according to the part of the plant they represent: carrots are roots, cabbages are leaves, etc. Cut pictures from magazines and use them to make charts, or print out our handsome worksheets and sorting cards at our Plants Lesson Plans.
- If nutrition or rocks and minerals are on your list of subjects to cover or to review, they can fit right in with this story.
- The villagers are unwilling to share with the soldiers because they are experiencing scarcity themselves. One of the lessons of the story is that people can overcome scarcity by working together and combining their resources. Challenge students to come up with real-life scenarios where a similar strategy (pooling resources) might help.
- Many charitable ventures use the name “Stone Soup,” after this story. Divide the class into small groups and have them research some examples. Make a concept map showing the different approaches to alleviating hunger shown by the different groups or projects studied.
- Classification is a natural for this story. Bring objects or picture cards to sort into edible/inedible for the youngest classes, being sure to include stones. Have older students sort the stone soup recipe items into foods from plant sources vs. foods from animal sources, things grown above the ground vs. things grown below the ground, etc.
- The soldiers did not attempt to persuade the villagers to share with them through logical argumentation. Have groups of students come up with some logical arguments the soldiers could have tried.
- While the obvious moral of “Stone Soup” is the value of cooperation, there is also the tagline that often turns up with the story: “It’s all in knowing how.” Most versions of the story do not suggest that the stone is magic, but rather that the soldiers have the special knowledge required to make delicious soup from stones. Brainstorm, as a class, the kinds of special knowledge that might prove useful in your students’ lives. Post the list on your chart rack or in a pocket chart, and agree to incorporate those kinds of knowledge into the class this year.
- “Stone Soup” is usually presented as an uplifting tale about cooperation. Still, it is possible to say that the villagers were greedy and inhospitable, and that the soldiers were deceitful. Hold a mock trial.
- The villagers were certainly not generous or hospitable, but it seems clear that they were led into their stingy behavior by real hardship. Challenge students to think of cases — in history or in their own lives — when hardship led people to do things they would not ordinarily have done. Brainstorm other solutions to the problems presented. Follow up with a writing assignment: a narrative or an advice column.