Gifts of the Heart Elementary Book Activities

Gifts of the Heart by Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite books to read aloud with my class during the Christmas season. Like many other Patricia Polacco books, this story is rich in theme and vocabulary. Plus, the lesson opportunities for character analysis of Richie are too great to pass up!

The Story

Trisha’s family is going through a difficult time of change after their grandmother has passed away. Their grandfather is selling the family farm, as the memories become too much to bear. The farm holds a very special place in the hearts of Grandpa, Mama, Trisha, and Richie. The family is expecting a woman from the Agency to come in and help with the children.

The woman who arrives introduces herself as Kay Lamity. Immediately, Richie speaks in a disrespectful manner towards Kay Lamity and acts out defiantly. Richie is angry to think that his sister, mother, and grandfather would allow anyone come in and try to replace his grandmother. Kay Lamity handles the situation with much grace and she comforts Richie in a playful manner. This interaction marks the beginning of a wonderful friendship between Richie and Kay Lamity.

Throughout her time there, Kay Lamity teaches the children many valuable lessons. She says there are gifts you buy from the store, and there are gifts of the heart. The gifts of the heart are the ones that count.

Kay Lamity’s words inspire Richie and Trisha to find gifts of the heart for their mother and grandfather. They choose corn husks to help them remember the family farm, then seek out Kay Lamity who know just how to help them add the special finishing touch.

Without giving any more of this wonderful story away, I HIGHLY recommend getting this book, whether for your home or classroom. The ending of this book still gives me the chills (in a good way)! Click here to buy Gifts of the Heart on Amazon.

Teaching with Gifts Gifts of the Heart

Although Gifts of the Heart seems to provide an endless list of teaching opportunities, my top picks for this book are context clues, character traits, character change, and theme.

Context Clues

Gifts of the Heart is packed with rich vocabulary, making it a wonderful mentor text for teaching students to use context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words. I recommend using an anchor chart to introduce this concept before scaffolding through guided practice, then allowing students opportunities for independent practice.

There are just a few words in the story that I recommend pre-teaching as vocabulary, due to lack of context clues in the story. However, many of the words’ meaning can be determined through context alone. Vocabulary pages as well as context clue practice pages are included in my Gifts of the Heart Book Companion.


Like other Patricia Polacco books, this story is filled with wonderful characters. Students will enjoy inferring character traits of Kay Lamity, Trisha, and Richie. The development of Richie also makes it a great story to teach character change.

Richie faces internal struggle throughout the story as he copes with the loss of his Gramma. At the beginning of the story, he is angry and defiant. As the story progresses, he learns valuable lessons from Kay Lamity. Readers begin to see Richie change from this angry, defiant character who lashes out, to a kind, sensitive brother who looks out for his little sister.

There are several resources in my book companion to help students with a character analysis of Richie. Students will infer character traits through his thoughts and actions, explore what causes Richie to change, and practice providing evidence from the story to support their description of the character.


This story demonstrate themes of loss, change, meaning of gifts, and more. Through this story, Patricia Polacco shows readers the importance of family, believing, and giving the gifts that count.

Challenge students to record details from the story that support each of the themes identified in Gifts of the Heart.

Gifts of the Heart Book Companion

The lessons and activities mentioned above, plus more is included in my Gifts of the Heart Book Companion. This resource consists of a full week of activities and is available for purchase in my TpT store.

I hope you and your students love this wonderful book as much as we do!

Other Favorite Books by Patricia Polacco

To be honest, it’s hard to narrow down my favorite books by this amazing author because every single one of her stories is PHENOMENAL. However, if I had to choose just a few favorites to use in the classroom, I would recommend the following:

  • The Keeping Quilt
  • Thunder Cake
  • Some Birthday!
  • Welcome Comfort
  • Thank you, Mr. Falker
  • My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
  • Meteor!
  • An Orange for Frankie

These are just a few of my top picks by Patricia Polacco, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any of her books.

I hope you enjoy!

For more teaching ideas and classroom activities, follow me on Pinterest. Feel free to also follow me on TpT for additional resources and product updates!

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