Addressing Change & Loss for Grades PreK-2

Sharing feelings and discussing a story about change and loss can provide support for preK-2 students during this difficult period.

To the teacher:  

In these uncertain, stressful times, coming together and connecting socially and emotionally is especially important. For young people to see and connect with their peers can be ray of light for some, and a real lifeline for others. Students might connect over things that spark joy and gratitude or over things that bring on more challenging feelings. Young people, like all of us, need a chance to express and share their feelings, and get the support of others. 
In this series of lessons and activities, we offer strategies for exploring the topics of change and loss with our students. No matter their age, all of our students have experienced change and loss in their lives at some point, some more than others. How well they’ve been able to manage loss likely depends not only on its severity, but also on the level of stability, love, and support in their lives, as well as their own internal resources.
As the pandemic wears on, students have likely experienced loss on multiple levels—whether the loss of school as a safe, welcoming space; connections with peers, friends, teachers and other caring adults; the freedom to travel or hang out with friends, and of course play dates for our youngest students. Young people are probably also absorbing the changing moods of the adults in their lives, as family members are forced to do hazardous work, are laid off, face illness, or are struggling to handle new responsibilities, uncertainty, and stress. Some students may have lost family, friends, or community members. These things are hard to talk about. And yet as Mr. Rogers reminds us, “anything human is mentionable and anything mentionable is manageable. The mentioning can be difficult, and the managing too, but both can be done if we’re surrounded by love and trust.” 

The lessons and activities that follow are intended to help students be in community together, supporting each other with you as a trusted adult at the helm. 

Materials for students to have ready:

If possible, ask students to “bring” photographs of themselves as a baby, toddler, or other stage of their life before going to school.  And if you can, bring photos of yourself at different ages, to show your students. Also have ready, or ask students to bring, if they are remote: paper and pens, pencils, or crayons.


Show the following video of the Sesame Street Count Counting Feelings.  Ask students to share how they are feeling today, using the following format:

Today I feel/felt _____________ because _____________.

Model the activity by telling students how you are feeling, e.g.

Today I feel/felt excited, happy, or thrilled because you made it to our online classroom.

Today I feel/felt sad or disappointed because I can’t hug you and/or be with you on the rug.

Encourage students to expand their feelings vocabulary and, like the count in the Sesame Street video, count the feelings words you come up with as a group. Chart them, if you can, to acknowledge different learners in your group.


Change is Everywhere

Introduce the concept of change to students by providing different examples that they’re familiar with. Ask them for examples and talk them through. 

For each example you share with them, ask students:

  • What was there before? 
  • What changed? What new thing took its place? 
  • What was lost? What was gained?  
  • What feelings, if any, were there before? 
  • What feelings, if any, are there now?

Examples might include: 

  • Daylight, the sun setting, twilight, dusk, nightfall, night, with stars getting brighter in the sky, the moon coming into focus, etc.
  • The moon going from a new moon, to a crescent moon, to a full moon and back again
  • A baby caterpillar hatching from its egg, turning into a big caterpillar, then a pupa or chrysalis and eventually a butterfly (see the video below of The Very Hungry Caterpillar)
  • Clearing a building site, pouring a foundation, constructing a frame, putting in plumbing and wiring, installing walls, a roof, etc.
  • A seed turning into a sprout, then a seedling, and finally a plant, flower, fruit or even a tree
  • From the egg, a chick hatches, which grows into a pullet or cockerel, and eventually into a hen or rooster
  • Students themselves as a baby, then a toddler, now a student in school. 

If students were able to bring pictures of themselves, invite them to show everyone and explain how old they were when their earlier picture was taken. Begin by modeling the activity yourself. 

After each student, ask:

  • How are they different than they were before? What changed?

Option: Add Some Movement

If you think students need to move around a bit before the story time activity below, provide them with some simple instructions to get out the wiggles, e.g., Stand up, if you can; shake your left arm; shake your right arm; shake both arms at the same time; shake your left leg, shake your right leg; and now move whatever part of you needs to move, as we wiggle and shake together. 

Alternatively, consider the yoga activity that is at the opening of the Grade 3-5 version of this lesson here


Story Time: The Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Very Quiet Cricket

We know that story time is an important and exciting part of the school day for many young students. If and how students will hear books read aloud by their teachers and school librarians during the pandemic depends on how your school district is choosing to offer remote learning.  

Fortunately, many publishers have given permission, i.e. open license, for online story time and classroom read-aloud videos and live events. This includes Penguin Random House, publisher of the The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle.

So if you have either of these two books available to you at home, you can freely engage students in a read aloud and book talk either live or by video. And though read alouds by you or your librarian are more engaging than video clips, both allow you to pause and ask questions along the way to keep your students engaged. YouTube videos of the books are here: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and here: The Very Quiet Cricket.

While listening to The Very Quiet Cricket read aloud (or watching the video), engage students in discussion, by pausing at different points in the book (or video) with questions such as these:

  • How do you think the little cricket felt as it hatched from the egg and was welcomed to the world by the big cricket?  How about when the little cricket tried to answer but couldn’t?
  • How do you think the little cricket felt when meeting the locust, the praying mantis, the caterpillar, and the spittlebug?
  • Ask for a show of hands of students who have ever seen a locust, a praying mantis, a caterpillar, or a spittlebug. How did that make them feel?
  • How did the little cricket feel when meeting the cicada, the bumblebee, the dragonfly, the mosquitoes, and the luna moth?
  • Ask for a show of hands of students who have ever seen or heard a cicada, a bumblebee, a dragonfly, mosquitoes, or a luna moth?  How did it make them feel?
  • How did the cricket feel when meeting the other cricket? What happened? How did the cricket(s) feel?
  • What changed?

Note: Ask students to explain their answers by citing images or text from the book or video.

Questions to consider for The Very Hungry Caterpillar book or video include:

  • How do you think the caterpillar felt on Sunday when he first came out of the egg?  
  • How do you think the caterpillar felt after eating the apple, the pears, the plums, and the strawberries? Ask for a show of hands of students who like apples, pears, plums, or strawberries.
  • How do you think the caterpillar felt after eating the oranges? 
  • How did the caterpillar feel on Saturday after eating one slice of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollypop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon? 
  • How might your students have felt if they ate all these things? Why?
  • How did the caterpillar feel the next Sunday after eating the leaf?  What was different about the caterpillar?
  • For the next two weeks the caterpillar disappeared in a cocoon. What happened next?  How did the butterfly feel?
  • What changed?

Note: Ask students to explain their answers by citing images or text from the book or video. 



Closing – Fist to Five

Ask students to give you a fist to five assessment of today’s lesson, with:
fist (like 0) being no fun/good at all, 
1 finger - being not much fun, 
2 fingers being a little bit of fun, 
3 fingers being fun, 
4 fingers being lots of fun, 
5 fingers being most fun ever.  


Extension Activity:  Drawing Changes

Say something about how we all go through lots of changes in our lives. Have students turn their focus to the changes in their lives since the pandemic began. There are many changes. Share some examples from your own life, and elicit some from students.  

Next, have students fold a sheet of paper in half. On the one side of the paper, ask students to draw how things were before the coronavirus and before their school building closed. On the other side of the paper, ask students to draw how things are now, at home without school.  

Have students share out their drawings and talk about such things as:

  • How was life before Covid? 
  • What is it like now? What is new?
  • What was lost?  What was gained?  
  • What feeling did students have before? 
  • What feelings do they have now?