It's Okay to Feel Different

This lesson helps students develop an understanding of the importance of diversity in a community.
Grade Level


Activities will help students:

  • read and analyze themes from a picture book
  • create text-to-self connections
  • understand the terms “difference,” “diversity” and “community”
  • develop an understanding of the importance of diversity in a community
Essential Questions
  • What are difference and diversity? 
  • What is a community? 
  • Why is diversity important in a community? 
  • What are some ways we feel different and how can we celebrate these differences in our community?
  • A copy of Todd Parr’s It’s Okay to Be Different. Find it in your library or order it at http://www.toddparr.com/books/. Books with a similar theme of diversity, like Hair/Pelitos, by Sandra Cisneros and Why Am I Different, by Norma Simon, work well with this lesson, too.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Construction paper
  • Oil pastels or crayons
  • Posterboard cut into enough jigsaw puzzle pieces for each student to have one


difference [ dif-er-uhns, dif-ruhns ] (noun) something that is not the same about two or more people or things; something that makes two or more people or things unlike each other

diversity [ dih-vur-si-tee ] (noun) the quality of being made up of many different kinds of people, creatures or things; having a lot of variety

community [ kuh-myoo-ni-tee ] (noun) a group of people who share something, like an interest, goal, or living or working space; a group of people who cooperate and learn to work together



1. What do you think of when you hear the words difference and diversity? On chart paper, make word webs of ways people or things might feel or seem different from each other. (It might be helpful to provide some examples.)

2. Challenge yourself to think about ways you have felt different in school in the past. Turn and talk to your neighbor about one way you feel different, special or unique in your classroom community. Maybe you speak a language that no one else in your class speaks; maybe your family enjoys an unusual kind of food; or maybe you have a unique pet. If you have trouble thinking of something, ask your partner to help you.

3. Listen while the book, It’s Okay to Be Different, by Todd Parr, is read out loud. (Read aloud It’s Okay to Be Different. After every few pages, stop and talk about what the book is teaching.) Is the book silly, serious or a little of each? Can you make any personal connections to the text?

4. As a class, discuss why it is important to have lots of different kinds of people in a class community. (Introduce the word community if it is unfamiliar to the students.) What would be the disadvantages if everyone in the class were the same? Why do you think difference is important? Make a chart showing how various differences can contribute to a class.

5. On a jigsaw puzzle piece, write your name and use words and illustrations to represent the difference you talked about.

6. Work as a whole class to assemble the jigsaw puzzle. Use what you know about working as a community to put the puzzle together!

7. Admire your finished product: It represents the diversity of your classroom community! Your teacher will tape the pieces together and hang the puzzle in your classroom so you can remember the strengths of your class community’s diversity.

An alternative to steps 5 - 6:

  1. On construction paper, create your own page for a class book similar to It’s Okay to be Different. (You may want to have a sample page ready or create one together as a whole class.) Follow the same format Todd Parr uses in his book. Challenge yourself to write a page about a way you really do sometimes feel different. If you have trouble getting started, use the web you created at the beginning of class for ideas.
  2. Illustrate your page using oil pastels or crayons.
  3. Bind the pages together and listen while your teacher reads it aloud. Now you have a book to celebrate the many differences in your classroom community. Keep the book in your classroom library.


Applying What You've Learned

Think about what you’ve learned about difference and diversity. Discuss these questions with a classmate or answer them in a journal.

  • Do you think difference and diversity are important in a community? Explain why or why not. 
  • What will you think about or do next time you feel different? What advice would you give to another student who was feeling this way? 
  • What do the words differencediversity and community mean to you? How has your understanding of these words changed after these lessons? 


Extension Activity

  1. Team up with a classmate to find 10 new vocabulary words from your class jigsaw puzzle. With your partner, make a “difference and diversity” book. Write one new word on each page and draw a picture to help you remember what the word means. Share your book with another set of partners and add it to your classroom library.
  2. Differences are important in every community, not just in classrooms. At home, talk with your family about what you learned from Todd Parr’s book. Discuss ways members of your family might sometimes feel different from each other, and talk about how this diversity can help make your family stronger. When you come to school the next day, write in your journal about what you learned from discussing these themes at home.  Share your journal entry with a classmate or with the whole group.
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