Lesson plan

Fill Your Bucket

Are you a bucket filler? Children with good social skills lift each other up with compliments and praise, instead of put downs and negative comments. Use this lesson to teach your students about bucket filling and how to compliment others.
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Students will be able to explain the concept of “filling buckets” and write compliments for their classmates.

(5 minutes)
  • Have students take out a whiteboard and a whiteboard marker.
  • Tell the class that you are about to play a word association game. When they hear a word and see the corresponding image, they should write down the first word that comes to mind, and then turn over their whiteboard.
  • Display the image of a bucket and say, “Bucket.”
  • Give students time to write down a word, and then have students share the word with a partner. Allow time for short discussion between partnerships about why they made certain word associations.
  • Call on 2-3 students to share about their word associations.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that the word bucket is used to describe our emotional self. If the bucket is full, we are happy. If the bucket is empty, we are sad. We can fill other people’s buckets and our own.
  • Explain that bucket filling is part of healthy social skills, which are the ways in which we interact and deal with other people, because we are helping to make sure other people are happy.
  • Inform students that we can fill buckets by offering compliments, remarks that say something good about someone or something, and praise, spoken or written words about someone’s good qualities.
  • Read aloud a book about bucket filling, such as Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud or show the Youtube video of a read aloud of the book by showing "Buzzing for Books: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" by Carol McCloud.
  • Review key ideas after the read-aloud, focusing on positive and negative comments. Positive comments are those that are uplifting and make people feel good, while negative comments are put-downs and do not make people feel good about themselves.
  • Point out that every interaction we have with people either fills or empties their buckets.
(15 minutes)
  • Explain to students that they will participate in a group conversation with the 1-3-6 activity. To do this, they will first independently answer a question. Then, they will get into a group of three to discuss their written answers, in which everyone must talk and share. After that, two groups of three, creating a group of six students, will gather together to talk about the written answers. The whole class will share out at the end.
  • Have students take out their whiteboard and whiteboard marker.
  • Instruct students to write down one example of a positive comment and one example of a negative comment.
  • Follow the procedure for the 1-3-6 activity.
  • Gather the class’s attention, and have students share out to create a T-chart of examples of positive comments and negative comments.
  • Call on non-volunteers to classify the comments as either compliments or put-downs and explain their thought process.
  • Facilitate a vote about which comment from the chart they should send to the principal or another staff member in order to fill that person’s bucket today.
(20 minutes)
  • Give each student a sheet of construction paper and a plastic sandwich bag.
  • Instruct your class to draw a bucket on the construction paper, and assist students in stapling the bag to the bottom of the construction paper. This plastic sandwich bag will hold the compliments students will receive to fill up their buckets.
  • Distribute enough 2” x 2” pieces of paper so that each student has one for every other student in the class.
  • Instruct students to practice positive social skills by writing a compliment for each student in the class. Give the class time to write compliments and praise for the other students.
  • Remind students to put their names on the back of the paper, and have them place the compliments in each student’s bucket.


  • Give struggling writers a reference sheet with a list of compliments for the independent work time.
  • Pre-teach the key terms to students and have them sort pre-made comments into two categories (positive and negative) in a teacher-led small group setting.
  • Provide sentence stems and frames for struggling students, such as, “I think you are ______ because ______.” and “I like how you ______.”


  • Give advanced students the task of creating a Reader’s Theater script about how to fill someone’s bucket. Allow students to perform the drama for the rest of the students. Check with teachers in different grade levels to see if they would allow the students to perform in their classrooms as well.
(5 minutes)
  • Give each student an index card and instruct them to write down three things that someone can do to be a bucket-filler.
(5 minutes)
  • Display the following questions on the board:
    • What did we learn today?
    • So what? (Why is this important?)
    • Now what? (What are we going to do with this information?)
  • Engage students in a discussion about these three questions.
  • Remind students that social skills are how we interact with others, and just as we want to feel happy, we are responsible for helping others to feel happy as well. We can do this by filling their buckets.

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