Sadako Sasaki’s Life Experience as a Pedagogical Resource to Develop Empathy in the PELT Class.

By Vanesa Polastri

It was the year 2011 and I was a teacher of English at San Marcos Primary school, a house of studies that is located in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Exactly ten years ago I told Sadako Sasaki’s story to my 6th-form students within an institutional project of articulation between that last grade and Secondary Education level, which they were getting closer to. With the Spanish language teacher they read a version of the story entitled “Mil Grullas” (One thousand paper cranes) by Elsa Bornemann, a well known national children’s literature author, and with the Art teacher they learnt to make the origami cranes.

I’ll move on to describe how I structured my lesson then:


Pre-Reading: Match the terms with their meaning.

1- Hiroshima __                                                              a- Massive destruction weapon

2- Atomic bomb __                                                         b- Sacred bird in Japan

3- Leukemia __                                                                c- Japanese city

4- Crane __                                                                       d- Living in harmony and respect

5- Peace __                                                                        e-Type of cancer


While Reading: All these sentences are wrong. Correct them with information from the text.

1) This is a fictional story.

2) Sadako Sasaki lived in the United States.

3) The smoke from the atomic bomb explosion caused an illness in Sadako.

4) When she was in the hospital she finished folding all the paper cranes.

5) In Japan it is said that when you make one thousand paper cranes, you can make a trip.

6) Sadako’s family and friends planted a tree to remember her.

7) On the day of the departed spirits people leave roses at the statue in Hiroshima Peace Park.

8) People pray for health in the plaque.


Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

This is the true story of a girl, Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing by the United States. She had leukemia from the radiation and spent her time in a nursing home creating origami (folded paper) cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by the Japanese saying that one who created a thousand origami cranes would then be granted a wish. Her wish was simply to live. However, she managed to fold only 644 cranes before she became too weak to fold any more, and died shortly after. Her friends and family helped finish her dream by folding the rest of the cranes, which were buried with Sadako. They also built a statue of Sadako holding a giant golden origami crane in Hiroshima Peace Park.

Now, every year on Obon Day, which is a holiday in Japan to remember the departed spirits of one’s ancestors, thousands of people leave paper cranes near the statue. On the statue there is a plaque: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.”


Post-Reading: Complete the conclusion of the text with…



_____________ (1) only hurts and _____________ (2) . It does not _____________ (3) any conflict. Intercultural ______________ (4) should be appreciated, not suppressed. Making one thousand paper ______________ (5) is a Japanese ______________ (6) but it has become a world ______________ (7) of ______________ (8).


Bornemann’s literary text was based on Sadako’s life. However, the tale was smoothened. I preferred to resort to these biographical facts which, though harsh, faced my students with the cruelty of war and the desire for a peaceful world.

Last year, in the middle of the chaos the Coronavirus pandemic brought about, a Music teacher from the same Primary school I used to work at, Andrea Cruz, contacted me to translate some children stories of her authorship she was recording and uploading to her YouTube channel. Her tales are aimed at dealing with Comprehensive Sexuality Education which implies gender equality, breaking gender stereotypes of beauty and role, understanding our own feelings, as well as those of others, building empathy and being respectful. Believe it or not, I reencountered Sadako through Andrea’s words and recorded my version in English, “Paper Dreams”, for any teacher who would like to use it as a class resource.

Available at: Story: “Papers Dreams” (CSE)

Sadako’s moving story has truly marked me. I hope she encourages peace and conviviality in all of us, as teachers in our classrooms and as responsible citizens wherever we live.



Vanesa Polastri is an Argentinian teacher of English with over 13 years of experience in Primary and Secondary school levels. She is a teacher trainer in charge of subjects such as Discursive practices of written communication and Children’s literature. She has taken a Bachelor degree in English language, specialising in literature.