Sunday, January 11, 2015

Folktales, Fables, and Poetry

I’m beginning the New Year with tales, fables and poems. The students love read alouds, especially ones that are about fantasy or have a villain somewhere in the storyline. I have two little boys of my own, who love hearing stories that have a moral at the end. We love reading stories that have similar themes but are culturally different. We are kicking off our unit of study, by focusing on the Cinderella fairy tale.

My unit will compare and contrast multiple versions of Cinderella by different authors and from different cultures. The students will be asked to identify similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic. Before reading each version of Cinderella, the students will be shown pictures, drawings, map, of different countries and cultures that correlate with some or all of the Cinderella stories.

Students will read and listen to fables and folktales from diverse cultures to determine the lesson, message, or moral. Students will compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story. In addition, they will describe how words supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song. During the writing process, students will consult reference materials to check and correct spelling. They will develop and write opinions about the books they read and their life experiences and learn to share their viewpoints and clearly develop their arguments to support their opinions. They will learn to distinguish between formal and informal language and when it is appropriate to use each type.

About the Cinderella Fairy Tale
Some 1500 versions of the basic Cinderella story have been recorded so far, and many of them are at least 1000 years old. In each, the cruel and thoughtless get their just rewards, as do those who are good and kind. Cinderella stories have both a rags-to-riches theme, and a good wins out over evil theme. Sibling rivalry is also a part of every story, and the stepmother is cruel and predatory. Cinderella is always the household drudge, and treated badly by her older sisters. Because Cinderella’s mother is dead, a helper character usually appears who can help Cinderella in her despair. Folktales place a premium on beauty, but also on a good and pure heart.

Big Ideas
(What teachers want students to remember long after instruction ends based on the unwrapped standards)
  • Folktales are stories told by the people.  They were told by the oral tradition and written down years later. The primary reasons for sharing these tales was to entertain, to teach, to reinforce cultural and social values.
  • Readers will gain an understanding of the basic components of a folktale, as well as how the illustrations in a text can contribute to characters, setting, mood, etc.
  • Develop opinions about their reading, learn to state opinions clearly, retell their stories so that their opinions make sense to readers.

Essential Questions
(Engaging open-ended questions to spark student learning and discover the “Big Ideas”)
  1. How does identifying the author’s central message, lesson, or moral help you better understand 
the story?
  2. Why do author’s include a central message, lesson, or moral?
  3. How do words and phrases add rhythm and meaning to a story?
  4. Why do readers compare and contrast stories?
  5. How do writers state and support a personal opinion on a topic or a book in a review?
Here are a few of the great links for you to use when teaching fables, fairy tales, or folktales!  

Websites for Cinderella (Useful for Performance Tasks)
  1. 900 Cinderella’s magazine article
  2. Behind the Scenes with Cinderella
  3. Cinderella, Cinderella, Cinderella
  4. Cinderella Around the World: Script for Reader’s Theatre
  5. Cinderella Comparison Chart
  6. Cinderella Folktales: Variations in Character
  7. Cinderella Goes to School
  8. Cinderella Sequence Cards
  9. Cinderella Thematic Unit
  10. Classic Fairy Tales
  11. Compare Yeh-Shen and Cinderella &  Compare Yeh-Shen and Cinderella
  12. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

Example of a Performance Task
Performance Task #1: Fairy Tale Elements Map
Building Content Knowledge:
The teacher will create a chart labeled “Fairy Tale Elements Map” (refer to the information below for the elements of fairy tales). As a whole group discuss the elements on the chart. Elaborate on each element by providing examples of fairy tales that may be familiar to them.

Let your students in on the ‘secret’ about fairy tales. There are specific structures and patterns that make fairy tales easy to identify and easy to write. Students love it when you let them in on secrets that adult authors use! Use the FairyTale Elements Map to identify these patterns and structures.

First Reading: Read an original version of Cinderella to students. One was provided in PDF form. Give each student with a copy. Only interrupt minimally as needed to quickly define or explain any essential vocabulary or phrases for basic understanding of the text. Allow students the opportunity to appreciate and fully engage with the text.

Second Reading: Reread Cinderella and stop at various points to ask questions for students to demonstrate understanding. Encourage students to ask questions of the text by providing and developing a routine to ensure that all students are participating in the question asking and answering. In addition, stop to highlight the elements in the fairy tale.

Sample questions:
  1. How does the story begin?
  2. How does Cinderella’s fairy godmother view Cinderella differently than the rest of the characters in the story?
  3. How does Cinderella react to seeing her stepsisters at the ball? What does that teach you about Cinderella?
As you read, Students can underline evidence in the story where each element is found and annotate in the margins comments.

Suggested version: 
Cinderella – PDF version based on the original version by Charles Perrault

Collaborative Activity: Using the annotated version of the Cinderella story, students are to complete the Fairy Tale Elements Map. They are to write examples using evidence from the story.  Students are to be grouped (3-4 students per group) by mixed ability to ensure that the group is balanced. 

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