Folktales encompass many different sub-genres of literature that make up the body of children’s literature, and that are referenced in adult literature, such as fairy tales, legends, myths, and fables. Increasing student familiarity with reading and interacting with folktales will increase their ability to read and analyze many traditional forms of literature. Folktales and variants are often used in standardized assessments as well.
Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction
Call the class to the front of the room, and have them sit in one long line or circle, side by side. Have the first student come up to you and whisper in the student’s ear- “Farmer Brown’s cow gave two buckets of milk today.” Tell the student to go back and whisper to the next student, who in turn whispers to the next, and so on. No one is allowed to speak above a whisper. This is a traditional children’s game called “whisper down the lane” or “telephone”. After all students have whispered, the last student tells what they heard. In most cases, it will not match the original statement. Tell everyone the original message. Ask if anyone heard anything different and take a few examples. Say, “A simple story got changed just going from one side of the room to the other. Today, we’re going to start learning about folktales. Folktales are stories that come from all over the world, and they were passed down from person to person through telling and retelling. This can be called spoken tradition or oral culture- meaning that all the stories were told, not written down and read. In modern times, we have the folktales written down, but they have existed for years without being written. Just like when we passed one simple phrase through one room, it got changed. Folktales may have many versions, or one main idea and lots of different details, because through the years they have been retold and changed a little at a time.”
Read the two sample folktales aloud to the class and ask them to listen for elements that they notice in both stories. Taking student volunteers, guide the student discussion while listening for students to identify some key factors of folktales. When students are finished, create an anchor chart for folktales, adding factors that they included as well as those on the chart example below:
Review the chart and assign activity page one to be completed with a partner.
Review activity page one with the entire class and assign the practice page which introduces folktales from other cultures.
Assign the create your own folktale project (see details on the homework assignment sheet).
After checking student work on their own folktales, assign them to groups of three or four students each. Have students share their folktales and complete the comprehension questions they created.
Common Core State Standards:
Class Sessions (45 minutes): At least 2 class sessions.
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