Fairy tales are seriously one of my favorite teaching units, especially for early elementary students. Not only do they usually follow a nice problem-solution story line, but there are SO many fun spin off type stories that make teaching and comparing versions so much fun.
From Jack and the Beanstalk to Little Red Hen, these stories have helped me to teach and practice many different comprehension skills and meet lots and lots of standards.
Here are a few of my favorite comprehension skills to teach using some of my favorite fairy tales:
Who were the characters in The Three Little Pigs? How about the setting in Little Red Riding Hood? Fairy tales are awesome for teaching story parts because they have very clear text parts. You can do this by creating a story mat where students draw the setting on a large piece of paper and then use characters to move about the mat in order to orally verbalize their understanding of the story.
In many fairy tales, the characters have super clear character traits. Think of Goldilocks and how her actions help children to learn about her. There are also often other characters that nicely create natural discussions of compare/ contrast (think the little pigs and the big bad wolf).
Retelling stories is one of the ways that we measure comprehension, as well as help students to understand how all of the parts and character traits work together to create a story in sequence. Some stories have events that are not important to tell in order, but fairy tales are different. The plot of these stories is very logical, so it’s a great way to introduce retelling. I love using retelling mats to help students orally recite the story. Then that sort of oral retell can transition to writing about reading, including completing parts of a retelling booklet.
If your students have a good grasp on retelling and story parts, you might be reaching for a way to teach summary. Using a familiar story with a clear story line is a great place to start. It can help students to begin to write a summary. I like to still use the First, Next, Then, Finally guide words to help students. It is a great time to teach how to sort of group “retelling” events together in order to fit a summary into that framework with guide words.
Seriously, this is one of the most fun things to do. From the Goatilocks, to Little Red Hot to The Snow Bears…. authors have done some really fun spin offs of traditional fairy tales that are super relatable and usually funny that help to reinforce all of the other comprehension strategies.
Teaching Theme/ Lesson
Teaching the theme of a story can be really difficult. It’s even more difficult in a complicated story with an unpredictable story line. Fairy tales offer a great opportunity to talk about what the characters have learned in the story and what that means for you. What did the animals learn in The Little Red Hen? They learned that when you don’t help do the work, you might not get the reward. What can you learn? Hard work is rewarded . Of course that will take a little bit of guidance, but because the plots are pretty clear in these stories, they seem to be stories that have really helped my students make the leap between the lesson in the story, to the theme or overall lesson.
I’ve compiled some of my favorite fairy tale resources here with resources to use to teach the comprehension skills we’ve talked about here as well as some fun literacy and math extension activities.
I’ve also been working to make a little list of favorite fairy tale versions you can access mostly digitally (or some stories you can review digitally to decide if they’re right for your fairy tale unit).
Check out all the fairy tale resources here: