Saturday, January 15, 2011

More about folktales

Both third and fourth grade classes have been writing variants of fairy tales this month where they write in the first person from the point of view of a character inside the story.  Tuesday I was assigned a last minute "prep" coverage of a third grade class, so I decided to have some fun with this genre.

I selected the story Sleeping Beauty largely because it a familiar folktale that has not, to my knowledge, been taught in our school in the past few years.  It is also a story I know well enough to tell with very brief preparation time.  I also had an attractive variant, Sleepless Beauty by Frances Minters.

Sleeping Beauty is a pip to tell.  It has proud and overprotective parents,  fairies, a mean witch, a good fairy godmother (who in my retelling is frazzled, disorganized and always late), and a handsome, kind, but admittedly bland prince.  The kids were wide eyed and agog and then about half way through one of them turned to a friend and said "it's Tangled!  She's telling about Tangled!"

Telling a story (for me) is a quick activity.  The whole story took just a bit over five minutes and was absolutely satisfying.  I acknowledged afterward that "some of you noticed that this story is connected to a movie. Since folktales belong to everybody they are often borrowed for movies, just like they are borrowed for books."  This provided a fine seque into  Sleepless Beauty

In the last 20 minutes of the period the students wrote letters from "inside the story."  They launched enthusiastically into the project and had a good start to the project by the time their teacher picked them up.  I hope that some of the these letters were completed later.  I will check in this week and see if any are "published."

Whether or not the writing is completed, I feel like I accomplished my mission.  Several students have asked for Sleeping Beauty, and my copy of Sleepless Beauty has also been checked out from the library.  The students in this class have had an experience with the "oral tradition," and several are newly enthusiastic about folktales.  A nice side benefit of this lesson is that students made connections not only between folktales and books but also to movies.  Popular movies are often not discussed in school and they are a memorable part of our students cultural landscape.

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