April 5, 2017

7 Ways to Use Fairy Tales in the Classroom

Who loves a good fairy tale? I know I do and I also know that my students love them, too. There are plenty to choose from, multiple versions of them, and so many great learning opportunities wrapped up in one. So, besides simply reading and responding, what else can we use fairy tales for? Read on to see topics you could address with a simple fairy tale.

As with any text, fairy tales can easily be used to work on finding key details. Aren't the characters, setting, and plot in a fairy tale a lot more engaging than most other stories? Students are still practicing the skill, but are enjoying the story simultaneously. I like using graphic organizers for students to practice writing down key details in the story. I also like taking a commonly known fairy tale and shortening it (or finding an already shortened version - check out KidsGen for some shorter versions that you could read aloud, print, or adapt even further - they also include videos). Once I have a shortened version, we can then practice our close reading and answer questions for students to go back into the text to find. You know, the usual! ;) The Fairy Tale Unit on Teachers Pay Teachers includes close reads as well as graphic organizers and you can get a sample of the graphic organizers for free below.

This free pack of graphic organizers will help you get started on key details with your students. Click the image to grab it.

Fairy tales are a little unique in that they have a few other elements that set them apart from other fiction. Yes, we have characters, setting, problem, and solution, but we also sometimes have "magic," and always a "happily ever after." Adding in those extra elements makes learning all of them that much more special. Hang posters throughout the room with these fairy tale elements. They will help us remember them through the recall questions, but once students are beyond that, they can use these story elements to answer higher order questions as well as create their own. The posters below are FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click HERE or the image below to get your set and hang them up, ready to go in your classroom.

How to Use These Posters:
- hang them up and use them for student reference
- read aloud parts of the story and ask students which story element it belongs with. You could also provide written cards and students can sort them as a learning center/station.
- hang them up or attach them to a binder ring to place within a writing center for students to use while writing their own fairy tale (more on that later).

Paired with this fun graphic organizer, students can analyze and break down fairy tales they are reading or they can use it to write their own (again, more on that later).

We know that fairy tales have a lot in common, so let's compare! Using a simple venn diagram will have students using those fairy tale story elements we already learned about and thinking about what these stories have in common and what sets them apart.

We all know the kid(s) who summarize by telling you the WHOLE story without leaving out any detail, right? I can't be the only one that has seen that! Summarizing is a skill we use throughout our entire lives and we practice it starting in Kindergarten! Fairy Tales are amazing stories to use to practice this skill. There are opportunities for puppet shows for your younger grades and, what I like to call, The Ultimate Retelling Challenge for your upper grades. Students retell a story either by writing it or acting it out. Read about it on this excerpt from The Fairy Tale Unit on TpT:

Here's a couple of my lovely theater students using puppets to retell a fairy tale.

I. Love. Reader's theater. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Fairy tales are exceptional stories to use for reader's theater because there are so many different ones, they are easily modified for any reading level, and students love them. Not only that, but Disney has helped a lot in this area, too. Odds are, most of your students have seen or at least heard of the Disney movie of Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, so even if they aren't great at acting out a part, they have a character they've actually SEEN to refer to. The Fairy Tale Unit on TpT has 5 reader's theater scenes as well as 5 reader's theater monologues at varying levels of reading difficulty. This is also a fun time to add in costumes (again... sucker for theater...).

Here are some of my students watching another student perform a monologue. Gotta love those costumes!

Now that students know the key details of their favorite fairy tales and they know what makes a fairy tale, it is SO exciting to have students write their own. By exposing students to multiple fairy tales, they'll have an idea of varying characters and different problems and solutions. I've had some students come up with every detail brand new, but I have also had students that combined their favorite parts of various fairy tales to make a brand new mashup of sorts. Both are awesome and both are showing the creative side of your students while using this new found style in story telling. Below is a game I call "Roll a Fairy Tale." Students roll the dice and develop their story that way. There's never the "I don't know what to write," issue with this game and it is a fun addition to any writing center. They just choose a sheet (character, beginning, middle, end, finish the story, or how did this happen?), roll a die, and basically fill in the blanks. This is included in The Fairy Tale Unit on TpT.

We just used our fairy tale knowledge to write our own, but there are so many other opportunities for students to be creative with fairy tales. Here's a bullet list of just some of these opportunities:

- For younger students, dress up in costumes for retelling purposes or have them create their own crown.

- For older students, play the Creative Castle Card Game where they write about or draw a castle with combinations of various fairy tales.

- For any grade level, have students discuss, write, or act out "What If..." questions, such as "What if Cinderella didn't make it back before midnight?" There are many of these included in the Fairy Tale Unit on TpT.

- Read fractured fairy tales, such as The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and have students write their own taking a fairy tale and twisting it around. This is GREAT for teaching point of view!
Here are some GREAT fractured fairy tales to go with your unit. I absolutely LOVE The Stinky Cheese Man.

- For older students, have them write and perform their own fairy tale reader's theater or have them write a skit to have others perform. This is also really fun for those fractured fairy tales. I had a student write a monologue from the point of view of "Awake Beauty," a princess who was given the curse of never being able to fall asleep. LOVE kids' creativity!

For everything you see in this post and MORE, check out The Fairy Tale Unit in my TpT shop! And definitely make sure you snag those free posters and free graphic organizers to use with all these other fun ideas for using fairy tales.