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Lesson Plan

Enchanting Readers with Revisionist Fairy Tales

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Enchanting Readers with Revisionist Fairy Tales

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

James Bucky Carter

James Bucky Carter

El Paso, Texas


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



This lesson leads students through an exploration of age-appropriate texts of various formats that are in their own ways revisionist fairy tales. Ever a popular choice among students and teachers alike, the fairy tale/fantasy genre offers vast potential for highly engaged interaction and both critical and creative discussions and activities. After reading the stories Ella Enchanted and The Courageous Princess, students write journal entries on which of the two stories' heroines they'd most like to be. Next they read the poem "Grethel" and then compare and contrast all three female leads. Then students choose one of the texts and write their own revisions by turning the poem or book into another form. For instance, they can turn the poem into a book or the graphic novel into a narrative. Finally, students share their work and assess their own writing using a class-created rubric.

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Over the last few decades, there has been a movement in literature to revisit, revamp and revise aspects of familiar storylines in established works. Classics such as Gone With the Wind, Dracula, The Scarlet Letter and The Wizard of Oz have received this treatment. Also popular among revisionist writers are age-old fairy tale themes, and this trend extends into quality fantasy Young Adult literature. Often within these retellings, female characters that once seemed bound by oppressive traditional structures become exciting, round protagonists actively ready to confront their worlds and the conflicts within them.

A similar theme has developed in contemporary fantasy comics and graphic novels. Women, once designated only as love interests, damsels in distress, or temptresses for the likes of hyper-masculine heroes such as Conan the Barbarian, have moved to the fore in epic titles like Sojourn, Rose, and The Courageous Princess. The young women in these works are not just secondary characters, but leading heroines, determined women as qualified as any man to not only take care of themselves, but to save the kingdom.

This lesson has students explore this genre by creating revisionist fairy tales using three pieces of literature as models for their own writing.

Further Reading

Carter, James Bucky, ed. Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2007. Print.

Read more about this resource


Crew, Hilary S. "Spinning New Tales from Traditional Texts: Donna Jo Napoli and the rewriting of fairy tale." Children's Literature in Education 33.2 (June 2002): 77-95.


Pierce, Erin. "Science Fiction and Fantasy." Voices from the Middle 9.2 (December 2001): 74-77.

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