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Lesson Plan

Teaching About Story Structure Using Fairy Tales

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Teaching About Story Structure Using Fairy Tales

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Read-aloud: three 20-minute sessions; Instruction and writing: five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Deborah Kozdras, Ph.D.

Deborah Kozdras, Ph.D.

Tampa, Florida


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Computers with Internet access and printing capability

  • Selection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes

  • Once Upon a Golden Apple by Jean Little and Maggie De Vries (Viking Penguin Group, 1991)

  • Art supplies

  • Costumes

  • Puppets

  • Felt or magnetic fairy tale characters

  • Felt or magnetic board

  • Chart paper

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Plot Diagram

Grades   1 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Plot Diagram

The Plot Diagram is an organizational tool focusing on a pyramid or triangular shape, which is used to map the events in a story. This mapping of plot structure allows readers and writers to visualize the key features of stories.


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1. Before beginning this lesson, review the characters and plots of the following fairy tales and nursery rhymes with students. (They are the ones cited in the book Once Upon a Golden Apple, which you will use as an interactive read-aloud.)

  • Snow White
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Little Red Hen
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Princess Briar Rose
    (or any other princess and prince story)
  • Wizard of Oz
    (or another story with a wicked witch)
  • The Reluctant Dragon
    (or another dragon story)
  • "Three Young Rats in Black Felt Hats"
  • Chicken Little
  • "Rock-a-Bye Baby"
  • The Frog Prince
  • "Humpty Dumpty"
  • Cinderella
  • "Little Miss Muffet"
  • Gingerbread Boy
  • "The House that Jack Built"
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
2. Obtain a variety of fairy tale books, coloring books, or printouts for students to use as references when writing their own stories. Choose three of the fairy tales listed in Step 1 to use for interactive read-alouds. The websites listed above are online resources you can use to get copies of fairy tales.

3. In preparation for the interactive read-alouds, read the fairy tales and familiarize yourself with the beginnings, middles, and endings of the stories. Prepare to discuss who, what, where, when, how, and why for each story. For example, you might ask:

  • Who was the story about?

  • What happened?

  • Where did the story take place?

  • What was the problem?

  • How did the main character solve the problem?

  • Why do you think the character made a particular choice?
4. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Once Upon a Golden Apple by Jean Little and Maggie De Vries. In this book, a father begins storytelling with "Once upon a..." but soon extemporizes on familiar fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters, settings, and themes. The children in the book "edit" the story. In preparation for a read-aloud, be sure to preview the text carefully and make note of the four choices for each section. Also, practice reading the story aloud. Decide how you will have students discuss the various choices in the story and how making another choice could alter the story.

5. Familiarize yourself with the three levels of writing instruction described by Rebecca Olness in Using Literature to Enhance Writing Instruction:

  • Shared writing. Students work with the teacher to write shared stories patterned after books that have been read aloud. In shared writing, the teacher and students collaborate, but the teacher does the actual writing, modeling conventions.

  • Guided writing. In guided writing, the teacher facilitates, guides, suggests, and encourages. Although students hold the pens, there is a collaborative relationship between teacher and students. The teacher's role is to help students discover their own abilities. Because in this stage students do the writing, you may find it best for it to be completed in mixed-ability groups, preferably with a student who can write in each group.

  • Independent writing. In independent writing, students take responsibility for writing. They build on the shared- and guided-writing opportunities and extend their writing to independent activities such as journals, reflections, and freewriting.
6. Review the steps of the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising/editing, and publishing.

7. Prepare class storyboards for the three fairy tales you chose in Preparation, Step 2. You may cut books apart, print out pictures from the Internet, or use pictures from coloring books. Alternatively, you may purchase or make magnetic or felt characters to use.

8. Transfer each page of the Once Upon a Golden Apple Storyboard Set A and the Once Upon a Golden Apple Storyboard Set B onto a sheet of chart paper. Make one copy of the Prewriting Questions and two copies of the Once Upon a Golden Apple Storyboard Set B for each guided writing group (see Session 6).

9. Make four copies of the Beginning, Middle, and Ending Chart and write the Prewriting Questions on chart paper.

10. Gather materials for the activity centers students will use during Sessions 7 and 8: art supplies, puppets, costumes, printouts of fairy tales, and printouts.

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