Behind the Scenes With Cinderella

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Approximately seven 45- to 60-minute sessions
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The Cinderella story most familiar to students is based on a 17th-century French version by Charles Perrault, but there are similar stories told all around the world. Students compare the classic tale with a version set in the pre–Civil War South, Moss Gown by William Hooks, noting the architecture, weather, time period, and culture as depicted in the text and illustrations. Internet research projects and Story Map graphic organizers then provide background for a discussion of how the setting of a story affects the characters and plot. Students read one or more other versions of the Cinderella story and compare them using a Venn diagram. During the final two sessions, students plan, write, and peer edit their own Cinderella stories.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • The allure of folk tales can be tapped to develop literacy in young students through many authentic cross-curricular experiences that promote integration of the language arts.

  • Reading and comparing several versions of traditional tales can be a way of developing critical thinking.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Cinderella by Charles Perrault (North-South Books, 2002)

  • Moss Gown by William H. Hooks (Clarion Books, 1990)

  • Computers with Internet access and printing capability

  • LCD projector (optional)

  • Several sheets of large butcher paper





1. Before beginning this lesson, students should have some understanding of what the elements of a story are, including plot, setting, and characterization. You may also want to introduce them to the idea that people from all over the world read similar stories but that these stories are told with variations having to do with the authors’ cultures.

You may want to adapt the lesson “Teaching About Story Structure Using Fairy Tales” and use it with your class. Another lesson that may serve as a helpful preview is “Exploring World Cultures Through Folk Tales.”

2. Obtain and familiarize yourself with two different versions of the Cinderella folk tale. This lesson uses a popular, well-known French version, Cinderella by Charles Perrault, and a United States version, Moss Gown by William H. Hooks. Read through the books, making notes about the architecture, weather, setting, and culture. You may also want to research the authors of the stories. (For example, it is useful to know that Charles Perrault lived in France from 1628 to 1703 and that he adapted many versions of fairy tales that are still read today.) Have the information from your research, along with enough copies of Moss Gown for every student in your class, for Sessions 1 and 2.

3. Gather a variety of other Cinderella versions (see Retelling the Cinderella Story for examples) to display around the room for browsing. Pick a few of these versions for students to read during the lesson and get multiple copies. You will also need a world and United States map (see online maps at Xpeditions Atlas).

4. If you do not have computers with Internet access available in your classroom, reserve at least four sessions in your school’s computer lab for student to conduct their research (see Sessions 3-5) and complete the Venn Diagram (see Session 6-7).

5. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Venn diagram tool. Bookmark it on your classroom or lab computers.

6. Print out the Story Map Handout and make two or three copies per student. As an alternative, bookmark the interactive Story Map and make sure that computers are set up for students to complete their maps online.

7. Visit and bookmark the websites listed on the Architecture Comparisons handout and the Hurricanes handout on your classroom or lab computers. Make enough copies of each handout for half the students in your class.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Think critically by comparing different versions of the same folk tale and discussing how the settings of the stories influence their telling

  • Use graphic organizers to identify story elements and compare folk tales

  • Practice research skills by completing specific online language arts projects that are connected to aspects of one of the stories' settings (architecture and weather)

  • Present research projects to the class

  • Apply the writing process (i.e., prewrite, draft, revise, edit, and publish) by writing and editing their own folk tales

Sessions 1–2: Setting the Scene

1. Access prior knowledge by asking students to share what they know about the story Cinderella. Have they read books or seen movies or plays of this story? Have any of them read versions of the story that were slightly different from each other?

2. Show students the French version of Cinderella by Charles Perrault. Emphasize and point out the setting of the story (France) on a world map. Ask students to share what they know about France. Explain that Charles Perrault lived almost 400 years ago and that his version of Cinderella is the one that was adapted by Walt Disney into the movie.

3. Read aloud the story Cinderella, pausing to discuss the architecture, weather, time period, and culture as depicted in the text and through the illustrations.

4. On one half of a large sheet of butcher paper, chart and review the setting of Perrault’s Cinderella, including the architecture, weather, time period, and culture. [Reserve the other half of the butcher paper for comparing the setting of Moss Gown.] Discuss and chart how the setting and time period influences the story line or plot. Questions for discussion include:
  • Why was the ball so important to Cinderella and her stepsisters? What does this have to do with when and where the story is set?

  • Why do you think Cinderella forgave her stepsisters at the end? What does this say about what was important in this culture?

  • Would the story be different if it were set where we live today? How?
5. Introduce Moss Gown by William H. Hooks by giving a short book talk. Set the scene by pointing out North Carolina on a map of the United States and discussing the time period and the culture of the pre-Civil War South. Encourage students to predict how Moss Gown will be similar to and different from Perrault's Cinderella. Record students' predictions on a new sheet of butcher paper.

6. Have students individually or with a partner read Moss Gown silently. Distribute the Story Map Handout or have students work in pairs to complete the interactive Story Map online after they finish reading the text.

7. Gather the class together and have students use their completed story maps to discuss the setting of Moss Gown as they did with Perrault’s version. Chart students' responses on the second half of the butcher paper. Questions for discussion include:
  • Does the place where this story is set and the weather play an important role in the story? How and why? Point out specific examples from the text.

  • What is the moral of the story or the main point the author is trying to make? What does the moral have to do with the time period and setting of the story?

  • What are the differences between this story and the other version of Cinderella we read?

  • Would the story be different if it were set where we live today? How?
8. Encourage students to continue discussing and comparing how the different settings influence the plot of the two stories.

Sessions 3–5: Researching the Setting

1. As a whole class, review the chart comparing Moss Gown to Perrault's Cinderella, focusing particular attention on the weather and architecture in Moss Gown.

2. Tell students that they will be working with a partner to further explore the setting of Moss Gown. Half the class will study architecture, the other half, hurricanes. Help students choose partners and topics. Have students bring their notebooks and pencils as they work on the computers; two students should work on each computer.

3. Distribute the Architecture Comparisons handout to the student pairs who chose the architecture topic. Explain that these students will be researching and learning about the plantations of the southeastern United States, which are described in Moss Gown as "a snow-white house, pillared with eight marble columns on every side."

4. Distribute the Hurricanes handout to the student pairs working on that topic. Explain that students will be researching and learning about the type of hurricane discussed in Moss Gown. ("A mighty blast, howling like a hurt animal, lifted her up and sent her flying over the black-green cypress treetops.")

5. When the online research and projects are complete, reserve time for students to share and reflect on them with the entire class.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 6): Assign another Cinderella version for students to read for homework (see Preparation, Step 3). [For further variation in discussion, you might assign two or three different versions to groups of students.] Distribute a copy of the Story Map Handout or encourage students to use the interactive Story Map. Students will need to complete a story map that focuses on the setting of the Cinderella story they read and be prepared to share in class how the setting impacts the story.

Sessions 6–7: Writing Folk Tales

1. Provide time for students to share their homework from Session 5. Students who read the same Cinderella version can collaborate to share their story maps and insights on how the setting impacts the story.

2. Introduce students to another version of the Cinderella story (see Preparation, Step 3).

3. Have students brainstorm the differences and similarities between the setting of the new Cinderella version and the student's own setting or environment. They can do this individually or in pairs. Have students chart the comparison using the Venn Diagram. They should print their work when they are finished.

Note: You may choose to complete the Venn diagram as a whole-class activity using an LCD projector. Print and copy the final diagram for each student.

4. Using the Venn diagram printout, each student can then complete a Story Map Handout or the interactive Story Map for his or her own version of the Cinderella story.

5. Students should write, edit, revise, and illustrate their own Cinderella stories using their story maps as a guide. Distribute the Peer Editing Guide to aid students as they edit each other's work.

6. Have students share their Cinderella stories with the class and with a buddy in kindergarten or first grade.


  • Choose another version of Cinderella set in a different geographic area for students to read (see Retelling the Cinderella Story for ideas). Have students research the geographic area online and create a travel brochure. The travel brochure should include maps of the location, the architecture, weather, and points or information of interest (e.g., historical sites, natural phenomena). Have students share their travel brochures and display them in class.

  • Have students write revised versions of well-know fairy tales using the Fractured Fairy Tales tool. Students can choose to revise The Princess and the Pea, Jack and the Beanstalk, or Little Red Riding Hood by changing the characters, perspective, setting, beginning, ending, or any other aspect of the story. Ask students to print the stories and assemble them into a book.

Student Assessment / Reflections


  • During Sessions 1–2, observe students during class discussions. Are they able to correctly identify the different aspects of the setting and culture and relate them to the plot of the story? Are they able to correctly identify the differences between the two stories and to identify some of the reasons these are so? If not, you may want to give students more practice using either additional versions of the Cinderella story or a different folk tale.

  • Collect the completed story maps and Venn diagram for review. Check to make sure that students are able to identify story elements including setting, plot, and characterization. Check also to make sure that students can successfully compare the stories. If necessary, schedule personal conferences with students who need extra help.

  • Assess students’ research projects, checking to see how well students complete the assignment as listed on the instruction handouts and how well they are able to present their projects to the class.

  • Use the Sample Writing Rubric (or create a rubric of your own) to assess final drafts of writing activities, including the research projects and the stories students write.


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