Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction with "Little Red Riding Hood Text" Sets

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Eight 50-minute sessions
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This lesson plan features an example of a cumulative literary experience or “literature unit” structured around a text set made up of conceptually-related fiction and nonfiction for reading aloud and for independent reading.

Beginning with a comparative study of selected, illustrated retellings of the traditional folktale “Little Red Riding Hood,” including versions from several different cultures, this literature unit continues with a study of modern revisions of this well-known tale. After students have an opportunity to explore similarities and differences among the retellings and revisions, they are introduced to fiction and nonfiction texts featuring wolves in order to provide them with a different perspective of the “villain” in the "Little Red Riding Hood" tales. The unit culminates in a class-written version of the folktale.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Researchers such as Dolores Durkin (1961), Margaret Clark (1976), Regie Routman (1988; 1991), and Kathy Short (1995) have found evidence that children who are immersed in rich, authentic literary experiences become highly engaged in literature and develop literary awareness. Their studies revealed that positive and meaningful experiences with books and written language play a critical role in the development of literacy skills. Other researchers have found that students acquired reading and thinking strategies in literature-based programs that included teacher-led comprehension instruction (Block, 1993; Baumann, 1997; and Goldenberg, 1992/1993).

Other examples of literature units can be found in Literature, Literacy, and Comprehension Strategies in the Elementary School (Moss, 2005). Additionally, see the citations for referenced researchers for full bibliographic information.

Further Reading

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

  • 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.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 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



Student Objectives

Students will

  • engage in a comparative study of diverse illustrated retellings of a traditional tale as well as modern revisions of this traditional tale.

  • extend this comparative study by exploring connections with selected realistic fiction and nonfiction texts to expand their understandings of character development.

  • discover and practice some of the reading-thinking strategies used by experienced readers to comprehend, evaluate, interpret, and appreciate texts.

  • engage in independent reading experiences at school and at home.

  • move from an analysis of single texts to a synthesis of the central ideas uncovered in the multiple texts included in the text set compiled for this literature unit.

  • engage in a collaborative writing project to compose their own retelling of this traditional tale based on the synthesis experience that concluded their extensive comparative study of diverse genres.

Session One

  1. Show students the cover of Little Red Riding Hood (Hyman, 1983), a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Grimms' version of this traditional tale.

  2. Before reading the story, ask students to talk about the title and the illustrations on the front and back covers and opposite the major title page. This invitation sets the stage for students to draw on their prior knowledge of this well-known story and to engage in inferential thinking to interpret the traits, feelings, and motives of the central characters, based on clues in these pictures.

  3. As the story unfolds, ask students to continue to talk about the textual and visual portrayal of each character in this story: Little Red Riding Hood, her mother, her grandmother, the wolf, and the hunter.

  4. At the end of this first read-aloud session, introduce other retellings of this traditional tale included in the text set (see the Little Red Riding Hood Booklist) and ask students to select one for independent reading. Ask them to focus on the way the words and pictures provide clues about the traits, feelings, and motives of the characters in the books that they have chosen.

  5. Ask students to identify interesting differences found in these retellings and record their observations in their journals. For example, the last line in Josephine Evetts-Secker's retelling (2004) is provocative: "Little Red Riding Hood told her granny about the birdsong and the beautiful flowers and as she shared these good things, she wondered whether she would ever meet another wolf in the forest, and if so, what would she do then?" (unpaged).

Session Two

  1. At the beginning of this second group session, give students an opportunity to share discoveries that they found in the retellings that they have explored.

  2. Ask students to compare the retellings with Hyman's retelling, which they read in the first session.

  3. Show students the cover of Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China (translated and illustrated by Ed Young), and ask them to predict how this story will compare to those that they have already read.

  4. Read aloud to the class. This older variant of the traditional tale provides a significant contrast with the diverse retellings of the Grimms' version. In this variant, three sisters manage to get rid of the hungry wolf that plans to eat them by drawing on their own inner resources of courage and cunning to take action against the villain in this story.

  5. After reading the book, ask students, "What is surprising in this story?"

  6. Encourage students to compare this version of the story to the other versions that they have read.

  7. At the end of the discussion of this book, ask students to interpret Ed Young's dedication: "To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness."

Session Three

  1. Explain that you have another version of the Red Riding Hood story to share with the class.

  2. Show students the cover of Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood and ask them to predict how this version will be different.

  3. Read the story aloud to the class. This version gives students an opportunity to hear the dialect of Cajun storytellers, who tell this story of Petite Rouge Riding Hood and her cat, who, like Lon Po Po and her sisters, manage to outwit the villain. In this story, the villain is Claude, an alligator.

  4. Again, invite students to respond to this retelling in light of the stories they had heard or read independently in this cumulative literature unit.

  5. At the end of this session, introduce students to other retellings that represent cultural diversity, such as the following:

    • Susan Lowell's Little Red Cowboy Hat is a southwestern version of the traditional tale. In this humorous retelling, it is Grandma who gets rid of the wolf.

    • Keith Polette's bilingual retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood," Isabel and the Hungry Coyote, is also set in the American southwest. Spanish words are woven into this tale of a brave and clever heroine who outwits the coyote that plans to eat her and her grandmother.

Session Four

  1. Introduce Ruby (Emberley, 1990) as an example of a literary genre, the modern revision of a traditional tale. In this humorous story set in Boston, the heroine, Ruby, is a small, but spirited and cunning, young mouse in a red hooded cloak, who outwits a sly cat, the villain, who plans to eat her and her grandmother.

  2. Read the book aloud to the class.

  3. Ask students to explore the humor and surprises in this story, the qualities of the central characters, and the changes the author made to create this modern revision.

  4. At the end of this session, suggest other modern revisions for independent reading such as Little Red Riding Wolf (Anholt, 2004) and Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale (Ernst, 1995). Other books include the following:

    • Anthony Brown's Into the Forest (2004) is a modern tale about a boy who takes some cake to his sick grandmother and ignores his mother's warning not to enter the forest.With his distinctive detailed illustrations, Brown creates a journey through the forest that is filled with suspense and fairy-tale allusions and that concludes with unexpected events.

    • Yours Truly, Goldilocks (Adam 1998) is a modern tale in which familiar story characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, Baby Bear, Peter Rabbit, and the Three Pigs correspond about plans for a party to celebrate the pigs' new house. Unfortunately, two evil wolves in the forest are also corresponding about their own plans.

    • In Yo, Hungry Wolf! (Vozar,1993), "Little Red Riding Hood" is one of three stories retold in rap.
  5. Ask students to respond to the stories that they read independently with drawings and/or written comments in their literature journals.

Session Five

  1. Introduce the first of several fiction and nonfiction texts featuring wolves in order to provide students with another lens for viewing the "villain" in the Little Red Riding Hood tales.

  2. Before reading Max, The Stubborn Little Wolf (Judes, 1996), show the picture on the front cover and read the title to the class to prompt questions and or comments about how this book fits into the collection for the "Little Red Riding Hood Unit." This story sets the stage for a study of the nature of wolves and the portrayal of wolves as villains in many traditional stories. Max and his father are the central characters, and the story is told from their viewpoint.

  3. Read the book aloud and discuss the story in light of the previous literary experiences in this literature unit. This is a modern animal fantasy about Max and Papa Wolf, who tries to convince his son to become a hunter like other wolf fathers and sons. However, Max refuses to follow the family tradition. He does not like to hunt; he wants to have "a beautiful flower shop" (unpaged). The cartoon drawings portray the exasperated father and the happy son. When Papa tries to show Max how to hunt, Max saves the little rabbit and explains why he does not like hunting: "Hunting is nasty, cruel, and horrible."

  4. To reinforce this new perspective, present brief book talks about other examples of fiction featuring wolves to help students select a title for independent reading:

    • Small Bad Wolf (Taylor,2003), written for beginning readers, is similar to the story of Max. Small Bad Wolf wants to be as bad as his father, the Big Bad Wolf, until he discovers that it is more fun to play soccer with his new friends.

    • On the front cover of Becky Bloom's Wolf! (1999) a wolf wearing glasses and reading a book is surrounded by a cow, a pig, and a duck. This humorous animal fantasy tells the story of a wolf in search of food who enters a farm and discovers "educated animals" who ignore him because they are absorbed in reading their books. When the wolf decides to learn to read and to share stories with the other animals, his life changes. They become friends and travel the world together as storytellers.

    • Ken Brown's What's the Time, Grandma Wolf? (2001) is another humorous animal fantasy with a surprise ending. Grandma Wolf does not fit the stereotypical wolf character found in most traditional tales.

    • The central character in Mr. Wolf's Pancakes (Fearnley, 1999) appears to be a benign wolf until the end of the story when he eats the story characters how refused to help him make pancakes.

    • In Colin McNaughton's Suddenly (1994), a small pig manages to evade the hungry wolf who is stalking him and to cause the wolf so much physical harm, he ends up in the Wolf Hospital.

    • Sirko and the Wolf: A Ukrainian Tale (Kimmel, 1997) is a realistic folktale about a dog and a wolf who help each other as cousins and as friends.

    • In One Stormy Night (Kimura, 2003), a goat and a wolf take refuge from a thunderstorm in a hut so dark they cannot see what kind of animal the other is. As they talk together, they discover they have a lot in common.

Session Six

  1. After students have time to read at least one additional wolf tale, engage the class in a discussion of the similarities and differences among the various stories. In this comparative discussion, focus students' exploration on the portraits of the wolf characters in the traditional and modern Little Red Riding Hood tales.

  2. Following this discussion, read one of the nonfiction texts about wolves in the text set for this literature unit aloud to the class:

    • Gail Gibbons' Wolves (1994) provides information about the gray wolf and the red wolf. The book challenges some of the ancient myths and stereotypes associated with wolves in stories such as "Little Red Riding Hood." According to this author: "For centuries people have been afraid of wolves. They thought wolves were their enemies. Scientists who study wolves are learning that wolves have been misunderstood. Wolves tend to live peacefully among themselves. They are shy and rarely attack people. When this happens, they have probably been threatened" (unpaged). Gibbons also notes that wolves are in danger of extinction and in need of protection.

    • Red Wolf Country (London, 1996) is an example of realistic fiction based on studies of wolves. London's poetic narrative allows readers to enter into the world of the wolves, and the artist's paintings capture the beauty of their natural habitat. This is the story of the journey of two red wolves who hunt, eat, and prepare for the birth of their pups. An Afterword tells the true story of the red wolf species that was extinct in the wild by 1980. However, in 1987, "several captive red wolves were released at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina...Currently, there are nearly a hundred wolves running free in Red wolf country" (Afterword by Roland Smith, former red-wolf species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
  3. At the conclusion of this group session, ask students to select one of the other examples of realistic fiction and nonfiction texts in the text set for independent reading.

  4. Additionally, encourage students to search the public library and the Internet for further information about wolves and what is being done to maintain wilderness areas to help the wolf survive.

    • For example, Jean Craighead George drew from her study of wolves and the tundra at the Arctic Research Laboratory in Alaska in 1971 to write Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary, a realistic account of the events in the lives of three wolves as they grow from helpless pups to young adult wolves. The notes on the front flap of this book refer to the wolf as "one of nature's noblest creatures."

    • George also used her firsthand observations to write The Wounded Wolf (1978), a poetic story in which the leader of a closely knit wolf pack saves the life of an injured wolf, who is surrounded by hungry animals hoping to feed on him after death. The source of this story is included in a note that precedes the first page of narrative text: "During his ten-year study of wolves in the Alaskan wilderness, scientist Gordon Haber, Ph.D., observed the leader of a wolf pack save the life of a wounded wolf."

    • Barbara Parker's North American Wolves (1998) is a nonfiction text that provides a detailed description of the physical characteristics, behavior and life cycle of the gray wolf and the red wolf.

    • Dorothy Hinshaw's Dogs: The Wolf Within (1993) is a nonfiction text that compares the physical characteristics and behavior of wolves and dogs and describes how dogs evolved from their wild relatives. This text provides the background for students who read Kimmel's Sirko and the Wolf and wonder why the dog and wolf call each other "cousins."

    • Mary Ling's Amazing Wolves, Dogs and Foxes (1991) is another nonfiction text about this family that includes photographs.

    • Some useful factual sites about wolves include Gray Wolf, from the National Wildlife Federation and Wild Wolves, from NOVA.

Session Seven

  1. Ask students to share what they have learned about wolves in the realistic fiction and nonfiction books that they are read.

  2. Encourage the class to consider this information in light of the other stories they heard or read in this literature unit. Ask questions and reinforce comments that help students move from the analysis of single texts to a synthesis of the central ideas uncovered in the multiple texts selected for this unit.

  3. After students reflect on their new understandings of wolves, reread Ed Young's dedication in his retelling of Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China: "To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness."

  4. Ask students to discuss the meaning of Young's dedication in light of their additional reading.

  5. Reinforce comments that indicate students are synthesizing the information from multiple sources. This discussion prepares students for the collaborative writing project during the next session.

Session Eight

  1. Review the traditional retellings and the modern revisions of the "Little Red Riding Hood" tale.

  2. Ask students to identify the recurring patterns in these stories as well as the changes made by different retellers and artists. Pay particular attention to the portrayal of the central characters including the helpers and villains.

  3. Record students' observations on a chart under the headings SAME and DIFFERENT, or using the online Venn Diagram.

  4. Explain that the class is going to write a new story that includes the basic story elements listed under SAME column.

  5. Ask students to decide what would be new or different in their original telling of the story.

  6. Begin the writing process with the Story Map, or guided by several teacher-initiated questions:

    • Who are the characters in your story?

    • What clues will you provide to show the traits, inner feelings, and motives of these characters? [Note: Adapt the phrasing of this question to fit student needs.]

    • From whose viewpoint will your story be told? [The concept of viewpoint is introduced in Session Five.]

    • What is the setting (or settings) in your story?

    • What is the problem (or problems) in your story?

    • How will the problem(s) be solved?

    • How will your story end?
  7. Have students vote on the new elements they want to include in their story, and they are encouraged to make use of their new understandings of wolves as they compose their narrative.

  8. After completing their written or story map, students dictate a collaboratively-constructed narrative.

  9. If possible, use a computer and screen to type the story so that students can see their story as it evolves.

  10. Read each new segment aloud as their story unfolds on the screen. Make revisions and additions as you go. This process provides an opportunity for students to see how good writers reread and revise their own texts during the composition process.

  11. Print out the pages after the story is complete, and ask each student to choose a scene to illustrate. Provide markers, pens, crayons, and so forth for their artwork.

  12. Once all the pages are ready, bind the story together along with covers, title pages, a dedication page, and a note about the authors.

  13. Share the book with other classes, and display it with the books by professional writers and artists featured in this literature unit.

  14. Make copies of the illustrated story available for students to take home.


  • Share additional Illustrations of Little Red Riding Hood from the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages, and ask students to compare the different ways that the heroine has been depicted. Encourage comparisons to the versions of the story that students have during the project.

  • Ask students to create a book cover or dust jacket for the class book using the Book Cover Creator. The tool does not include an option to save the work, so be sure that students do enough planning that they will be able to complete their covers in one session.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Assessment is an ongoing process throughout this literature unit. The objectives that guide the development of the lesson plan also provide criteria for evaluating the students’ engagement and understanding as readers, writers, and thinkers as they respond to the cumulative literary/literacy experiences in this unit. Review your observation notes and student work over the course of the unit to determine whether the objectives have been achieved and to inform future planning of literary/literacy experiences.

Pay particular attention to the following opportunities for observing student work:

  • Monitor students’ involvement in group sessions, their contributions to literary discussions, their entries in their literature journals, and their participation in the collaborative writing project. These oral and written responses provide opportunities for students to externalize their thinking as they explore ideas together, build understandings about character development and literary themes and connections, and discover new perspectives through the study of diverse genres.

  • Listen for details that reveal the the quality of student comprehension in individual teacher-student conferences. Retelling a narrative requires the reader to identify and integrate important ideas and information in the text. Listen for specific responses that indicate the student’s grasp of the literary and thematic concepts studied in this unit, that demonstrate student’s use of reading-thinking strategies to generate meaning, that identify areas of weakness that need attention, and that offer new challenges to the student who is ready for them.


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