Standard Lesson

Once Upon a Time Rethought: Writing Fractured Fairy Tales

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 50-minute sessions
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Students work together to craft a list of common fairy tale elements in order to determine what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. They then explore and analyze a variety of tales, recording their information using a story map. The story map becomes a launching point for students' own fairy tales. Students use the characteristics of a known tale and change one of the literary elements to create a new tale, which includes a different set of characters, has a new setting, or includes a changed conflict or resolution. Finally, students publish and illustrate their new “fractured fairy tales” for others to enjoy.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Story mapping activities, also called story grammars, are a technique for using graphic representations to explore elements of a reading working toward increased comprehension. As Margaret Foley warns in her "The (Un)Making of a Reader," however, teachers must guard against allowing story mapping to become a "self-monitoring system for story reading which inhibits [students'] potential to explore a diverse range of personal responses" (510). Pointing to Foucault, Foley explains that when story mapping becomes an unyielding framework that all must follow, we lose the opportunity to engage students with texts authentically.

In this activity, students use online story mapping to analyze fairy tales, as well as to gather and organize ideas for rewriting a fairy tale. Story mapping is part of a reading process that also includes reflection and personal rethinking of the text elements as well as part of the writing process that allows students to extend and engage the features of the stories that they explore and write. In this way, students can explore the benefits of story mapping without losing the opportunity to read and respond to texts personally.

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

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 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

  • Assorted fairy tales for teacher and student reading, either in book form or available online (see Websites)

  • The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka or another fractured fairy tale




Student Objectives

Students will

  • brainstorm common elements of fairy tales.

  • identify some typical characteristics of a fairy tale using literary terms such as character, setting, and plot.

  • listen to and read fairy tales.

  • complete a story map based on a selected fairy tale.

  • rewrite a known fairy tale, changing a literary element.

  • publish and illustrate their new fairy tale.

Session One

  1. Begin this session by talking about fairy tales. Invite students to share names of fairy tales that they know.

  2. As they say the name of a fairy tale, ask them to indicate what makes it a fairy tale. For example, a student may say that the Three Little Pigs is a fairy tale because of the occurrence of threes.

  3. Record the comments and the rationale on the board or on chart paper.

  4. Look over the list and ask students to remove any titles that are not fairy tales by applying the collected rationales. For example, if a student volunteers "Jack and Jill" because it took place a long time ago, encourage students to apply the collected criteria to determine that the poem is not a fairy tale because there is no fantasy or make-believe in the story and it is a nursery rhyme.

  5. After students share the fairy tales they are familiar with, ask them to think about what is similar among the tales. Record these traits on the board.

  6. If the students are having a difficult time brainstorming, share with them Common Elements of Fairy Tales.

  7. Allow time for an open discussion while students think about fairy tales and the elements that are most frequently associated with specific tales.

  8. Provide students with multiple copies of fairy tales to browse and read individually, in pairs, or in groups.

  9. For the rest of this session, monitor the students as they read and discuss the fairy tales.

  10. When students are done with the browsing session, bring the class back together and ask them to add any new fairy tales characteristics to the brainstormed list.

  11. Take an informal class vote to see what the favorite fairy tale of the class is. If it obvious that students are familiar with the fairy tale, move on to the next step. If you think a number of students are unfamiliar with the tale, go ahead and read it to the class.

  12. After choosing a favorite class fairy tale, ask students to identify the characters, setting/location, problem-conflict/resolution examples, and the conclusion of the fairy tale.

  13. Record their observations on the board or on chart paper.

  14. Gather students at a computer or use an LCD projector to introduce them to the Story Map interactive, demonstrating all of its components.

  15. Using the class-selected favorite fairy tale and the Story Map interactive, complete a character map, conflict map, resolution map, and setting map.

  16. If needed, teach a minilesson on each element as you demonstrate, or provide students with definitions and examples.

  17. Print out and post the completed maps to use as examples for the students.

Session Two

  1. Review the common elements of fairy tales, titles, and specific stories the class explored.

  2. Conduct a follow-up discussion of the story map created in the previous session, and indicate that students will use a story map in the next part of this project.

  3. Explain the project to the students, sharing these instructions:

    • Choose a fairy tale.

    • Complete a Story Map for the fairy tale you’ve chosen, and print it out.

    • Choose one of the element from the Story Map (character, conflict, resolution, or setting), and change it.

    • Rewrite the fairy tale, incorporating the changed element.

  4. Share a definition of fractured fairy tale with the students, and connect the definition to the rewritten fairy tales that students will write.

  5. So the students have a better understanding of the project, share a fractured fairy tale from The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith or another fractured fairy tale.

  6. Discuss how the fractured fairy tale is similar to and different from classic fairy tales.

  7. Individually or in pairs, complete a Venn Diagram, recording the similarities and differences between traditional fairy tales and fractured fairy tales.

  8. Choose one of the elements from the story map to demonstrate the process, using the class-selected fairy tale. For example, if the fairy tale is Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you can share the following examples:

    • Character: Change from Goldilocks and the Three Bears to Goldilocks and the Three Pigs.

    • Conflict: Instead of Goldilocks breaking into the bears’ house and eating porridge, she breaks in and borrows lawn tools and supplies.

    • Resolution: Goldilocks ran away. The new resolution could be that she writes a letter of apology and replaces the missing and broken items.

    • Setting: The tale could take place in the big city instead of in the forest.

  9. Share the rubric with the students so they know what is expected of them as they rewrite their fairy tale.

  10. Answer any questions the students may have about the project.

  11. Ask the students to choose a fairy tale before the next session that they will be rewriting.

Sessions Three and Four

  1. At the beginning of the session, review the directions for the project and answer questions or make clarifications or modifications.

  2. Arrange a computer schedule so that students can complete Story Maps on their selected fairy tale, and print them out. If desired, students can use the print version of the Character Map, Setting Map, Conflict Map, and Resolution Map.

  3. Ask the students to bring their story maps to writing conferences.

  4. In the writing conferences, ask students to discuss the element of the fairy tales they are going to change. Provide students with feedback before they begin drafting their fractured fairy tales.

  5. Conduct writing conferences as needed while students work on their fractured fairy tales.

  6. Refer to the rubric often so the students remember the targets of the activity.

  7. In addition, refer to the Common Elements of Fairy Tales to make sure that students are staying within the genre.

Session Five

  1. When students have finished drafting their fractured fairy tales, allow time for the students to publish their new fairy tales, using the Stapleless Book, the Comic Creator, or using resources in your classroom.

  2. After the fractured fairy tales have been published, provide time for the students to share their tales with the class.

  3. As the students are sharing, assess their work using the rubric.


  • Use the interactive Fractured Fairy Tales to review how the genre works and practice fracturing three well-known fairy tales.

  • Using the Fractured Fairy Tales Booklist, read all of the versions of one fairy tale. Compare and contrast these versions using either the 2 Circle or 3 Circle Venn Diagram.

  • Students’ fractured fairy tales lend themselves to readers theater. Invite groups of students to perform their fractured fairy tales, using the resources in the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Readers Theater.

  • Complete an author study of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. They often collaborate, and many of their texts are fractured fairy tales.

  • Adopt classroom of younger students and have your class share their fractured fairy tales. The activity provides an authentic experience for reading aloud as well as oral publication of students’ work.

  • View the movie Shrek or Shrek II, and explore the ways that the movies incorporate elements of fractured fairy tales. For resources to guide your viewing, check out the materials that accompany the ReadWriteThink lesson Exploring Satire with Shrek. While this lesson is structured for older students, the viewing guides can easily be adapted for younger classes.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Rely on observation and anecdotal notes as the prime assessment for this classroom discussion of story elements. You may choose to comment on or create minilessons based on the quality of student writing, regarding conventional uses of language and/or regarding creativity and content.

  • Review students’ printed Venn Diagram for evidence that students understand the differences in the two types of tales. Likewise, review the printed Story Map during the writing conferences to assess the students’ knowledge of story elements and the writing process.

  • Use the Fractured Fairy Tales Rubric for formal assessment of the fractured fairy tales.