Teaching About Story Structure Using Fairy Tales
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- Standards |
- Resources & Preparation |
- Instructional Plan |
- Related Resources |
Stories and poems that have a familiar structure can create a supportive context for learning about the writing process, building students' background knowledge, and scaffolding their creation of original stories. In this lesson for students in second or late first grade, teachers help students explore the concepts of beginning, middle, and ending by reading a variety of stories and charting the events on storyboards. As they retell the stories, students are encouraged to make use of sequencing words (first, so, then, next, after that, finally). A read-aloud of Once Upon a Golden Apple by Jean Little and Maggie De Vries introduces a discussion of the choices made by an author in constructing a plot. Starting with prewriting questions and a storyboard, students construct original stories, progressing from shared writing to guided writing; independent writing is also encouraged.
- Beginning, Middle, and Ending Chart: In this lesson, students learn about story structure by identifying beginnings, middles, and endings in familiar stories. This handout can be used to aid students in sequencing and sequencing words.
- Prewriting Questions: This handout helps students evaluate story structure by answering the questions who, what, where, when, how, and why.
From Theory to Practice
- Storyboard is a prewriting technique that combines children's love of drawing with their ability to tell and write stories.
- Many authors use storyboards to plan and create stories.
- Storyboards help students to sequence the events in their stories.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Felt or magnetic fairy tale characters
- Felt or magnetic board
- Chart paper
|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.)
|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:
|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:
|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.
- Learn about story structure and demonstrate comprehension of it by identifying beginnings, middles, and endings in familiar stories
- Learn how to sequence a story through the use of a storyboard
- Increase their story-writing terminology by becoming familiar with the following sequence words: first, after that, then, next, and finally
- Apply what they have learned about the structure of fairy tales by using familiar plots, characters, plot devices, and elements from this genre when creating their own stories
- Work collaboratively by writing as a class and in small groups
- Practice the writing process by prewriting, drafting, and revising
Sessions 1 to 3 (20 minutes each)
During these three sessions, you will read aloud the three fairy tales you selected (see Preparation, Step 2).
- Activate students' prior knowledge about fairy tales. Use the Beginning, Middle, and Ending Chart. Ask students how fairy tales usually begin and end. What happens in the middle? (Use this step only in Session 1.)
- Put up the Prewriting Questions chart paper. Instruct students to answer the questions as the story is being read aloud.
- Hold up the book or printout and read the title. Ask students to predict what will happen.
- Read the fairy tale aloud, reminding students to pay attention to the events at the beginning, middle, and end. Pause as you are reading to give them opportunities to provide answers for the Beginning, Middle, and Ending Chart and the Prewriting Questions. (Fill in the charts as they give suggestions.)
- Place the storyboard pieces for the story you read on the chalkboard ledge (or, if you are using felt or magnetic pieces, set them up on the felt or magnet board), and have students sequence the important events of the story from the beginning to the ending.
Note: This process should be completed with a variety of books until students understand the story sequence or formula for fairy tale writing; if you need to use more than three stories, select others from the list (see Preparation, Step 1).
Session 4 (50 minutes)
- Review the charts from Sessions 1 to 3. Discuss the familiar beginnings and endings of fairy tales. Discuss the sequence of events in the middle of the stories. Ask students to recall prior knowledge of fairy tale characters, settings, and adventures.
- Set out a new Beginning, Middle, and Ending Chart and new Prewriting Questions.
- Tell students that you will be reading a story that is written with a variety of choices. In addition to paying attention to what happens at different parts of the story and answering the Prewriting Questions, they should think about different ways the story could go if different choices were made.
- Ask students to pay attention to the story and chime in with answers to fill in the Beginning, Middle, and Ending Chart. Ask them to predict what will happen next after the author makes another choice. Students should also offer answers to the Prewriting Questions.
- Review the story. Work through each page where there is a choice. Ask students how the story could have been different had the author made different choices. Tell students that this is what authors do before they sit down to write a story; they try to generate lots of different ideas and then choose the best ones to use.
- Tell students that they will be helping you write a class fairy tale following the story of Once Upon a Golden Apple. Set up the pages of the Once Upon a Golden Apple Storyboard Set A chart paper you have created. Students will need to see all of them to see where their choices are forced; for example, the character on Page 1 needs to be female.
- After the storyboard writing is complete, edit and revise the pages as a group.
- Ask students to volunteer to draw the illustrations for the storyboard pages.
Session 5 (50 minutes)
|1.||Place the illustrated pages of the class fairy tale storyboard up for students to see. Tell them that they will be creating another story together.
|2.||During this shared writing session, tell students that they will have more choices about the characters and action of the story. Put up another blank Prewriting Questions chart and work with students to fill it out together.
|3.||Put the Once Upon a Golden Apple Storyboard Set B up where students can see all of the pages. Students should select a character from the Prewriting Questions list and plan a sequence of events that could happen to him or her, using their responses to the prewriting questions as a guide. You may want to have students vote on each page while you help make sure that the story makes sense. (Although the story can be silly, it should still follow a logical sequence of events).
|4.||When the storyboard writing is complete, read the story as a group. Work as a class on editing and revising the story. Ask students to look for spelling, punctuation, and sequence problems. Have them suggest any revisions to the body of the story, ensuring the sequence works. Give the book a title and plan a cover page. Leave both stories up for students to see.
Session 6 (50 minutes)
|1.||Tell students that you are going to place them in groups of four to work on their own stories. These should be mixed-ability groups with a leader assigned for each.
|2.||Give each group a Prewriting Questions chart and access to the wide variety of fairy tales you have selected for them to use as references. Explain that they can use these stories to choose the characters, settings, and themes for their stories. Circulate while students answer the Prewriting Questions, offering assistance as needed.
|3.||As each group answers all the questions, give them a blank copy of the Once Upon a Golden Apple Storyboard Set B. Tell them to fill in the beginning, middle, and ending of their story. Inexperienced writers might "write" their stories using only illustrations. Remind students to pay attention to the creation of the story—their pictures and writing are a rough copy that they will have an opportunity to revise and edit.
Sessions 7 and 8 (50 minutes each)
|1.||Meet with each group to assist students with the editing and revising of their storyboards. Students should hold the writing implements and should do the writing with your guidance. For inexperienced writers, you might write the words students dictate to accompany their illustrations or let students copy them from a sample.
|2.||Once students have met with you, they should work to finalize the writing and illustrations in their drafts; they should also work on a cover page. If students are in groups of four, the cover page plus the seven story pages should be split evenly, with each student completing two pages.
|3.||While you are meeting with groups, students who have not yet met with you or who have finished the final draft of their stories can work in a variety of activity centers:
|4.||When the stories are complete, ask for volunteers to share them with the class. The stories can later be placed in the classroom library and used for read-alouds. Collect all student work, from the prewriting through the final stage, for assessment purposes.
- Give students further practice rewriting fairy tales using the Fractured Fairy Tales tool. Students can choose from The Princess and the Pea, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood and can print off their list of changes to the story which they can then rewrite either on- or offline.
- Susan Stein's Fairy Tale Unit is an excellent unit for teaching fairy tales using a wide variety of activities. This site also includes information about "fractured" fairy tales, which are modern fairy tales with a twist, like The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Another example, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by John Scieszka, is included in Fractured Fairy Tales & Fables. These "fractured" fairy tales can be compared and contrasted with the original stories on which they were based.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Use informal observation to assess students' comprehension of story structure during discussions in Sessions 1 through 3 and by watching students as they sequence stories using the storyboards.
- Assess how well students understand story-writing terminology during the class writing projects. If students are having trouble using the prompts (first, after that, then, next, and finally), you may want to spend some time reviewing them.
- Meet with students individually, asking them to retell the stories they worked on in their groups, explaining which parts are the beginning, middle, and end as they do so. This will allow you to assess understanding of the parts of a story.
- Use the Fairy Tale Rubric to assess students' writing. Assess both the individual portions of each story that students completed and the overall story for each group.
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