Why do I enjoy teaching fairy tales? It’s magical!
My fairy tale unit focuses on Cinderella stories. First, we read a dozen or so picture books and compare common elements. This lays the groundwork for a novel: Ella Enchanted. Each student also writes a Cinderella parody, or fractured fairy tale. Read more for ideas, activities, links, and free downloads you can use in your Cinderella unit.
How to Enjoy Teaching Fairy Tales
Walt Disney created legendary versions of many fairy tales. His motto? “Think. Believe. Dream. Dare.” Let’s use it to build a great Cinderella unit (and have some fun)!
Think about how your students learn best. Throw out the worksheets. Grab some picture books. It’s time to read to your class and have some meaningful discussions.
Believe in the magic of learning. Open your students’ minds with higher order thinking skills. It’s time to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and create.
Dream about the possibilities. Pull in short stories, illustrations, video, and a novel. Let kids create a little drama of their own.
Do it big. Live large. Be creative. The sky is the limit!
Check out every Cinderella book in the library. (Take a list to help you locate the books. They are not all found in the same section.) Good Reads has posted 83 Cinderella Picture Books. My favorite read-aloud titles are listed below.
Folklore – These books retell Cinderella stories from around the world.
- Cinderella by Marcia Brown (translation of French folklore)
- The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo
- Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe
- The Rough-Face Girl (Native American tale) by Rafe Martin
- Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie
Parody – Also called fractured fairy tales, these stories put a themed and/or funny twist on the Cinderella story.
- Bubba, the Cowboy Prince by Helen Ketteman – This Texas fractured fairy tale features a male protagonist.
- Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson – It’s Cinderella with a feminist twist! Comparing Cinder Edna (a can-do, can-think female) with her neighbor, Cinderella (a wilting beauty) provokes interesting discussion.
- Dinorella: A Prehistoric Fairy Tale by Pamela Duncan Edwards – This story features lots of alliteration. (Everything begins with d!) You’ll love reading it aloud.
- Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci – This ghoulish Cinderella will tickle your students’ funny bones.
Select the titles you’d like to read aloud. Place all others on a table for kids to read on their own.
Begin with familiar stories. I like to read a the traditional French story first. Next, I play a video clip from the animated 1950 Disney movie (3 minutes). This sparks a discussion. What things are the same? What things are different? (The Disney movie was based on the French version, so there are many similarities. Disney added more fantasy, such as talking mouse friends.)
Explain that some Cinderella stories are folklore while others are parodies. Folklore are stories of the people. They were told orally and changed as they spread around the world. Parodies are stories written to parallel, or copy, another piece of literature. For example, the Percy Jackson stories are parodies of Greek mythology.
Read a few more stories. Again, discuss similarities and differences.
Now it’s time to discover common features. Work together to generate a list of features found in all or most Cinderella stories. List them on a table.
Multimedia will wow your students. Have them to look for common features in the trailer of the new Cinderella movie.
You can use this set of interactive lessons with your whole class or for differentiation.
Reading lots of versions of Cinderella prepares students to write their own parodies. First, have each student come up with a slant. Anything will work. For example, the story may be a present-day Cinderella football story. Or maybe it’s a tale of a down-and-out praying mantis. One of my students even wrote Mozzarella: A Cheesy Cinderella Story!
Students can plan their stories using features common to Cinderella stories. More advanced readers/writers can bolster their planning by considering the seven elements of a story shown above. Click here to download both.
After drafting and editing their stories, my students love publishing them as books. To keep it simple, have each student type his/her story. Add page breaks to separate it into pages. Print and illustrate. Now bind each story using report binders with clear covers.
Every intermediate-level Cinderella unit should include Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. This engaging fantasy is leveled at 4.6, but its length (240 pages) and vocabulary make it more difficult. If your students aren’t strong enough to handle this book, you can read it aloud.
My Ella Enchanted Unit incorporates instruction of key literature standards (answering questions, summarizing, finding a theme, describing characters, point of view, and comparing folklore). Do I suggest using all of it? Absolutely not! Pick and choose to focus on skills your students need. My favorite activities are summarizing each chapter and creating character cards for all of the fantastic characters.
The possibilities to enjoy teaching fairy tales are limitless. Let’s explore a few:
- Turn picture books or student parodies into short plays.
- Create bar graphs or picture graphs that show students’ favorite Cinderella stories.
- Do some storytelling. Choose a version and learn to tell it well.
- Write Cinderella stories from another character’s point of view (e.g., the stepmother).
- Locate countries of Cinderella folklore books on a map of the world.
- Select a honeymoon destination for Cinderella and the prince. Write a persuasive piece to convince them to go there.
- Design a Cinderella comic strip.
I post new ideas, activities, and free downloads every week. Click here for an index (and to see what’s coming soon!)
Enjoy teaching fairy tales!