9 Easy Ways to Boost Achievement When Teaching Fables

Who doesn’t enjoy teaching fables? Kids [and their teachers] love these short, entertaining stories. You can also use fables to teach the standards. They’re great for summarizing, theme, and even that pesky multimedia standard. Sprinkle in a few fable-based plays for readers theater, skits, or full-blown plays. What’s more? Fables provide the perfect introduction to narrative writing.

Teaching Fables

Ms. Sneed Takes a New Twist on Fables

“It’s time for the fables unit,” Ms. Sneed’s fourth grade teammate, Mrs. Walton, announced. She pulled out a ratty-looking folder. “I can copy these fables and the questions for everyone.”

Ms. Sneed wiggled around in her seat. “Well,” she said, “I was wondering if we could try something new.”

Everyone stared. Do something new? They’d always done it this way.

“I found a fables unit on TpT that incorporates a bunch of standards. As the unit progresses, kids do a variety of activities.”

Her team leaned in. This sounded interesting.

Teaching Fables with Reading Standards

“Let’s talk about reading first. In addition to answering questions, kids will hit four more literature standards. For example, they’ll learn to summarize and find a theme. In addition, they’ll analyze media, compare similar tales, and work with prose and drama.”

“That’s a lot of standards covered,” Mr. Frank said. The other teachers nodded their heads.

Taking a Genre Approach

Ms. Sneed pulled out a new folder and pulled out two pages. “First, the kids learn about fables. And about Aesop.”

Introduce fables as a part of the broader genre of folklore. Teach third, fourth, and fifth grade students about Aesop too!

Asking and Answering Questions

She pushed a few more pages toward her teammates. “The unit offers a bunch of higher order questions. As you can see, the teacher can pose the questions – or kids can respond to question cards.”

Use higher order questioning to get third, fourth, and fifth grade students thinking about fables and their morals.

Higher Order Questions

“What about written questions?” asked the woman on the right.

“Ten sets of fables and questions are provided. Although I only plan to use a few. I’ll keep the rest on hand for review later in the year.” Her teacher friends nodded.

Because fables are short, they make great stories for answering questions.

RL.3.1, RL.4.1, RL.5.1

Summarizing Fables

“To practice summarizing, several options are available. Kids can use foldables or a story arc template,” Ms. Sneed continued.

When teaching fables, use a story arc to map the plot. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students can also make this foldable.

RL.3.1, RL.4.2, RL.5.2

The teachers passed around the story arc. “This matches the way we like to teach narrative writing,” one said.

Finding a Theme

“Since fables have clear morals, they’re perfect for teaching theme. The process scaffolds naturally. First, kids learn to pinpoint the moral, or lesson. Then they find a theme from connected details. If your kids catch on well, they can also analyze a character’s response to obstacles.”

Since fables have morals, they're great starting points for teaching theme to third and fourth grade students.

RL.3.2, RL.4.2, RL.5.2

Analyzing Text and Media

Ms. Sneed paused and smiled. “I know you’ll like this part. You know that pesky standard about text and media? Here it is. Kids analyze three one-page texts of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” With the first text, no illustrations are provided. For the second, students see a life-like illustration. The third text uses the cartoon illustration shown above. In the activity, students analyze how their perception of the characters changes with illustrations. Finally, they view a video version and analyze again.”

“Well that seals the deal,” Mrs. Walton said. “I’m in!”

You can find many short videos of fables. Pair one with a text and have your third, fourth, or fifth grade students analyze the media.

RL.3.7, RL.4.7, RL.5.7

Comparing Similar Folktales

“Here’s an opportunity to hit RL.4.9,” said Ms. Sneed. “Three sets of paired fables offer opportunities to compare and contrast.”

Teaching fables provides the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast folktales.

RL.3.9, RL.4.9, RL.5.9

Analyzing Prose and Drama

“Finally, students compare two versions of the same story: one written in narrative form, and the other written as a play. That moves them into our speaking and listening standards as well.”

Fables can be found in many forms: poetry, prose, or drama. Have your third, fourth, or fifth grade students analyze, compare, and contrast all three.

RL.3.5, RL.4.5, RL.5.5

Teaching Fables with Speaking and Listening Standards

“But presenting plays doesn’t cover any standards,” said Mr. Frank.

“You’re right,” replied Ms. Sneed. “The standards are met through class discussion. But presenting a play would be so much fun.”

Presenting Plays

Ms. Sneed slid seven plays across the table. “The kids will love these short dramas,” she said.

“They could even present them to their parents,” said Mrs. Walton.

When teaching fables, don't forget plays! Kids in third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade love the drama of readers theater.

Teaching Fables with Writing Standards

“The corresponding writing project is just what we need,” said Ms. Sneed. “It takes kids through the entire writing process. And it thoroughly teaches writing dialogue.”

“Oh good, my kids are so bad at that,” mumbled one teacher.

When teaching narrative writing, start with a fable. Because it's short, your third and fourth grade students experience immediate success.

W.3.3, W.4.3, W.5.3

Teaching Fables in Three Weeks

“Wait. How long is all of this going to take?” asked Mr. Frank.

“Just sixteen days,” Ms. Sneed replied. “If we follow the lesson plans, that is. There are plenty of materials to last longer, but I’d really like to limit it to about three weeks.

“Can I show you one more thing on my laptop? The entire fables unit is housed in a handy website. Check it out with this preview website. Notice how the lessons can be completed online. No more copying.” Her eyes gleamed.

Teaching Fables Website

“I like this fables unit. Let’s get started,” said Mr. Frank. The others agreed. And the corners of Ms. Sneed’s mouth turned up in her famous little smile.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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