A Magical Fairy Tale Thematic Unit for Your Classroom

Fairy tales provide the perfect backdrop for a complete thematic unit. Sure, you can read and compare them. But you can also pull in informational text, figurative language, poetry, and drama.

Ms. Sneed Plans a Fairy Tale Thematic Unit

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at her computer and stared at the literature standard:

Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.

Hmm. She needed a genre study that spanned different cultures. Myths? Fables?

Fairy tales would fit the bill. Maybe even Cinderella. She clicked over to TPT, and soon she had found what she was looking for.

Comparing Fairy Tales

The comparing fairy tales resource asked kids to read four stories from around the world:

  • “Cinderella, or the Glass Slipper” (France)
  • “The Fisherman and the Genie” (Middle East)
  • “Ye Xian” (China)
  • “The Talking Eggs” (Louisiana)

After summarizing them with story arcs, students found common elements. Then they compared and contrasted the stories. Perfect!

Start your fairy tale thematic unit by comparing elements.

Complete Lesson Plans for a Fairy Tale Thematic Unit

As she clicked around a little more, Ms. Sneed noticed that the teacher-author had also posted a set of free lesson plans. So she downloaded them to take a closer look.

This set of lesson plans lets you teach two weeks of complete ELA activities for your fairy tale thematic unit.

Hmm. In addition to analyzing folktales, kids would learn about nonfiction paragraph structure, figurative language, poetry, and plays. Aha, this would work for planning the entire ELA block.

Ms. Sneed decided to take a closer look.

Analyzing Informational Text About Fairy Tale Authors

To learn about nonfiction paragraph structure, the thematic unit included a slideshow. It used a hamburger analogy to explain the topic, detail, and concluding sentences. Then they practiced with paragraphs about famous European fairy tale authors. As a culmination, all the paragraphs were viewed together as a five-paragraph essay. That way, students could see that longer pieces used a similar (hamburger) structure. Wow. Such great scaffolding!

This slideshow and corresponding worksheets help third and fourth grade students understand basic nonfiction paragraph structure - and culminate by scaffolding to a five-paragraph essay. Furthermore, it can be used in a fairy tale thematic unit.
Exploring Figurative Language

The figurative language component taught kids about similes and metaphors. After viewing two slideshows, they practiced with fairy tale themed worksheets. Finally, they read a specially-adapted version of “The Frog Prince” and identified figurative language in it.

Third and fourth grade kids learn about similes and metaphors. Then they identify figurative language in "The Frog Prince."
Writing Poetry About Fairy Tales

In the poetry strand, kids explored limericks. After learning how to write a limerick, they wrote about one fairy tale character. Hey! What a clever take on character analysis! Ms. Sneed smiled as she considered how this tied in with teaching elements of poetry.

Teach kids about limericks, then try a cool character analysis activity! Ask them to write a poem about a fairy tale character. Attributes really stand out!
Writing Fairy Tales Plays

In the drama resource, kids explored another form of literature: plays. First, they learned about structural elements. Then they converted fairy tales to plays of their own. If desired, they could act them out.

“My students would love to perform their own plays,” Ms. Sneed said to herself. As she thought about it, visions of sock puppet theater popped into her head. Yes, definitely some opportunities for classroom fun with this thematic unit!

As a part of their fairy tale thematic unit, students learn structures of drama, as shown here. Then they convert stories to play form. If you're up for it, have students act out their dramas!

Ms. Sneed pulled out her plan book and got to work. Maybe she wouldn’t use all parts of the fairy tale genre study this year. But this set of lesson plans gave her plenty of options for years to come.

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