Monday, 5 May 2014

A Long Time Ago There Lived.......

I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their Mentor Text Monday again this week.  The theme is Language Arts mentor texts. 

If you know me, or you ask the kids in my class (or any class for the last 20 years) which is my favourite story genre they would not hesitate to tell you "FOLKTALES!!!"

I find folktales totally engaging and fascinating.   They are great stories, have interesting characters, often have an element of the supernatural, usually have a clear division of good and bad (the better to instruct young readers in life's possible pitfalls), and usually have a fairly simple storyline that is perfect for teaching setting, plot, story sequencing, problem and solution, retelling, author's purpose, and so many other Language Arts essentials.  Of course they are  awesome for Social Studies as well.  And they are easy to dramatize and often can be used as templates for writing or retelling.

Here is a fairly small miniscule sampling of my favourites:

One of the (many) things that is so great about using folk tales for LA instruction is that there are such a huge variety of them, with many variations, and that lots of them have a number of published versions that can be read and compared.  Stone Soup is one example.  Another that I love to use is the giant vegetable tale.  Here are several books that tell this tale:

If you don't know the storyline, a giant vegetable grows in a garden, and at harvest time it is too huge to pull up.  A chain of characters grows and works together until it finally comes up. At the end the fruit of their labours is often shared among the workers.
I think that Venn diagrams were INVENTED to use with folk tales!  
When I was teaching grade five I wrote a script for this story based on the one by Alexi Tolstoy.  But the family was more modern and a bit irreverent.  The kids loved practicing it.  
For younger kids this familiar tale is perfect.  There are a million versions of it:
   (Have you ever noticed that the number 3 is prominent in many folk tales?)
It can be acted out in small groups of four.  If your class doesn't divide by four evenly, no problem:  Someone can be the bridge.
When I do this story with my class it takes several days.  The first day I read at least on verson of the story to them.  One of the Another one of the great things about folk tales is that they're familiar to many kids, and even if they don't know this one, it is pretty easy to pick up the plot.  They love the repeated dialogue between the goats and the troll (and of course, who doesn't love to hate the troll?).
The story divides perfectly into five scenes, so we go over this orally.  This is also a good chance to discuss how dialogue works.
The second day, depending on the grade level, I either have them write out the 5 scenes and illustrate them, or just illustrate over my retelling.  then they get together with a partner and retell the story.  For kindies, I would just give them the illustrations and have them retell in pairs.
For the third lesson I divide them into groups and have them act out each scene in groups of four or five.  There is always some quibbling about who gets to play which character (the bridge is never a sought after role...).  To avoid this I have all of the groups act out the first scene simultaneously, having drawn their character from a "hat".  At the end of the first scene they freeze in a tableau, then when I announce scene two they all change characters.  We continue this through the 5 scenes so that everyone has had a chance to play all of the characters.
There are all sorts of extra LA activities that can be added to this basic set of activities.  A favourite of my kids' is recording their own retelling (not read from the book, but using illustrations as prompts).  There are lots of apps available now that can be used for these and can be sent to their families (and become treasured keepsakes, I hope.  I know that when my own kids were little I would've loved having something like this).  For your more advanced learners a great project is to use small props(claymation, commercially made figures, stick or fingure puppets,etc.) that they can manipulate as they retell the story for a video component.  If they can do this with a partner they can take turns between recording or retelling.  If you have a parent who can come help out, they can do the recording.  I read a helpful post on this by The Primary Techie a few weeks ago.  If you want to read it click here .

Do you love folk tales too?  I think that when I retire I'd like to study folklore.  How cool would that be?  Memorial University in Newfoundland has a degree program available online..........

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