Are you looking for a fun and effective way of promoting the spirit of cooperation in your K through 3 classrooms? This week, Elaine Lindy, creator of the Absolutely Whootie Web site, shares three favorite folktales that will get kids thinking and talking about the importance of cooperation! After you use the tales in the classroom, why not send them home so the discussion about cooperation can continue? Included: Lindy shares follow-up activities and tips.
Are you looking for a fun and effective way of promoting the spirit of cooperation in your K through 3 classrooms? Peek into a smoothly running classroom, and you're bound to see the forces of cooperating, listening, and sharing in action.
Telling fairytales and folktales is an excellent way of capturing the attention of children. You can communicate the "look and feel" of cooperation by delivering pearls of wisdom to your students through the genre they love best.
The delightful folktales summarized below demonstrate the power of cooperative action. These stories have been tested and proven as hand-clapping favorites before groups of young listeners. Suggestions for related activities follow each summary.
'WHITE WING'S ESCAPE' (INDIA)
"White Wing's Escape" is from The Panchatantra, translated by Arthur W. Ryder, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956, pages 214 to 217.
The story begins when a hunter sets a giant snare in a spreading banyan tree and scatters grain to catch the attention of birds. White Wing, a ringdove king, and his flock notice the rice grains from high in the sky. They swoop downward and -- alas! -- are soon trapped in the hunter's net. As the hunter gleefully approaches the birds with his club, they realize their desperate plight. White Wing says to the ringdoves, "We must not panic, my friends. There is a way to escape from this terrible fate, but we must all agree to work together. The net is too large and too heavy for any one of us to lift. But if we all fly upward at the same time, I'm sure we can lift the snare and carry it away." The other ringdoves quickly agree. When White Wing gives his signal, the birds all fly upward at the same moment. They lift the snare and create what looks to the hunter, who watches in amazement, like a flying net rising on its own and vanishing into the sky.
'THE ONE-TURNIP GARDEN' (RUSSIA)
"The One-Turnip Garden" is from Ten Small Tales retold by Celia Barker Lottridge, New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1994, pages 29 to 33.
In this well-known Russian folktale, a giant turnip is too large for a farmer to pull out of the ground. His wife joins him, and then each of their children has a try. A variety of neighbors and strangers all join in the attempt. They hold on to one another's waists until, at last, they yank the stubborn turnip from the ground. Typically the story ends with turnip soup for one and all. In the version from Ten Small Tales, a little girl excluded from planting and tending to the turnip ("You are too little to do anything!") finds a way to help: She whispers encouragement to the turnip. When the entire line-up cannot tug the turnip out of the ground, she steps over to the turnip and whispers, "Little turnip, you have grown big. You have grown gigantic. Now it is time to come up. Come up, little turnip, come up." Then she takes her place at the end of the line. All the people pull their hardest once more and finally pull the turnip from the ground.
'THE RAM AND THE PIG WHO SET UP HOUSE' (NORWAY)
"The Ram and the Pig Who Set Up House" is available online at no charge from Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By.
This folktale follows the formula of accumulation; more and more characters appear as the action proceeds. In the story, a ram learns the terrible truth about why the farmer feeds him so well, so he runs away from the farm. The ram persuades his friend, a pig who lives on a neighboring farm, to accompany him. The two animals set off together to build a house in the woods, where they plan to live by themselves. Along the way, they meet a variety of characters, each of whom expresses the desire to go along. Before the ram and the pig allow a new character to join them, the animal must describe how he or she can contribute to the house. At last, an eclectic group forms. The animals select a spot in the woods, build their house, and live in it together. A wolf notices the house construction and plots to invade them, one and all. When the wolf attacks, each animal fights back in his or her unique way. Together, the animals manage to frighten the wolf away.
Colleen, age 6: "To make sure they wouldn't be a burden."
C.R.J., age 7: "They asked the animals to see what they can do, so it would be fair."
J.K., age 7: "They asked what they could do to help build the house because it wouldn't be fair if one person did it alone."
J.E., age 7: "So they wouldn't just lay around and not do anything."
TIPS FOR TELLING FOLKTALES
Elaine L. Lindy is CEO of Whootie Owl Productions, LLC, a Massachusetts-based company dedicated to storytelling that builds character. Whootie Owl Productions, LLC, founded Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By (http://www.storiestogrowby.com), a Web site featuring dozens of fairytales and folktales from around the world. The site has been a USAToday Hot Site and a Highlights for Children TeacherNet Site and is recommended to teachers by Disney.