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Showcasing Kay Jackson and "Cinderella Around the World"

"I found that many of my students didn't have the literary vocabulary necessary to discuss such topics as plot, characterizations, and motivation," former sixth grade teacher Kay Jackson told Education World. "To bring them up to speed, I used picture books to introduce specific words and concepts, such as protagonist, antagonist, genre, mood, setting, archetypes, theme, figurative language, and so on."

Jackson, who now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, created a unit called Cinderella Around the World while teaching at Oak Tree Elementary School in Gilbert, Arizona. The unit now is available in PDF form through MiddleWeb.

Though Cinderella follows a simple, basic plot, students enjoy the variety of tales from other cultures and countries that are based on the story.

"My son, Carl, was the real reason why I chose the Cinderella theme to quickly introduce literary elements to my class!" admitted Jackson. "He had the Cinderella-based tales, Boots and the Glass Mountain by Claire Martin, and Ugh by Arthur Yorinks. We both loved these books! They got me thinking -- why not use Cinderella stories with my class?"

A favorite activity is the first one Jackson developed -- a large matrix that is completed by the whole class. Using a large sheet of butcher paper, she drew a matrix with headers over the columns: title, author, setting, protagonist(s), antagonist(s), theme, plot, ending, magical elements, and similes/metaphors. The students sat in groups of four, and each group was assigned one book. One person from the group filled out the chart after they had all read the story. By the end of the first day, the class had at least six different books to discuss.

"In three days, my students sounded more like college students than sixth graders!" said Jackson. "Using a simple story that everyone could understand, my students went on to the more complex and abstract concepts used in literature. Besides, it was cool to use words like protagonist instead of 'good guy,' and antagonist instead of 'bad guy.' (I think their favorite word was genre though.) It's also just so mature to casually toss out phrases such as, 'This really isn't a man versus man theme; I think it's more about man versus himself because of the inner conflict.' I loved watching their ability and thought process grow right in front of my eyes!"

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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