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Using Graphic Organizers to
Generate Genre Definitions

For Fables, Fairy Tales, Folktales, Legends, Myths, and/or Tall Tales



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  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts, Literature
  • Educational Technology


3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Advanced

Brief Description

Students use graphic organizers to form definitions of a variety of story types including fables, fairy tales, folktales, legends, myths, and tall tales.


Students will

  • listen to or read a variety of stories.
  • work individually or in groups to complete graphic organizers that will help them focus on elements within different types of stories.
  • write definitions for a variety of story types to include one or more of the following: fables, fairy tales, folktales, legends, myths, and tall tales.


literature, genre, story, stories, fable, fairy tale, folktale, legend, myth, tall tale, define, graphic, organizer, character

Materials Needed

  • a variety of literature/stories by type/genre; literature might be found in the library, in textbooks, or online (online resources are provided)
  • Compare/Contrast graphic organizer and/or Spider Map graphic organizer

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students -- working as a class, individually, or in small groups -- use samples of different story types/genres to write a definition of each. The activity can be adapted to include any or all of the following literary genres:

  • fable
  • fairy tale
  • folktale
  • legend
  • myth
  • tall tale

We have provided below links to sample online stories of each genre. You may want to use stories that are part of students' textbook anthologies or available in your school or town libraries.

Share one or two sample stories for each genre; either read the stories aloud or have students read them on their own or in small groups. Ask students to think about the elements of each story as they listen or read. Provide the following questions to guide students to some of the elements to look for:

  • Does the story tell about something real?
  • Could the story's events be real, or are they totally unbelievable (fiction)?
  • Are the characters human or animal?
  • If the characters are human, could they have been real people?
  • Are characters doing things that are typically human or are they doing things that are superhuman?
  • Does the character face a problem that must be solved?
  • Does the story teach a lesson?
  • Can you tell when and where the story takes place, or could it be taking place at any time and anywhere?
  • Does the story take place long ago?
  • Are the people in the story ordinary/common people, or are they royalty?
  • Is there any mention of God or gods in the story?

Provide students with one of the graphic organizers listed below, or have them draw and fill in their own graphic organizer.

  • Students might create a multiple-column Compare/Contrast graphic organizer. Students should replace the column headings ("Name 1, Name 2") with the genres of literature they are studying. Under "Attributes," students should write the questions above. As students listen to or read a story, they will answer as many of the questions as they can; most of the questions can be answered with one word. Have students use the information in the chart to formulate a definition of the genre or genres being studied.
  • Students might create a Spider Map graphic organizer. Have students label the center of the spider map "Literature" or "Stories." They can create a "web" for each genre they are studying; each line leading from the center of the spider should be labeled with one of the genres. As students listen, they should consider the questions above and write notes about elements of the genre as they pinpoint them. For example, the web that relates to folktales might include notes such as "characters are animals," "animals have human traits," "explains something in nature," "takes place long ago," and so on. Students will use their notes to help them form a definition of the assigned genre(s).

At the conclusion of the activity, share a definition of each type of story to see how it compares with students' definitions.


Compare student definitions to actual definitions, and check students' graphic organizers. Follow-up activity: Have students choose two types of stories to compare; they might create a Venn diagram to organize their thoughts before writing a brief compare/contrast essay. Provide students with a copy of the Compare and Contrast Essay Rubric and explain that you will use it to evaluate student essays.

Alternate Rubric (2)

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins


National Standards




  • GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.5 Technology Research tools
    NT.K-12.6 Technology Problem-Solving and Decision-Making tools

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See more literature lessons in Ed World's Language Arts archive and in our Language & Literature Subject Center.


Originally published 09/13/2002
Last updated 03/30/2010