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Fairy Tales by Grimm: Standards-Based Lesson Ideas

Thanks to its partnership with educational publisher Eye on Education, Education World is pleased to present this lesson ideas article from Lauren Hathaway of Eye on Education's Editorial Department. The article describes how Grimms' fairy tales can inspire language arts and social studies activities in the classroom.

Once upon a time, there were born two brothers…

Jacob Grimm, who with his brother Wilhelm is famous for publishing the Grimms’ fairytales, was born on January 4, 1785. Although the Grimms’ fairy tales are often regarded as children’s literature, the brothers did not originally intend for these dark and violent stories to be read by children. It was their research as linguists that first led the Grimm brothers to listen to and record the stories, and a desire to preserve the German oral tradition that led them to publish the stories.

Many of the fairy tales we are familiar with today have gone through a number of changes to become more kid-friendly, and audiences might be surprised to read the often cruel and disturbing endings of the Grimms’ original tales. For example, did you know that in the Grimms’ tale of Snow White, the wicked queen is punished at the end of the story and made to dance to her death wearing a pair of red hot iron shoes? (Pretty grim, right?)

Still, the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm are beloved throughout the world, and with the right lesson plans and tools, can be a valuable addition to language arts and social studies classes. Take a look at some of the Web sites below for classroom activities, information on the Grimm brothers, and other resources for teaching fairy tales and folklore.

  • At National, you can read 12 different Grimms’ fairy tales as they were originally told, including “Little Snow-White” and “The Frog King.” The Web site also includes an interesting biography of the Grimm brothers.
  • In this activity from ReadWriteThink, students study the common elements of fairy tales, analyze specific stories using a story map, and then write their own “fractured fairy tales” based on the stories they’ve read. For another fun creative writing activity, have students re-write a classic fairy tale to take place in a modern setting.
  • Students are challenged to think about ethics as they read several different popular fairy tales in this lesson from EducationWorld.
  • Branch out from the well-known European fairy tales and study the folklore and fairy tales of other cultures. EDSITEment suggests exploring common themes found in fairy tales around the world or studying the iconic characters of Russian fairy tales.
  • For a quick and fun look at how the gruesome endings of some fairy tales have been altered for children’s movies, check out this blog post from Mental Floss Magazine.
  • The new TV show Grimm is loosely based on the fairy tales. Have students watch an episode (make sure it’s clean and age-appropriate). Ask students to analyze where the show’s creators stay faithful to the original stories, and where they depart from them. (Note: The Common Core State Standards stress the importance of having students compare and contrast film versions to texts.)


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