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Fairy Tale and Folk Tale Cyber Dictionary

Whether you're a technology nerd or a trembling "newbie," your students can participate in the Fairy Tale and Folk Tale Cyber Dictionary project -- an activity even kindergarten students will enjoy. Included: Suggestions for adapting the project for older students.

"I wanted to make sure my students would be exposed to technology," Illinois teacher Annemarie McAloon told Education World, "and I felt this project was a good way to do it." The project McAloon refers to is the Fairy Tale and Folk Tale Cyber Dictionary, an activity she developed for a class she took through EnterNet, a technology program financed by a grant from the state of Illinois.


McAloon pioneered the Fairy Tale Cyber Dictionary project with her first-grade students at Sacred Heart School, in Melrose Park, Illinois. She began by reading Little Red Riding Hood to the children. After hearing the story, each child chose a letter of the alphabet and a word from the story that started with that letter. Then each student wrote a sentence using the word in the context of the story and drew a picture to illustrate his or her sentence. "In some cases, a student chose two letters since we did not have 26 students in the class," McAloon said, "but each child was responsible for creating at least one page."

At that point, Janet Barnstable, one of McAloon's EnterNet instructors, entered the picture. "Annemarie wasn't able to do the technology tie-in that she'd wanted to do," Barnstable explained to Education World, "because her school didn't have the computers or the Internet connection she'd hoped would be in place." So Barnstable, the communications resource teacher for Julian Junior High and Web producer for the Illinois Oak Park Elementary School District #97, became the project's Webmaster.

McAloon mailed the pages containing the students' written sentences and crayon drawings to Barnstable, who scanned them into the computer and created the format that would end up being used throughout the site. After Barnstable posted the students' pages to the Web, McAloon printed the Web pages at home and distributed each page to the student who had created it. "We discussed the story through their pictures, and each child proudly talked about his or her letter and sentence," McAloon noted. "The children especially admired the pictures their peers had drawn." The students then took their Web pages home and shared them with their parents, some of whom did not have access to a computer or the Internet.

"Annemarie, her kids, and I were so delighted with the results that we posted them to Global School Net and Education World to interest others in the project," Barnstable said. "When contributions for the Cyber Dictionary began coming in, I decided to expand the project to include both fairy tales and folk tales so teachers would have more stories to choose from and to interest teachers from other countries in sharing some of their ethnic tales."


Kendra Takanishi, a kindergarten teacher in Hawaii, told Education World that she was taking "a very intensive and challenging technology class" when she discovered the Fairy Tale and Folk Tale Cyber Dictionary. "One of our assignments was to participate in a collaborative project and to submit our reactions on a Web page," she said.

To fulfill her course requirement, Takanishi created a Collaborative Project: Fairy Tale Cyber Dictionary. In addition to details about the educational elements of the project, Takanishi's page contains photos of her students with their drawings.


Margaret Walker, who teaches fourth grade at Ivanhoe East Primary School in Ivanhoe, Victoria, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne, found the project after searching Global SchoolHouse. "I had been looking for an interactive e-mail activity that would provide the children with a legitimate reason to use the computer for something other than games and word processing," Walker told Education World.

Walker further explained that she was looking for a project that would be interactive, meaningful, creative, and challenging to different learning styles and abilities. She also wanted a project that would "utilize some of the strategies, taxonomies, and multiple intelligence approach we value at our school, complement my Integrated Curriculum topic, andbe part of my literacy and technology program."

Although the Fairy Tale and Folk Tale Cyber Dictionary was originally developed with younger students in mind, Walker believed that there was lots of potential to adapt it to her grade level and students' interests. Her class, which had been studying the origin of the Olympics and had read several Greek myths as part of their reading activities, chose to illustrate the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon's Head for the project.

Walker's students typed their sentences and saved them in word processing format. Then the students completed their illustrations, scanned the drawings, and placed the scanned images in a word processing document. Finally, they converted the document into an HTML (hypertext markup language) file suitable for posting on the Web and e-mailed the file to Webmaster Janet Barnstable.

Walker told Education World that her fourth graders "practiced sequencing and retelling a story for another audience. They learned about scanning, how to save an HTML file, and how to send e-mail. The most satisfying outcome for the students, though, was seeing their work on a Web site and sharing it with family and friends and with other students at the school."


Walker's adaptation of the project didn't end with making it appropriate for her students, however. "Having discovered the Fairy Tale site, I wanted to share it with the younger students it had been originally devised for," she said.

Therefore, Walker developed what she calls the buddy-mentor system, in which her fourth graders helped the school's younger students create their own fairy tale cyber dictionaries. Walker coached her students about how to work with the younger children; she explained how to model the skills and attitudes to be learned and how to encourage and support the younger children while letting them do most of the work themselves. Walker's students then spent time over several school days in the younger students' classrooms, helping them with the project.

Students from both age groups benefited from this collaborative project, Walker told Education World. The older students gained literacy and technology skills and confidence in the use of the computer as a teaching and learning tool. The younger children learned how to use the computer to find information. They learned about sounds and letters, and they practiced their reading skills in a guided reading model led by the buddy-mentors.

"For me, the biggest and best surprise of the project was the huge amount of enthusiasm it engendered," Walker told Education World, "not only among my students but also among the younger students who were involved in the buddy-mentor activity, their teachers, and thier parents."


Barnstable, a former kindergarten teacher, now teaches a class called Virtual Classroom to seventh and eighth graders. The class participates in telecollaborative projects. "Last year, we participated in the Virtual Classroom Contest with Sydney and Tokyo and won the grand prize," Barnstable told Education World.

In Virtual Classroom, Barnstable said, her students "learn to create MIDI files, create simple animation, use programs such as HTML, PhotoShop, Flash, DreamWeaver, Fireworks...anything that is new!" Some of the students animated the illustrations from the Fairy Tale and Folk Tale Cyber Dictionary. "What has really been special to my kids is hearing from the teachers about how much they and their students like the animations," Barnstable said.


The Cyber Dictionary isn't just a technology project, however. McAloon explained to Education World how she incorporated other subjects into the project by having students

  • count the pages. (math)
  • read their sentences to the other students. (reading)
  • draw pictures of what the sentences depicted. (art)
  • spell the words correctly. (spelling)
  • choose "just the right wolf" from a number of possibilities. (science)
  • print the sentences. (handwriting)
  • compose the sentences. (grammar)
  • discuss the villages where Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother lived. (social studies)

"The strange and surprising thing about this project," McAloon told Education World, "is that technology was a big part of it, yet we did nothing as a class on the computer."


Barnstable told Education World that she thinks this project has filled a void. "There are not many places where young students can find things that relate to their curricula, which are done in an easy-to-understand format.

"It's also really an easy project for teachers to do," Barnstable continued. "I do all the HTML, and I'm also available to walk [people] through the process and support them, if necessary. They can even snail mail the kids' work to me if that's the only way they have of participating! Our district benefits by having this great resource for our own students, and I get to make many more friends across the United States and around the world!"

Article by Mary Daniels Brown
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Originally published 06/25/2002
Last updated 07/12/2011