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LOVING LITERACY with Ann-Maree Thompson: Ann-Maree has taught in elementary schools for over 17 years, many of which have been spent teaching grades 1 and 2 in both urban and rural locations. Her...
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Fairy Tales Strike Back

Photo: The Tea Party by Margaret Krajnc                             

Once upon a time there lived a young, graduate teacher. She was placed in lands far away from family and friends. With her gentle nature, she found the isolation and abrupt people very tough going. She didn’t know if she was going to sink or swim.

One day she read a story to her class. The children sat enraptured and at the end, as the wicked witch melted away into oblivion, applause broke out around the classroom. She had found a way. She swam.

Ok, this story has left out a few details but she did learn to ‘swim’ and she did teach a fairy tale unit every year for the next 15 years! Parents would comment on how their children took up reading fairy tales at home. Students voluntarily wrote their own fairy tale stories and brought them to school to share. Reluctant readers and writers – I don’t think so!

Fairy tales are one of the greatest teaching tools. Not only are they entertaining but they can be used to teach the narrative writing genre. A suggested path to teaching fairy tales:

  1. Read LOTS of fairy tales to your class and enjoy them! There are many versions of each story out there. Ensure they are appropriate for your grade i.e. an appropriate number and level of words used. (There are many interactive fairy tale story apps available, if that appeals to you).  If you are worried about reading stories that reinforce gender stereotypes where the princess swoons around waiting for her prince..…introduce modern day versions of the stories with strong female characters, such Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast.
  2. Include fairy tales in literacy rotations – (PM Traditional tales and plays are excellent resources. Children LOVE acting out the plays that are located at the end of these stories, sometimes with hilarious results!)
  3. Choose a few fairy tales and complete a table/worksheet with the following headings: title, characters, setting, beginning, problem, magic, resolution, ending.
  4. Teacher models drawing a fairy tale character – yes teachers you need to create your own character - FUN! Children can then create their own fairy tale character by DRAWING first and then labelling and describing. Talking while drawing their character can lead to many ideas and descriptive comments. If you have reluctant writers, get your notepad ready to write down anything they say and you can help them with a written description later. I promise your pen will be burning!
  5. Model a drawing of a setting which suits your fairy tale character and then have students draw a setting for their own character, followed by labelling and describing. Teachers need to show their excitement with all the literary banter being verbally thrown around – get it written down!
  6. Model a story plan for your character including beginning, problem, resolution (magic involved) and ending.
  7. Model the beginning of a fairy tale –Brainstorm a number of ways to begin a story, for example, “Once upon a time,” “Many years ago,” “Beyond the fairways of time,”etc. …
  8. Children write their beginning – the teacher will need to work with children independently – yes this is time consuming but so WORTH IT!
  9. Continue to MODEL each area – problem, resolution and ending and continue to work independently with each student.
  10. Edit and publish. There are so many ways to publish which will inspire students. They could: create their own picture book, create a story cube with each part of the story on different side, use PowerPoint, make an audio recording, use artwork created around their story, create a story- map poster……….
  11. Most importantly, encourage students to share their stories – with family, other classes, friends. Have a fairy tale day where students dress up as the character they have created. Invite parents and have a good old fashioned shared story time.

Teachers…...get excited about fairy tales.


 No – it’s just the beginning!