Grade Appropriate units:

This complete unit plan can be taught in 4–5 weeks, or lesson components can be taught individually within 1–5 days as described below.

Lesson Introduction:
The focus for students in this age group is to learn the folktale and folklore genres as well as explore the world of myths. Depending on time and curriculum needs, you may want to focus on a specific activity or genre.

Folktales Project Introduction (1 Day)
Ask students to discuss what they think folktales means. Point out that folktales are stories passed on from one person to the next by word of mouth or by oral tradition. Share a folktale from Nina Jaffe's book Tales for the Seventh Day: A Collection of Sabbath Stories, or other folktale you are familiar with. Discuss defining elements of folktale (for example: takes place anytime, takes place anywhere, animals can talk, etc.) and write them on the board and have students point out genre characteristics of the folktale being read aloud.

Folktale Writing With Alma Flor Ada and Rafe Martin (10 Days)
Tell students that now that they have gathered information about folktales, they are ready to explore writing one. Have students begin the Folktale Writing with Alma Flor Ada and Rafe Martin.

  • Step 1: Folktales: Have groups of three students take turns reading "Half-Chicken" or "The Shark God." Ask them to use storytelling voices, and practice fluency through expression.
  • Step 2: Brainstorming: Read the Brainstorming tips with the whole class. Use "Half-Chicken" or "The Shark God" as a model to illustrate tip ideas as you read them. For example, when reading that the folktale genre entails imagining the world that acts as the setting, remind students that rivers and fires can speak in Half-Chicken's world.
  • Step 3: Write Your Folktale: Suggest that small groups discuss the Alma's and Rafe's challenges on this page. Remind students also to refer to the Brainstorming tips as they draft their folktales.
  • Step 4: Publish Online: Once they've completed their revision, have students follow directions to publish their folktale online. Encourage students to use the Preview option to proofread their stories one more time before submitting. They should also print the preview page to hand in for teacher assessment.

Exploring Everyday Folklore (3–4 Days)
Have students read "What Is Folklore?" and "Finding Folklore" and the samples of folklore provided in each. Invite volunteers to offer an example of each of the following kinds of lore: "children," "community," "family," "behavioral," and "oral." You may wish to rotate small groups of students to do the online reading or print out the appropriate pages for students to read offline.

  • Tell students they will research folklore with their family and then publish their findings online.
  • Ask students to read "Your Folklore." Print out a copy of the Research tips.
  • Practice interviewing techniques in the classroom before assigning students to interview parents and family members.
  • Have students share their interviews with the class.
  • Make a copy of the submission requirements. Post it in the classroom or distribute copies to students.
  • Schedule online publishing slots for each student.

Storytelling Workshop (5 Days)
Remind students that folktales were originally told and not written. Tell students they are going to create an oral version of a folktale.

  • About Storytelling Print the page before hand or have small groups read the page together online, writing down four main points about folktales. Invite groups to share information with the class.
  • Listen & Watch Download Flash ahead of class time if you don't already have it. Then invite small groups to view "How Monkey Stole the Drum" and record the story's folktale features. Revisit the Folktale Writing Workshop and listen again to Rafe Martin and Alma Flor Ada reading their folktales as well.
  • Becoming a Storyteller Invite students to choose an established folktale upon which they will base their oral tale. Suggest that students plot the following parts when constructing their outlines: Story Beginning, Story Problem, Story Middle, Solution, Story Ending. Have students fill these in using the established folktale. Then suggest that students use the outline as a framework for constructing an original tale.
  • Imagination Exercises Suggest that groups read both activities and choose the one they want to do to practice their oral and spatial storytelling skills.
  • Telling Tales Together Have students test out their folktale knowledge by trying this interactive activity.
  • It's Your Turn Allow students time to rehearse telling their story.

Project Wrap-up (2–3 Days)
Give students time to finish up any outstanding activities. Use this time to schedule a storytelling performance day. Assess students' proficiency with the storytelling activity by consulting the activity rubric (see assessment and evaluation). If students complete the project ahead of time, have them respond in their journals to the following questions:

  • How is telling a story different from reading a story?
  • What is special about listening to a story told by a storyteller?
  • What can you learn from knowing about folklore?
  • What is special about a folktale?

Myths Project Introduction (1 Day)
As a continuation to the previous lesson or as a separate lesson for students in this age group, introduce the myth writing genre through the following lesson suggestions.

Introduce the word myth to the class. Ask students to offer definitions of the term. Then encourage students to brainstorm myths that they know. Have volunteers write examples on the chalkboard.

Read aloud Jane Yolen's myth "Mother Earth's Son" with students to emphasize the oral heritage of the genre. Have students organize genre features from the myth on the board. Include categories such as supernatural characters, extraordinary powers or tools, natural phenomena, etc.

Myth Writing With Jane Yolen (3–4 Days)
Divide students into same-level reading groups to read the four Myth writing steps online. If you have limited computer access, print out a copy of the steps for individual students to read. Tell students that they will be following Jane Yolen's steps in preparation for writing their own myths. Encourage note taking by handing students the Setting the Stage (PDF) graphic organizer. Students can use the stage to organize their work. Suggest that they write the phenomenon they chose on the top of the chart and fill the stage with the key words that will describe their myth and their phenomenon.

After students read through Step 2: Brainstorming, Invite students to use the Myths Brainstorming Machine tool as part of the pre-writing process. Read aloud with students the note and the directions, and encourage a question and answer period about the process. Then schedule time for students to use the machine individually. Let students know not to visit the writing page of the machine until they are ready to write. Going there erases their previous work. Students can use the writing page to take notes or to write their draft copy of their myth.

Return to Jane Yolen's Step 3: Write Your Myth
Make sure that students use this part of the process to write without self-correcting. Point out that they will have a chance to revise later. Remind students to refer to a copy of their chart from the previous step in the writing process, the myth from the Brainstorming Machine, and any other material as they write. Have students exchange papers with a peer for revision. Partners can write their comments on the draft itself. While students revise their drafts, have them check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.

Step 4: Publish Online: Once they've completed their revision, have students follow directions to publish their myth online.

Project Wrap-up (1–2 Days) Allow students to finish up any of their outstanding projects. Use this time to assess students' proficiency with the writing activity by consulting the writing rubric. If students finish their projects early, have them respond to the activity and questions below. Students may wish to post responses on a school Web site or in their portfolios.

  • Provide a brief summary of your favorite myth.
  • What did the myth teach you?
  • What did you learn about the culture from the myth?
  • How are myths different than fantasy books or fairy tales?

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