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Home > Educator Resources > Folk Tales

Folk Tales

Folk tales give insight into the morals and values of a society and they also enable us to study the attitudes of a particular culture with regard to nature. There are many forms of folk tales which can include myths, tall tales, trickster tales, legends, and fables. For the purpose of this study, students will examine all types of tales in an effort to better understand the relationships between humans and animals. In many folk tales, animals are the only characters or they play large roles.

Students can read "Who's Afraid of Nice Old Wolf" to get a better understanding of the ways animals may not have been accurately portrayed in tales. It will also be interesting for students to see how one culture may value an animal and another find the same animal a revolting beast.

Standards for the English Language Arts

Sponsored by NCTE and IRA


1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound- letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.



Other materials:
A collection of myths, fables, tall tales, legends, and trickster tales from many cultures. The following web sites may help teachers locate appropriate tales:

Writing materials - pens, pencils, paper, computer

Instructional sequence:
  • First, students will need to read selected tales and answer the following questions:
    • What type of animal is the main character or the "star" of the tale?
    • Which animal is the villain?
    • What kind of values are emphasized?
    • Why does one animal win and another lose?
    • What lesson is learned?
    • Does the setting create conflict for the characters?
    • Are there any humans in the tale?
    • How do they interact with the animals in the tale?
    • Do the animals talk?
    • What is the main conflict of the tale and how is it resolved?
    • Do you think this tale accurately reflects the characteristics of the "star" animal?
  • Students can also complete a Character Development Chart to help them explore how the author of the tale creates the character. This chart asks students to examine the main character by describing how the character looks, acts, and speaks. Students also record the actions of the character and what other animals/characters say about the "star" animal.
  • Students can then look at the virtual field trips on Field Trip Earth to gather information about an animal. They should write two to three tales about the same animal. The tales should take the form of a myth, fable, legend, tall tale, or a trickster tale. Please see the Descriptive Writing Strategy for more information and ideas.
  • Once the tales are complete, an oral storytelling event can be held to share the tales.

  • Character Development Charts can be assessed for students' knowledge of the tale and an author's method of characterization.
  • Rubrics used to evaluate written products can be created at

Literacy advancement:
  • Investigate author's purpose for writing
  • Participate in oral tradition
  • Read for pleasure
  • Read critically

Author: Isenhour, Kim

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