31 Once upon a time . . .


Once upon a time . . .

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Fairy tales and folktales have universal themes and memorable characters. Many of them also have simple plots and engaging language patterns. Children enjoy hearing these stories over and over again, and this unit offers them the added pleasure of both telling and responding in writing to their favorites.

About the Picture A collage of favorite fairy-tale characters and elements should pique children’s interest in and involvement with this unit.

Major Concepts

  • The plots and characters in fairy tales have universal appeal.
  • Traditional stories are easy to remember and retell.

Daily Lesson Planning

Day 1

  1. Present "Once upon a time" and ask students to identify the storybook characters and related story props. As the children do this, list the names and items they mention.
  2. Have children tell their versions of one or two of the fairy tales, giving individuals opportunities to pick up where another leaves off.
  3. Implement “Once upon a time . . . ” (BB 76).

Days 2-6

Choose from the following:

  • Implement “Writers use words to tell stories” (BB 77). Consider doing this after you complete the next activity.
  • A wolf appears in many fairy tales. Talk about these tales and think of words that describe the wolf. List these words with a small group of children. Implement "A wolf is . . . " as a follow-up activity.
  • Read different fairy tales to the class. Keep a list of the titles you read.
  • Invite children to tell fairy tales or folktales from their families or cultural backgrounds.
  • Have children make signs and props for dramatic-play time and designate the dramatic-play center in the classroom as a “fairy-tale land” for a period of time.
  • Have children draw or paint favorite fairy-tale scenes. Then ask them to write a sentence or two about the scene—on their own or by interacting with you or another assistant. These pages can enhance a bulletin board.
  • After telling the story of the gingerbread man, have children draw him, or implement "Gingerbread Man." Ask students to write some words that Gingerbread Man might say. Consider making a shape book.
  • Invite students to choose a fairy-tale animal and then write (or dictate) a riddle about it on a piece of paper. Have them draw a picture of the animal on another sheet of paper. Then help them to staple or connect the two pages together, with the riddle on top. Children may share their riddles in small groups.

Concluding Days

  1. Have individuals share what they have enjoyed about this unit.
  2. Write a starter sentence: “We enjoyed reading and writing about fairy tales.” Then, with the children’s help, write sentences to support this idea.
LAFS Standard:
TEKS Standard:
NE ELA Standard:

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Additional Activities

These activities offer options for continuing the learning in this unit. Whether your curriculum is skill-based or more open-ended, select the activities that are most appropriate for the children in your classroom. The Writing Spot is primarily a writing program, but writing can be integrated throughout your curriculum—in art, drama, reading, math, and science.

  • Stage fairy tales.

Divide children into groups, assigning each a different fairy tale. Then have the groups share their fairy tales. They will need some guidance and suggestions for doing this. Examples: (1) one child tells the story while others act it out, (2) each child has a role to play in an improvisation, (3) small groups put on puppet shows, and so on.

  • Retell a favorite fairy tale.

As a volunteer retells a favorite fairy tale, write it down on the board or on chart paper. Have students take turns telling the parts of the story until it is finished. This activity models continuous writing and also provides a text for students to read.

  • Share animal-cracker stories.

Hand out animal crackers for snack time. Ask children to sort them, count them, and eat them. Invite students to share any stories that these animal shapes bring to mind.

  • Practice good listening skills at story-sharing time.

Discuss how to be good listeners when someone is sharing a story. What should people do if they can’t see the pictures or hear the words? How should they behave if they are not interested in the story? What should they say to the storyteller when the story is over? Have the children practice their story-listening manners. Also make a large class poster, with the students’ help, listing important listening rules.

  • Invite storytellers to your classroom.

Ask your school librarian or local public library for a list of community storytellers. Invite some of these people to your class to share cultural folktales, familiar fairy tales, or original stories.

  • Find the places where stories come from.

Read fairy tales and folktales that originated in other parts of the world. Find these faraway places on a globe. Share information about the people and customs in these original settings.

  • Create a story as easy as 1-2-3.

Give individuals or small groups of children three story elements to work with—for example, two skunks, a hollow tree, and a flower. Challenge children to build a story around the three elements. They may write, dictate, or record their stories to share with the class, or plan out and tell their stories, or simply act out the stories.

  • Compare fairy tales.

Provide different versions of fairy tales; compare and contrast them.

  • Pretend to be a character in a favorite story.

Play this game after you have shared many different stories. Each child pretends to be a character from one of the stories that you’ve shared. After the child provides a few character-specific actions, he or she asks the class, “Guess who I am?” The child may also give verbal clues until someone guesses the identity.

  • Make sense of mixed-up stories.

Mix up the key events in a well-known story and write them on the board. Ask children to put them in correct order. You may also choose to tell the story out of order; afterward with the class input, discuss what the mistakes were.

  • Write a folktale for your region.

Read a variety of folktales to your class, stories from various states and regions. Find these places on a map. Don’t overlook famous folk heroes like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed. Finally, with help from the children, create one of your own folktales appropriate to your area.

LAFS Standard:
TEKS Standard:
NE ELA Standard:

Related Resource Tags

Click to view a list of tags that tie into other resources on our site

English Language Arts: