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One of my favorite units to teach at this time of year was my Third Grade Folklore Unit.  For those of you who have already purchased The Tibrarian Handbook (if not, what are you waiting for?!), you can find a description of this unit on pages 37-38.

If you really want to dive into this topic, you can plan to spend about six sessions covering the different types of folklore.  During this unit, you should introduce students to different types of folklore such as folktales/fairy tales, legends, myths, and fables.  You might also consider taking some time to discuss the cultural aspects of folklore and the fact that the basic story frameworks of many of the stories that we all know can be found in other cultures as well.  Make sure that by the end of your unit, students understand that a story that is part of folklore has been around for many years and has been passed down through the generations by word of mouth and then was finally written down.  Students should also understand that most folklore tries to teach some kind of “life lesson” within the story.

In order for students to understand and be able to recognize the different types of folklore, you have to read them folklore!  Here are some ideas for different books that you can use to share folklore with your students:

Folktales/Fairy Tales: These are stories that have been around for generations and have become part of a group’s cultural heritage.  These stories usual teach “life lessons”.  Fairy Tales are folktales that include magical elements.

 

Legends: These are stories that explain why things are the way they are in the world.  These stories were once taken as fact.

 

Myths: These stories also explain why things are the way they are in the world, but have a religious aspect (reference to gods and goddesses or other deities, etc.)
 

Fables: These are stories whose sole purpose is to teach a moral.  They are usually quite short and have animals as characters

After you have read and discussed different types of folklore with your students, you will want to assess them to see if they are able to distinguish between the different types.  You can do this fairly easily by putting your students into groups (about 4 students per group) and giving each group a short piece of folklore to read.  After the groups have read their selections, they should confer and decide which type of folklore they have just read.  Once all groups have made their decisions, they can each explain their decisions to the class (i.e. “Our story was a fable because it had animals that acted like humans and it had a moral that was stated at the end of the story”).  Here are some websites where you can find short pieces of folklore that you can use for this assessment.  Make sure to read the stories yourself before using them, as some stories may not be appropriate for elementary school children:

American Folklore

World of Tales

 

 

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