I begin this lesson in the same format for our previous folktale lessons: by introducing a folktale to them to enjoy! Today, I'm sharing Spider and the Honey Tree, written by Phillip Martin. (You can access his website by clicking on this link. He has great stories available for free for teachers to use!) After we share the folktale, we review the components of this story by doing our classroom chant together (to learn more about our classroom chant, see my lesson called “Folktale, folktale… chant, chant, chant!”).
After reviewing the components of a folktale by doing our classroom chant, I ask students to meet me on the rug, our classroom meeting place. Once students are there, I flip our easel paper to our Folktale Anchor Chart. See the picture of our Folktale Anchor Chart in the “Resources” section here!
We start by just generally reviewing the components of a folktale, but then, I remind the students that there is a special part of the definition of the folktale: Folktales are often “cultural” stories, passed down through generations in an oral way. For that reason, we often don’t know the original source, or author, of the story, but instead, just know who’s retelling the story to us. I point out to students that often, we can make hypothesizes about why certain stories come from certain cultures when we know more about the culture! For example, if we know where the story originated and we can learn about the geography of the location, then that might explain a bit more about the story and the lesson we are supposed to learn from it!
I ask students to return to their seats and I pull up the cover of the folktale we’ll read today: Ananse’s Feast, retold by Tololwa M. Mollel. I ask students to look carefully at the illustrations and raise their hand if they notice anything special. Some of the students raise their hands and say “Hey, the spider is holding food! Spiders don’t eat food like we do!” I agree and say, “You’re right! Nice noticing! Remember, in a folktale, the characters are often animals that act like humans. What else do you notice?” Another student in my class raises his hand and says, “I notice that the spider is wearing clothing.” I again confirm their notice and say, “Great! Yes! The spider IS wearing clothing, and if you look closely, it has a pretty pattern on it as well-this is a clue to the cultural background of the story! Is there anything else you notice?” One other student says, “I see that the food the spider has is in fancy bowls! We use fancy bowls at our house when we have parties!” I am so happy the students notice this, and follow with, “Wonderful! This story will involve a feast, which is a special meal held in many cultures! And I’m so glad you noticed the dishes-again, they have pretty patterns on them! Another clue to the culture this story comes from!”
Then, I ask the students if they have a guess as to where this story might come from. I give students a few opportunities to make some guesses, but ask them to explain why they’re making that guess. I tell students that I’ll share with them where this story comes from. At this time, I minimize the cover of Ananse’s Feast and pull up Google Earth. I begin by reviewing where we are today, and our location on the globe, but then I rotate the globe to show the students where Africa is, specifically the country of Ghana. I explain that this is where the story originated. I ask the students what they notice about the continent of Africa. Students come up with comments like, “It has a lot of ocean around it!” and “Some parts of the continent are green and some are brown!” In our classroom, we have a discussion for a bit about what the “green” and “brown” parts could be! With my guidance, students deduct that the “green” parts are parts of the continent with more vegetation, while the “brown” parts might indicate desert-like conditions. I also ask students to think about where on the globe Africa is located. A student in my class says, “The equator goes right through it!”. I say, “Yes! Wonderful! The equator is the imaginary line that shows the middle of our globe, splitting it into the northern and southern hemispheres. What do you know about the equator?” Another student says, “It’s hot at the equator!” I respond with, “Yes, you’re right! The closer you get to the equator, the temperatures increase! Now, look at the location of Ghana in Africa. What do you think the climate would be like in Ghana?” I zoom in a bit and let students look a little closer at Ghana. Students make predictions about how the climate is warm there. I ask students what it might be like to live in such a warm place. I ask, “What do you think life is like there? Can you think of any problems that might be encountered with much warmer weather than we’re used to having?” I let students share some ideas! My students came up with “We’d have to drink a lot of water!” and “Maybe the water dries up there easily!”
I then pull back up the cover to Ananse’s Feast and ask if now the students can see how the illustrations help us know that this story comes from Ghana in Africa. I explain that the cultural connection is a very important part of folktales because this helps us understand the story better, as well as make the stories more interesting!
I ask the students if they think this story, Ananse’s Feast, will be similar to Tops & Bottoms (a folktale retold by Janet Stevens that we've read previously) in anyway. I let the students share their ideas and then ask about what they think might be different. Again, students share their ideas.
At this time, I have the students read the story Ananse’s Feast with me. At the time that I taught this lesson, it was the beginning of the school year, so my students needed support with reading text in this lexile-band. Keep in mind, however, that depending on the time of year you teach this lesson, you may want to support your students also, maybe pair students up to read together, or maybe students are ready to read on their own independently. Do what’s best for your students! When students are finished reading, students complete a “Folktale Double Flipchart” on their own, that you can use as an assessment of their abilities to recount a folktale and determine the lesson of a folktale. (See the "Resources" section here for the "Folktale Double Flipchart" template. You can also visit my previous lesson, "We've Got Our Fingers On It: Referring Explicitly to the Text to Recount Folktales" for more information on how to use the "Folktale Double Flipchart".)
Once students have completely finished their flip chart, I wrap up the lesson by having students do the folktale chant with me!