Trickster Tales Out of a Hat-Just Like That!: Writing the Folktale Genre in Grade 3

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SWBAT write a narrative that establishes a situation, introduces characters, and includes a sense of closure.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students will write their own folktales after selecting a few key components.

Enroll Students Into Learning

5 minutes

I begin this lesson in the same format for our previous folktale lessons: by introducing a folktale that I'd like to share with them today!  Today I'm sharing the story Brer Rabbit Falls Down the Well, retold by S.E. Schlosser (found on After we finish sharing 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!”)

Experience Learning

10 minutes

After sharing today's mini-folktale, I tell the students that I am so proud of them because they have learned so much about folktales.  And, I lean in as if I’m about to tell them a secret, I say, “Did you know that reading great stories is how great authors come to be?  By reading a ton of great literature, authors get ideas, and then are able to write stories of their own!  Have any of you thought of writing your own folktales now that you’ve read so many?”  I let a few students share their excitement about the idea of writing their own folktales.  In my classroom, anytime I let the students create their own “books”, they just have a ball!  And, they’re working on writing-what could be better! 

I tell the students that today, they’re going to get to write their very own folktale, but in order to help them, I’ve created a couple things to share. 

First, I share with them that we will have a graphic organizer to help us make our notes before writing.  I show the graphic organizer on the SmartBoard (see the “Folktales Interactive WhiteBoard File” and also the “Folktales Graphic Organizer” in the Resources section here!).  I show students how all the components of a folktale are here within this graphic organizer, plus a few other parts, such as beginning, middle, and end.  I talk with the students about the folktales we’ve read and ask questions like, “Did each story have a beginning that explained what the situation was?  What about a middle?  Did each story have a middle that explained the problem and the plan for the solution?  And what about the end?  Did each story have an ending that showed the solution but also helped us realize the lesson?”  We talk about a few of the folktales we’ve read, like Tops & Bottoms retold by Janet Stevens, or Ananse’s Feast retold by Tololowa M. Mollel.  The kids agree that each story did indeed have a beginning, middle, and end, so we agree that those components should be in our stories too!

Next, I tell students that I’m wondering about the characters and the lesson of my story.  What characters will I have, and what will the lesson be?  In order to help me with my story, I have some “hats” to share with them.  Each “hat” (or tub or whatever you’d like to use) has a label on it: “Trickster”, “Fool”, and “Lesson”.  I show the students how I’ll reach in and pull one card from each hat, and these will help me put my folktale together.  I reach in and find that I’m going to have a “Wolf” trickster, a “Bird” fool, and the lesson “Treat others how you want to be treated.”   I put each of these components right into our graphic organizer on the SmartBoard.

Now, with the students’ support, we fill out the other components of my graphic organizer.  First, I ask the students what they think I could use as a setting.  Since I pulled a “Wolf” and a “Bird”, my students say that my story should take place in a forest, so that’s what I write into the setting.  Next, I ask, “What would be the problem in my story?”  My students say that maybe the wolf has a problem because he’s stuck in a hole and can’t get out, so this is what I add as our problem.  Then I ask, “Well, how will the wolf solve his problem?  What will the solution be?”  The students tell me that the wolf has to learn to be nice to others so that they will be nice to him and help him.  “Okay,” I say, “so I write ‘The wolf learns to treats others nicely.’ as our solution.  Great!” 

Then we think about the beginning, middle, and end.  As a class, we decide that the story should start by a wolf who always tricks other animals by making little traps for them to fall into so that he can eat them up.  When he hears the animals, ask for help, he says, “Don’t worry little animal!  I’ll help you!”, and once he helps them up, he eats them, not helps them.  I make note of this in the beginning section of our graphic organizer.  Then we discuss the middle.  As a class we decide that one day, the wolf falls into hole that was a trap set by all the other animals for him, and is stuck and can’t get out.  He asks for help, over and over again, but the animals don’t help him because he’s a trickster.  I make a note of this in the middle section of our graphic organizer.  Then, one day, a bird comes by, and hears the wolf crying and asks the wolf what’s wrong.  The wolf says that he’s been stuck and no one will help him, and he wishes he could apologize to all the animals for not treating them kindly.  The bird says that he’s sorry, but he’s just a little bird, and he can’t lift the wolf out himself.  The wolf continues to apologize and say that he will not ever trick animals again, so the bird gets help from other animals, after they decided that he has learned his lesson, to help pull the wolf out of the hole.  I make a note of this in the ending section of our graphic organizer. 

Label Students' New Learning

5 minutes

I tell the class, “Wow!  That was amazing!  We just created our own folktale!  Third graders, guess what?  If you can write your own folktale, that means you can write a narrative (a story), that establishes a situation, introduces characters, and includes a sense of closure!  I’m so proud of you!  Are you ready to write your own?”  Of course, everyone says, “Yes!”, and so now it’s time for demonstration of their skills.

Demonstrate Skills and Assessment

10 minutes

One at a time, students come up and pull a trickster, a fool, and a lesson.  I ask the class to write these into their graphic organizer right away.  Then, I tell the class, “Let’s take a couple minutes to talk to our table groups about our ideas.  Be sure to share with your table group your trickster, fool, and lesson and any other ideas you might have for your story.” 

During this time, I circulate around the room.  This is a great time for students to share ideas and get ideas from others to support them in their writing.  As I’m circulating, I’m looking specifically for anyone that might be struggling.  I go around and listen to students and chime in if needed to guide their writing of folktales.   

Once students have had a sufficient enough time to talk and students have an idea of what they’re going to write about, I say, “Okay third graders!  It’s time to get writing!  Work on filling out your ideas on your graphic organizer.  Remember, you don’t have to write complete sentences yet here, just notes, like I did on our class story.  When you’re ready to begin writing, pull out a piece of notebook paper and get going.”  Again, while students are writing in their graphic organizers, I circulate and see how it’s going.  Then students can begin to draft their actual folktale.


5 minutes

Depending on your time requirements and the time needed by your students, you may need to take some time over the next few days to work on writing and editing, but before we go today, I am always sure to ask for anyone that would like to share the beginnings of their story with the class.  I always have some budding writers that are dying to share, and it’s just so much fun to hear!

Over the next few days, my students will continue to work on writing, revising, and editing their final drafts of their folktales!  When they're ready to publish, they'll use the cover page template and story page templates I've included here in the Resources section!