Wow - Same story, but different problems and solutions!

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SWBAT identify the problem and solution in a fable and then compare/contrast another version of the same story from a different author.

Big Idea

Fables from other countries - compare/contrast and look at the problem and solution!



I chose these fables because they were more appropriate than many of the dated fables. Some of them have quite a bit of violence and older language. I only read the highlighted parts because it was really long.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words.


Engage students

  • "Today we're going to talk about some fables and compare them." (powerpoint slide 1)
  • "I'll show you some illustrations, read some stories and show a few videos."
  • "These stories are fables, which are very old stories that people have told over and over again through the years." 
    • "Many times, there are different versions in other countries. It's good to understand how the different versions compare because the story ideas come up again and again.
    • Many times, we'll see the problems, settings, characters, solutions and events on TV and in other moves.  Did anyone see the Gingerbread Man in Shrek?  That's an example of why these old fables or stories are important to know."
  • "We're going to compare and contrast these fables and others using a Venn Diagram."


The students are reading and recounting fables (RL.2.2) from diverse cultures to determine their central message. This is important because the themes, characters, and problems reoccur throughout literature. I am building on their general knowledge by helping them read and recount 'classic' literature. They are building on their content literacy expertise, which will pay off throughout the years as they are exposed to more and more literature from other cultures.

Teachers' Turn

20 minutes

Review the concepts quickly

  • "Let's talk about story elements first so we can compare the 2 versions of the story."
    • "What is a character?" (Take ideas - animals or people) Put up the header on the board.
    • "What is a setting?"  (Take ideas - place and time) Put up the header on the board.
    • "What is an event?" (actions, things that happen) Put up the prompt on the board.
    • "Now as we look at these versions of the story, there is also a problem and solution. A problem is...." (take ideas - what one or more characters wants to do or wants to happen by the end of the story)  Put up the header on the board.
    • "So what does the 'solution' in a story mean?" take ideas - 'how the problem was solved.'  Put up header on the board. 


Model the skill

  • "First we'll talk about Jack and the Beanstalk. This version was written in America. (slide 2-3) Here's an online version of the Jack and the Beanstalk. (slide 4) This story was written in America." (show the movie)
    • "The main characters are Jack, mom... I don't think the man is a main character. The giant might be."
    • "The setting is 2 places. I'll infer that they live in the country."
    • "Let me pick 3 main events.  (Model - 'Jack met a man and sold the cow and got beans - yes that is a big event but can we change it to Jack sold his cow to get beans? Jack went to sleep.  He did do that, but is that a major event?)  "Each story has 3-4 main events that tell what happened."
    • "The problem is what Jack wants to happen by the end of the story...."  (Spend a moment reviewing the 'main' problem)  "Jack wants things from the giant."
    • "The solution is what happened to the characters at the end.  Was the problem solved? Jack got the gold and the giant died. Yes those are both solutions."


Guided Practice

  • "Now I will read another version of the story called Thirteenth. It's from Italy. (slide 4-5) You can help me identify the story elements."  (Read the highlighted portions - slide 6)
    • "Who are the main characters?" (take ideas - ogre, ogress, Thirteenth)
    • "What about the setting?" (take ideas - ogre's house, King's castle)
    • "Can we pick 3 main events?"  (Thirteenth grabs the coverlet, horse, gold/Thirteenth almost gets caught but puts the ogress in the oven/Thirteenth puts the ogre in the chest and is rich)
    • "What is the problem?"  (ideas... Thirteenth wants to steal the ogre's riches but almost gets caught)
    • "What was the solution?" (ideas... Thirteenth puts the ogre in the chest, he gets all of the riches)


Compare as a group on the whiteboard

  • "Let's think about those 2 stories and compare and contrast them using a Venn Diagram. We put the things that are different in this part of the circle and the things that are the same in this part of the circle.  Let's go back to the headings." 
    • "Were the characters the same? Both stories had a mom (write that in the middle) but Jack and Thirteenth were different (write that on the outside)
    • "What about the setting?"  One was the sky and the other was a castle. They were both written a long time ago so we'll write that in the middle."
    • "Events?"  Jack climbed but Thirteenth ran. Jack stole a harp and hen and Thirteenth stole a horse and coverlet." (Write those on the outside) "The giant chased both of them so put that in the middle."
    • "What was the problem?  That's the same, the boy wanted to steal from the giant/ogre. Put that in the middle"
    • "What was the solution?  The boy ran away but Jack cut down the tree (put that on Jack's side) and Thirteenth put the giant in a chest (put that on the other side)."
  • "Wow!  Same story but different problems and solutions!  Both characters had to react to big challenges (the ogre or giant) and they were brave enough to help their families."
  • "When we compare and contrast similar versions of stories, it helps us become better readers.  We can learn to think about the story structures in a different way and it helps us understand more about the stories!"
  • Here's what the whiteboard looked like when we were done.


We are reviewing all of the story elements, but are focusing on identifying problem and solution. The Common Core State Standards encourage students to examine stories to determine their structure and organization (RL.2.5). This interaction with the features allows them to be 'close readers' who interact and anticipate the features as they occur ('look at the events that lead to the solution' or 'see how the characters change in response to the problem'). This is an emphasis in the Standards - encouraging active participation in carefully constructed situations (2 fables that contrast) so students can examine and compare them more independently.

The Students' Take a Turn

10 minutes

We are doing these as a group because the reading level is too high for the students.  Fables translated to English from other countries typically are written in English that is far above their reading level.  Also, I have found that comparing and contrasting all the story elements, as well as identifying an appropriate problem and solution is best addressed in a group at this time of the year.

Build knowledge

  • "Let's look at two more fables together and then you can have a turn comparing and contrasting.
  • "Here's the German version of the 'Runaway Pancake'." "Remember to listen for characters, setting, action, problem and solution. Think about how the characters interact and how the setting is unique."    Show the video or you can read the fable if you have internet issues.
  • "Now can you guess what the American version of this story is?"  Take guesses.  "Yes its the Gingerbread Man." (slides 11-13) "Here's a quick video of the Gingerbread Man."
  • Wow, when I think about these 2 versions, I noticed that there is the some similarities and some differences." (quick review)
    • "The characters had problems to respond to"
    • "The settings seemed the same"
    • "What about the problems and events?"
    • "Did the stories end the same?"
    • "I also noticed that the story elements work together. When the characters change (pig vs fox) and the setting changes (farm vs ...) it changes the story and the problem/solution."  These are big ideas and very intuitive - its worth mentioning them to see if the kids have comments.  There are more lessons to be taught on character development and how story elements affect each other, but for now its worth mentioning.


They are contrasting those fables (RL.2.9) using a Venn Diagram. Analyzing how two or more texts address similar themes and story lines allows them to build knowledge and compare the approaches that the author takes. Asking questions to allow comparison requires them to cite evidence to answer the text-dependent queries. The Standards want learners who take charge of their learning - asking questions to get answers, searching the texts for verification, and comparing ideas to gain a better level of comprehension.

Apply What You've Learned

10 minutes

Explain the task

  • "I'm passing out a Venn Diagram for you to use." 
  • "Write the titles of the story on the top 'Runaway Pancake' and 'Gingerbread Man'."
  • "Think about the story elements and compare and contrast the stories."
  • "Who can tell me where the elements that are the same should be written? Yes, in the middle of the circles.  Write the characters, setting, events, problem, and solutions that are different on the sides of the circle."
  • You have 10 minutes to think of ideas.  Then we'll discuss."

Support student work and discuss

  • Give them 10 minutes with a one minute warning.
  • "Now raise your hand and tell me what elements you put in the middle?"  ran away, .....
  • "What ideas were different?"
  • "Wow, again these stories are the same, but the problems and solutions were different.  Raise your hand if you liked the German version better?  Why?  Raise your hand if you liked the American version better.  Why did you like it better?"  Good introspection time - the fables from other countries seem a bit more 'rough' or the characters are not as nice.  There is not a nice movie about those stories...."
  • "Remember we read fables because the themes (or ideas) reoccur over and over again.  Even other countries have stories that share that same theme. " You could take a moment to query about themes of these stories, if there's time....
  • "When you watch television and movies, keep an eye out for these events and characters.  Many tv shows and movies have ideas from fables."
  • Here are 2 examples of completed student worksheets: worksheet 1 and worksheet 2.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

For my special education students, the video and story read aloud were a perfect way for them to participate and understand the stories without having to read at the 2nd grade level.  The videos were much easier for them to understand and I realize they were a bit lost with the story read, since there were no pictures and the vocabulary was harder. I still think they got some great exposure from ideas that the other kids offered and I called on them earlier in the comparison so they could offer up clearcut similarities and differences (Jack had a cow and the other boy did not).  When they completed the diagram, I either paired them up with a buddy or wrote some vocabulary on their slate to help them.

For more advanced students, the stories from other countries might be of great interest. They would probably have more ideas about contrasting the more difficult story elements, such as the problem and solution. I would also question them more about how the setting change leads to characters and problem changes.  Perhaps they would also like to extend this idea and research another fable and find what versions are offered from other countries.  

Resources for another fable

Here are some nice websites to use for comparing another fable, Cinderella. There is a link to a Russian Cinderella story, a Korean Cinderella story and a variety of other stories about this character.