In this unit I wanted to teach students how to first break stanzas apart evaluating their wording and perspective to determine the meaning of each section and the overall sequence of events in fables. We have already done this with stories but I felt that I needed to add another CCSS focused unit to give them practice with poems and fables which are more difficult for my students to understand because they are not as literal and have more figurative language used. I also wanted them to apply this knowledge to a variety of versions of the same fable to learn how authors can use a central theme to teach the same lesson but change the story elements to fit their personal style (author's influence).
I start by asking students to listen to a fable, I share that its a short story with a moral (I teach more on this in the next lessons), and read them Jean de La Fontaine's version of "The Dove and the Ant".
After they read I ask students to tell what the story was about? Take answers on the main events. (I received basic answers for the characters and events - don't push for more detail yet)
Now I want to introduce them to the same fable but written by Aesop instead to get them thinking about the ways both are similar and both are different. Going back to this example when teaching writing is another way to teach students that using others ideas and rewriting them to make them your own is a common practice in storytelling.
I read the second version The Dove and the Ant Aesops's version. I again ask students what the story was about? Take answers which should be more descriptive of the story events. By reading both of these at the onset I can help students to begin to get an idea of the overall theme and sequence of events making it more capable for them to move on to matching and rewriting it independently.
I ask students which version was easier to understand? Why? They should respond the second fable. (simpler words, hearing it twice, easier phrasing)
I then ask them why the first one was harder to understand? When they respond I'm listening for "unfamiliar / difficult vocabulary", "phrases they don't understand", etc.
Once I hear this BINGO! I've got them where I want them for the objective - Good readers read different versions of the same story to build deeper understanding of the story events.
I share with students that sometimes when I read I don't understand the words the author is using. When this happens I can use context clues on the page to help with building the ideas the author is creating, but sometimes we don't have enough clues to understand all of what is happening in the story.
I share that when this happens we, as good readers, can find a different version of the same story written from another person's perspective. Then we can compare the story events and words to build a better picture of what the story is really about.
I share that they are going to get the chance to try this with the two versions of the fable I read today...(papers can be already passed out to students or passed out now while you project the image of the poems on the board - I use the large versions, while they have the versions in columns)
I read from the Aesops fable and stop after the first event/ verse, when the ant falls into the water. I ask students what happened in this verse? I underline the verse.
I then say we are going to find the same main idea or story event in the second fable and project the second fable on the board.
I read to "When, leaning o'er its crumbling brink," and think aloud "that makes me think of rocks crumbing into the water - it musty have been a slippery area for the ant to walk" - I write "ant leaned over and slipped" on my copy of the fable and have students do this on their copies
I continue and read to "vainly tried" - and ask "What does vainly mean?" Student response. I add "tried to get out" on my copy and students write a "kid friendly" definition on their copies
I read "In this, to her, an ocean tide," - and again ask what is the stream in the other fable being compared to? Why is this an accurate description for an ant? and I add "water was fast and deep" and then add "couldn't get to land" for the final line - students do the same
I read a little further and then stop and think to say I went too far because the Dove is not in the first verse. I model underlining this section.
I put the Sequence of Events Chart on the board and paste the events in the correct locations to model for their own charts (I have these pre-cut and do not let students cut them out yet - only underline to keep them focused on modeling the objective)
I then ask students to look at the notes we took and say that the comparing and questioning really helped me to understand what happened in this verse. We write a short summary on the chart - (ant fell in - water fast- can't get out)
I share with students how they are going to complete the chart by identifying the rest of the three sections of each fable and by writing short summary notes in the last column.
When they are completed I tell them they are going to write the fable on the last sheet in their own words. They are given instructions that they can't change the story events, but can add creative details to them to make them more interesting for their readers. This is a great way for you to meet and discuss difficulties with smaller groups while the rest are staying occupied with the task and illustrations. Biggest difficulty was identifying the matching sections (events) in both fables because they were not paragraphed into stanzas that were the same. Second thing I needed to help with was the unfamiliar wording, but teaching them to read both to get deeper understanding fit so perfectly here.
Here's some samples of student worksheets
I gather them back together and I have some students share their versions of the fable (I like to circulate and find creative ones and then call these students so that the class can hear different ways to embellish a story without changing the plot)
I then read students the background Jean de La Fontaine and show them his picture (they always get a laugh from his hair piece!)
I close by telling them that he rewrote many of Aesop's and other author's fables in the French language and using his own creative words.
Good readers can find different versions of the same story and read both to get a better understanding of the story events and the vocabulary used.
I post students fables on the display board or in their poetry journals.