The Central Message in a Chinese and Japanese Folktale

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SWBAT identify the central message in a folktale.

Big Idea

Students will get exposure to a folktale by reading a Chinese and Japanese folktale and determining the central message.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection and Introduction

In this lesson I wanted to explore some folktales from different cultures to give the class a little cultural experience, but I also wanted to make sure the characters were humans.  This allows the class to relate personally to the characters and it makes it easier for them to reflect and develop the central message.  It also allows students to make real life connects which adds relevance to the lesson, therefore increasing engagement. I chose The Five Chinese Brothers for the guided practice and The Old Man With the Hump for partner work.  

In all parts of the lesson the students are working in pairs or groups of three.  This seems to help students understand and allow other students to engage in higher order thinking since they have to explain their reasoning.  Another reason I like groups is because they promote teamwork, and it makes the lesson more enjoyable when the students get to work together. 


Since it is important for students to connect their prior knowledge, I ask the students to reflect on the central message for the previous days lesson. I say talk to your partner about the central message in Hansel and Gretel. This is how I assess their schema without them knowing it. In order to be effective in my instruction, I need to know what they remember.  If they do not remember anything I know I have to provide a lot of support regarding the problem and solution before we even talk about the central message in the text.  

Next, I tell the class the goal of the lesson because the need to know what it going to happen. It almost puts them as ease when I explain the process of how our lesson is going to go and what we are going to do.  

I want to get one hundred percent participation so that all my students engage with the objective, so I ask the class to chant I can identify the central message in a folktale. I also write it on the board and point as we say it.  Visual learners benefit from seeing it written, but if any observer came in my room they would know what we were doing.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

As we transition to the desks the students chant three times the lesson goal.  It makes the transition flow better because it keeps the students focused as they move and reiterates the lesson goal. I find that refocusing on the lesson goal often in a lesson helps students comprehend and stay on track.  Well actually, it probably helps me stay on track more than them!

After the learners are seated, I give everyone a copy of the text, The Five Chinese Brothers. Everyone needs a copy so they can reference it to find evidence, which is another shift in Common Core. Students need to be able to find the answers in the text.  I read the story to the class because it is very complex, but I did ask them to follow along, because this will increase their fluency.  I also want to discuss some context clues in a few vocabulary words and they need the text to do that.  

As soon as I get to the part where the little boy asks to go fishing with the Brother I stop and ask the students what the problem is. They discuss the problem with their peanut butter jelly partner. This is an assigned partner that is of a different reading ability based on their oral reading fluency scores. After discussion, I allow a volunteer to share and we engage in a class discussion.  I ask students if they agree or disagree and why.  Sometimes we do this with thumbs up or down to engage the entire class. Justifying ideas using evidence is a skill that I want everyone to engage in in the discussion.  

By identifying the problem the students can begin to think about a solution. So, I explain that now you know the problem I want you to listen for the solution.  As soon as I get to the part where the little boy agrees to mind the Brother and the brother says he can go I ask the students to discuss the solution.  This engages everyone in the class in thinking, but I allow a volunteer to share since some student may feel uncomfortable sharing.  After the volunteer shares their solution I ask another volunteer to agree or disagree and tell me why. This is another higher order thinking activity where I am trying to get the students to use evidence from the text to tell me why.

 Last, as soon as I read the part about the Brother motioning for the boy to come back and the boy disobeying I stop.   I ask the students to discuss what happened and why.  It is key to stop at this point so the students see the consequences. Sometimes first graders get confused in all the text and do not see the important points.  So, I stop at them.  After the students discuss with their partner one person shares.  We engage in a class discussion as I say can anyone agree or disagree.  Then I ask them to use evidence from the text to tell me why.

 I now stop to recap what we know.  The handiest thing I have found so far to organize our thoughts is this graphic organizer I made.  So, we just fill in the blanks using complete sentences.  Now, I don't require this, but I model it as a good practice.  The students do not raise their hands at this point it is a real discussion. I say so who are we talking about. Then I write the response.  Next, I say what did they do, and write whatever the students say unless somebody disagrees. Then I say but, and the students volunteer the rest.  Next, I say so and fill in the blank. The resource show our work (Model).  I also included a nice graphic organizer (Central Message).

Last, I ask the students to discuss the central message with their partner, because this is the big thing I want them to get.  I want everyone engaged. Last a volunteer shares their ideas and if everyone agrees I write it down.

Partner Work

20 minutes

At this point I can sense the need to move so we transition to the center tables and chant I can find the central message in a folktale.  This refocuses the class on the goal, but also keeps order as the students move.  They do stay in mixed ability groups to support collaboration.

After we finish the reading, students are given one graphic organizer (True Partner Work) per group and told to fill in in and identify the central message. The text we use is, The Man With The Bump. I lay the example we did together on my table so they can refer to it as much as they need to. First graders often need models to help them.  

As the groups are working I walk around and monitor.  Mostly I am listening to see who is off track and needs my help.  Eventually I always find a group that can use my help. Some of the questions I ask them are: What was the mean man's problem?  So, I just pick out the person that the story uses to make the example. What did he do?  Was that honest?  How did the demon know he was lying?  Some groups might not even notice that there was a lie in the story, so I just tell them.  What happened as a result of his lie? The text is so complex many students get stuck in the Vocabulary instead of being able to comprehend even though I read it aloud.  I believe all students should get exposure to rich and complex text and it is my job to help them figure it out.  If they don't ever see the complex text they will never be able to comprehend it so I just given them the text and help them work through it.  After we have had this discussion, we begin discussing the graphic organizer and filing in the blanks, but its easier to get the problem and solution identified before looking at the central message.


Student Reflection

5 minutes

As the lesson winds down we move back to the lounge for a close evaluation of work. This is when I allow several volunteers to present their work and practice their speaking and listening skills.  Being proactive has always been helpful to me with behavior, but my Principal might tell you behavior is not my strong area.  I have learned the hard way to be proactive, but it really makes sense. If I want them to do something a certain way I should tell the class my expectations, right?  So,it has been working great ever since I realized this. Students have to be told to hold their paper still, look at the speaker,  think about what they are saying, and evaluate if what they said is correct.  Yes, that is a lot, but they can do it.  The evaluation part does have to be modeled everyday or students will tell their peers they were awesome every time.  When I model evaluation I say I agree that the central message was be honest, but I disagree that the nice man was not the man that got two lumps. It says in the text that the mean man could not dance and the demon put an extra lump on his neck.


5 minutes

In the closing we remain in the lounge because it is nice to be together for the ending. Then I ask my students to discuss with their partner about what they learned today. What I want to hear is that they will not tell a lie or they will be honest.  Maybe that they can learn lessons from text.  Some text have a central message. Whatever they say I add to it and try to encourage some kind of discussion. I might even ask a few students to add to what their peers say.  This is how I try to get my students to build upon what their peers say.

Last I try to engage the entire class by asking the students to echo the goal, tell a friend, and say it with me. So I say, I can identify the central message in a folktale.