The Central Message in a Swedish Folktale

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SWBAT identify the central message in a folktale.

Big Idea

Students will engage in a cultural experience as they look for the central message.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection and Introduction

This lesson allows students to get a little exposure to the Swedish culture. I use the story, Gone is Gone by Wanda Gag, and it is located in Childcraft The How and Why Library, Volume 2, Stories and Fables.  One thing new with Common Core is allowing students to learn in context, which basically means I teach about culture as we improve reading comprehension and fluency.  During the lesson as we are reading when we get to things that are specific about the Swedish culture I stop and explain them.  Another thing is that students do not know what a folk tale is and so I explain that it is a tale that the folks tell.  I have found that my first graders are new to the term folktale, so I try to simplify it so they can understand.  The text Gone Gone is great because it has people in it which helps make the lesson related to their real lives, and it explains what a folktale is in the first paragraph.

Most of the lesson I have the students working in small mixed groups because Common Core promotes collaboration.  When the students are able to teach their peers they actually engage in a higher order thinking activity because they have to explain their reasoning.  I label one partner the peanut and one the jelly. If I notice that one person is not participating then I specifically tell the jelly partner to teach or tell the peanut something or vice verse.


To engage the class I often use the Promethean board to project an image,but today I made a video about Sweden and it is in the resources. I show the short clip and then I allow the class to share anything they already know about folktales or Sweden with their partner.  To manage the students I have them seated in an assigned seat, labeled on the lounge floor, and this keeps structure are they talk.  They also already know the assigned partner they are supposed to talk to during discussion.  For the student discussion activates their thinking, but for me it allows me to assess their prior knowledge so I can see how much support I will need to provide instructionally during the lesson. Most of the time I find I need to provide a lot of support because first grade is the very first time most children get exposure to literature related terms and the strategies that we use to study literature or cultures.

Next I try to explain to the class what we are going to do in the lesson, which really lets the students know the flow and what to expect in our lesson.  Letting the students know the lesson plan helps them understand what is going to happen so they don't ask me a what to do next, and it puts students at ease when they know what to expect.  I think keeping the same procedures or flow of movement for lessons helps students understand what to do. When I change one of the steps in a lesson my students get confused, so most of my lessons involve starting on the lounge, moving to the center tables, and closing on the lounge.

Last, I state the lesson object and have the student echo and tell a friend.  Telling a friend makes learning personal and repetition helps memory. Then I explain that we are going to write three sentences that are about the folktale we read.  I have scaffolded instruction by using a graphic organizer in previous lessons, but today we are going to step it up and write in a paragraph form. Later we will learn to write bigger paragraphs.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Now the class is seated in their desks which are actually in small groups.  Then I give each child a copy of the text, Gone is Gone by Wanda Gag, and they are allowed to follow along as I read.  I found this story in Childcraft The How and Why Library, Volume 2, Stories and Fables.  When the text complexity is very high like this story I do not scaffold by echo reading because the sentences are too long and my first graders have a hard time finding where the sentence started.  Then echo reading becomes more trouble than its worth.  I do like repeated reading to build fluency and comprehension because students have to be really comfortable with a text to be able to analyze it for meaning.

As I read the story I stop at several points to show the students that these are specific examples of the Swedish culture.  The first stopping point is house with the little curved panes over the window and the scarfs over the characters heads.  When the story talks about the garden and frying sausage I stop to point out that fresh vegetables and pork are common food of the Swedish.  In addition, the a lot of their food is centered around dairy products hence the churning of butter and the cow needing to be milked. This is how I try to teach about culture in context, as recommended by Common Core.

After reading the story aloud, I ask somebody to tell me what we have been writing first on our graphic organizers about folktales and somebody will say the (who) and I write this in parenthesis on the board.  The big thing to remind students is that we are focusing on the person that changes in the story, Fritzl.  Some first graders will not be able to recognize this, so I help them.

To engage all the students, which is what Common Core wants, I ask everyone to talk to their partner about what Fritzl wanted. Then after I hear them all say the he wanted an easier job and I write it on the board and put (wanted) in parenthesis over the words easier job.  We find it in the text where the words say he wanted easier work, because Common Core promotes using text as evidence.  Then the next part of the Graphic Organizer we used in the previous lessons was (but) so the students discuss what happened when he did the housework.  The students find it in the text where it tells that he spilled the cider, left the garden gate open, and did not fix lunch. I write what I hear several students say.  Last, the students discuss what happened (then) because this is what has been on the past three graphic organizers we have used.  The students are asked to find it in the text where it tell that he found out that housework was harder than farm work.  Now, normally we agree and disagree and discuss everything before I write it, but the text was lengthy and I wanted to stop and discuss Swedish culture some so I do not have time for a lot of discussion.  

Now I write the words central message at the bottom of the Board. Students discuss what the central message is. If I see that they are struggling I ask them to think about how they might have learned a lesson or what they learned.  If there is still confusion I ask them what happened and how did the man change. How did this affect others? 

Partner Work

20 minutes

This text is also too complex to echo read, so I read it to the students twice as they follow along.  Text complexity can be measured by the length and by vocabulary, and it is the sentence length or complexity that makes echo reading a bad choice here.  Repeated reading builds comprehension and fluency because students need to be very familiar with a text to analyze it.

The text I selected is Halvar's House and it is also in the book Childcraft The How and Why Library, Volume 2, Stories and Fables. and it is also a Swedish folktale.  This helps reiterate the specific examples of Swedish culture.  Some examples in the text are the weird stones used to construct the house and the importance of farming.  Then I also want to make sure the students understand the text and make a real world connection, so I tell them to think of the giant as a person.

The first thing I do is explain that they will write two sentence telling who and what they wanted.  Then they have to write the but and then part.  Last they need to identify the central message. I put the graphic organizer we used in the previous lesson on the table to help the students with remembering what to write.

I walk around and help my students by asking them questions, listening, and engaging them in evaluation their work.  

Check out my Student Work of students working and the image of Proficient Work.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

The class move to the lounge to practice their speaking and listening skills. Now its hard to expect first graders to do what I want unless I specifically ask them to. So, I explain that they must hold their papers still, look at the speaker, listen to the speakers so you can provide an evaluation, and be still.  I remind my class this before every presentation because it is not automatic and I want to set the students up to be successful. Another thing I have to do is remind students to enunciate their words and speak loudly so we can hear.  

After each presentation, due to time I only allow two or three, I ask other students to provide feedback and I add what I think. Check out the Proficient Presentation 1 by ELLProficient Presentation 2, and the Basic Presentation in the resource section. It is a nice way to encourage discussion. Once again I have to teach the class how to evaluate even though I do this everyday. It is so new students need reminding or everyone will tell their peers they were great.  When I tell the students what I want them to say for their feedback it should be something like I agree with the central message, but I am not sure it is in a complete sentence.  I give another example of what to not say, good job.


5 minutes

In the closure I like to do some kind of formative assessment, but a written one does not really apply here and it would take too long.  So, I ask the students to discuss one thing they learned and one thing they want to learn about folktales or the central message.  

Last we restate the goal and I tell the class this is the end of our central message lesson from folktales, but I will continue to keep the texts available for them to read during independent reading time.