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Fairy tales and Folktales are stories often told to children beginning at a young age through primary grades. There are significant points in stories where there are repetitive words and phrases which help readers understand the tale and build accuracy. Those repetitive phrases allow students to be more engaged in the story, build language skills, and benefit English Language Learners.


In one traditional tale”, the big bad wolf threatens the three little pigs by saying “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down”. In another tale, Goldilocks repeats a phrase with some modifications. “Who’s been eating my porridge?” “Who’s been sitting in my chair?” “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” Telling these stories can help developing readers and English language students.

Storytelling is enjoyed by people of all ages. The tales mentioned above are usually thought of as children’s fairy tales and teachers may hesitate to use these tales in upper grades. Traditional fairy tales and folktales can be used to teach a variety of skills to suit any age group. Whether students are listening to the tales or reading them, teachers can use fairy tales and folktales to recognize sentence structure, parts of speech, and the correct use of punctuation. Students can identify character traits, theme and mood of the tale, and notice the use of expression. Since most children have heard these tales from a young age, hearing the stories are second nature. That allows teachers to analyze different features of the tales to promote language skills and support recollection.

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How to Teach the Tale

When selecting a fairy tale or folktale, you can choose story students may know or one they may have not heard. There are many folktales with repetitive phrases that can be found online. Review the following steps to use when teaching the tale.

  • Read the tale using gestures and movements to represent repetitive phrases or key parts of the story. Students can join in on the action while the tale is read aloud.
  • After reading the tale, select a few students to play characters from the story. Students can be selected to perform the entire tale or different scenes. The students can reenact the story, modeling the characters actions and emotions. The teacher will need to show how to properly demonstrate the characters.
  • Partner students in pairs or groups to walk through the story. Students link arms and the groups retell the tale. As the scenes are reenacted, students get to step forward to literally walk through the story. Student will continue to take turns sharing the story events. This story should be retold in sequential order. As the students recount the events, they should remember to speak with expression. The teacher should move from group to group to help prompt students if they get stuck.
  • Students are now ready to sit down and retell the story with a partner. By a show of hands, ask students who is ready to retell the story. Pair students together, one who raised his/her hand with a student who may not be as ready. Each child will have an opportunity to retell the story. The confident students should begin, allowing the other student to listen. The listener has a key role to remain engaged and prompt the storyteller if needed.The listener will then have more confidence to tell the story.
  • To conclude the lesson, students can complete a follow-up activity. Encourage students to share the story with someone outside of their class. This could be students in another class, other teachers, or family and friends. By this point students should have complete knowledge of the story and begin making the story their own. Students are becoming creative storytellers by sharing the tale with their own personal twist.

When planning your next language arts lesson, consider using a fairy tale or folktale and apply some of the suggested strategies. The stories can be presented in a variety of ways to allow you to focus on concepts such as identifying character traits, expressing emotion using the correct punctuation, and recognizing repetitive phrases.Utilizing a familiar story is a great opportunity to broaden the student’s knowledge of many valuable language skills.

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