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Exploring Culture and Storytelling with Fairy Tales

Author: Cher Baylor


Penn Alexander School

Year: 2019

Seminar: Storytelling Traditions of South Asia and the Middle East

Grade Level: 3

Keywords: Culture, fairy tales, social studies, storytelling

School Subject(s): Social Studies

Penn Alexander School is located at 4209 Spruce Street. It is a K-8 school with a population of 566 students. Of that population 60% of students are students of color representing China, Bangladesh, Sudan, Bengali, Mexico, Egypt and Russia.

This unit is being written for a third grade class, age range 8-9 years.
Students in third grade are assessed on their Oral Reading Fluency three times a year. 60% of the students scored in the 26th to 74th percentile, which according to AimsWeb is an average performance level.

Additionally, there is no updated Social Studies curriculum. This unit will provide multicultural learning where differences among learners are both valued and explored.

Download Unit: Baylor-C.-19.04.06-abs-incl.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives


During the Teacher’s Institute of Philadelphia (TIP) at Penn University, in the spring of 2019, I was able to take the class Storytelling Traditions of South Asia and The Middle East with Professor Deven Patel.  Throughout the course we read, analyzed and discussed many stories from India, China, Arabia and Persia.  After many discussions, I started looking at stories with a different lens. Digging deeper into the stories helped me to learn more about the cultures that produced them.  These stories gave me a different way to view the world.  A few of the stories we read during the semester were The Arabian Nights, the Panchatantra, The Conference of the Birds, The Dream of the Red Chamber and the Mahabharata.



The Arabian Nights is a collection of tales from the Islamic Golden Age and are composed in Arabic and compiled from Arabic, Indian, Persian and Greek sources.  Though each collection of stories is different, they are centered on the frame story of King Shahrayer and his wife, “ Scheharazade. In the frame story, Shahrayar’s first wife commits adultery and he kills her.  Believing that all women are the same, he declares he will marry a different woman each night before killing her the following morning to prevent betrayal.  Scheherazade, his vizier’s daughter, devises a plan to end this pattern. She marries Shahrayar, and then begins to tell him a story that night. However, she stops the story in the middle, making the king eager to hear the rest the following night. The next evening, she finishes that story and then begins another, following the same pattern for 1,001 nights, until King Shahrayar has a change of heart.

The Arabian Nights and the Panchatantra are both works of Asian origin.  The Panchatantra has been considered to be the older of the two, and it is supposed to have influenced the Nights.  Both stories are built on the education of rulers. This does not involve the education of “ordinary” persons, but those difficult to be taught.

Indian folklore is represented in the Nights by certain animal stories, which reflect influence from ancient Sanskrit fables. A young woman who delays an impending danger by telling stories has also been tracked back to Indian sources.

The most important source of Indian fable literature is the Panchatantra, a collection of five chapters that use animals to demonstrate how to handle the politics of our social world.  The characters are animals with human characteristics.  The stories are filled with priests and thieves, kings and servants, weavers, barbers, royal daughters, rulers, wolves, wizards, goblins, snakes, lions and donkeys.

The Conference of the Birds is a poem written by 12th century, Persian Sufi poet Farid ud -Din Attar.  Suffism is a type of Islamic mysticism.  This particular poem is about a journey of 30 birds, led by a hoopoe leading his ‘pupils’ to enlightenment.  The journey of the birds takes them through the seven valleys of the quest: love, understanding, independence and detachment, unity, astonishment, and finally poverty and nothingness.  Each valley teaches a different moral.  The title Conference of the Birds is alludes to a verse in the Quran (27:16). In this verse Solomon, the Jewish king in the Bible, is said to have been able to understand the language of birds.   Because birds commonly symbolized the soul in Sufi literature, the Sufi king Solomon becomes aware of humanity’s inner spiritual musings.  The theme of the poem is the Sufi belief that concentrating on Allah burns away all desires and imperfections.

            About six centuries later appears the Dream of the Red Chamber, a Chinese novel about love, written in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty.  It is a tale of a noble family that falls from grace. It is full of incredible detail about Chinese culture of the time including description of the era’s manners, expectations, and consequences.

Many aspects of Chinese culture are depicted in the novel, such as:  medicine, cuisine and tea, festivities, proverbs, mythology, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, respect of the elderly, opera, music, architecture, funeral rites and painting.

The Mahabharata is a Sanskrit epic poem of ancient India.  It is the longest poem ever written, made up of almost 100,000 couplets, about a dysfunctional family.  History mingles with myth and many different versions have been written.  The story begins with everyone deceased and tells of dynastic struggles between two branches of a royal family in Northern India, c.1000 B.C.E. The main moral in the story was that evil may gain short-term victory, but in the end, good will always win. This moral is apparent throughout the story, and taught Hindu readers how to conduct themselves in times of difficulty and the importance of adhering to what is right (dharma).

The most important lesson I’ve learned from this class is the power of stories.  Stories and storytelling have had a major influence in all cultures.  They teach us morals and give instruction for living in harmony with and helping each other.

The parables of the Bible are similar to the stories Native Americans used to tell about how things were created.  The Greek would sit in circles and shared stories of about how people in a civilized society should behave.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told stories of equality and social justice so persistently.  These stories brought changes to the law and shaped the lives of others.  Everybody’s story is as important as the next.  Stories have an enormous power.

Additionally, the class inspired me to look deeper into fairy tales that are read in my classroom, like Cinderella and how various cultures and storytelling have influenced the story.  By teaching through this new lens, my students will be able to view fairy tales and the world from different perspectives.

Fairy tales occur in both oral and written form.  Many of today’s fairy tales have originated from centuries old stories that have appeared in many forms in many cultures around the world.

Fairy tales have existed since AD 100-200.  The myth Cupid and Psyche is told by Apuleius and included in his Metamorphoses (also known as The Golden Ass). Some scholars consider this to be the first literary fairy tale, very similar to Beauty and the Beast.  They are a subgenre of folklore along with myths and legends.  Most fairy tale studies deal with literary fairy tales, tales that are once removed from oral tradition, set down on paper by one or more authors. It then becomes a part of the world’s body of literature.   Folklorists study, record and try to trace oral stories through history. It is important to note that sometimes the literary fairy tale came first and was then absorbed back into oral tradition, such as with Beauty and the Beast.

The term “fairy tale” comes from the influence of the women writers in the French Salons who dubbed their tales “contes de fees.” The term was translated into English as “fairy tales.” The name became so widely used due to the popularity of the French tales, that it began to be used to describe similar tales such as those by the Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” –Albert Einstein


Fairy tales speak to children in a language they can understand.  The fairy tale expresses what the child longs for, hopes for and struggles with.  It gives expression to what a child feels and helps him to understand the laws influencing human life.  It helps the child to make sense of his own thoughts, give perspective of the world he lives in and unknowingly influences his actions.  In order for these influences to be, the stories must bring joy.  A child will not naturally come to love stories just because they are entertaining or influential.  His desire is to know, think and grow.  This is an essential law of his nature.

It is important to look at the characteristics of the fairy-tale. It is most instinctive that man first had his mind set on the external wonders which had so much to do with his well-being – the sun, the rain, the storm, mountains, and seas; and that at first most myths and stories were explanations of these natural phenomena.  History shows that man was once like this this child we speak of today.  Myth and folklore was the literature of long ago that answered questions about the world when man was questioning his environment.  Primitive man expressed his interpretation of the facts around him and his feelings that were roused.

Teaching Strategies

A student friendly definition of Fluency is reading like you talk, not too fast and not too slow, with expression.  This unit is a focused, intensive unit on storytelling.

Stories are powerful.  They have played an important role in history.  People have passed down stories from generation to generation. They play a role in every culture. They can entertain us, teach us and inspire us.  Stories help explain different cultural beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and things we have in common with the people around us.

Storytelling is the strategy that will be used to help obtain oral reading proficiency among third graders.  Storytelling gives the students the daily practice they need in order to advance their language skills. This unit will help the students understand how telling stories and story structure enable them to express themselves more clearly.

In 1986 Gordon Wells’ seminal study investigating the links between storytelling and school success was published. In it he reported key findings that suggest that an essential element for literacy development is consistent exposure to storytelling in both the home and classroom environments.  Overall, findings from these studies suggest that storytelling is useful in teaching content knowledge. The literature demonstrates that the storytelling process assist listeners and tellers as they gain an understanding of language, culture, comprehension, humor, and logical thinking skills.


In order to prepare for this unit, I will begin a collection of a variety of on- level fairy tales for the students to read and others that I can read aloud in order to familiarize and expose them to the elements that make up these stories.  Next, I inspire to become a storyteller myself by practice and rehearsing a popular tale known by most third-graders. It is important for the teacher to be able to model all of the important parts of a great storyteller and to set expectations.  Also, I will research the storytelling traditions in Mexico, Africa and Asia.  I will be able to use this research to help my students appreciate and identify the influence of culture within the Cinderella books we will be reading in the classroom.

This unit will also be used to build community in the classroom and increase cultural awareness. Students will be able to express themselves and learn about the diverse backgrounds of their fellow classmates.  In this unit we will be focusing on the fairy tale Cinderella arising from the students’ heritages.

Therefore, the class will read the French Cinderella, the Mexican Cinderella (Domitila), the Chinese Cinderella (Yeh-Shen), the Bangladesh Cinderella (The Golden Sandal), the African Cinderella (Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters) and the French version of Cinderella is probably the most well-known because it has been turned into two movies (one animated, one with real people) by Disney.  The students will also determine whether the story reveals information about the community’s daily life, games, celebrations and heroes. They will look into what the relationships in the story reveal by asking how problems were solved and who contributed to the solution.

Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper is from the French version.  This version, created by Charles Perrault in the 17th century, is the basis for the fairy tale as we know it well today.  A poor but beautiful young woman wins the heart of the prince with help from her fairy godmother.

Cultural influences:  mice symbolizes strength in small packages which is a reflection of Cinderella’s character and strength, glass slippers were a thing of magic and show transparency in Cinderella’s character – the fragile material worn on her feet symbolizes strength through vulnerability, the fairy godmother is the Universe responding to Cinderella’s inner voice and the stepmother and stepsisters symbolize jealousy, control, pride, and greed.

Domitila is a Cinderella tale from the Mexican tradition. Domitila is not only “sweeter than a cactus bloom in early spring,” she is also a talented cook and an amazing leather artist.  She becomes a cook at the Governor’s mansion to help support her family.  Her mother’s words—“Do every task with care, and never, ever forget to add a generous dash of love”—inspire her. Domitila rises above hardship and become the Governor’s bride.

Cultural influences:  adobe casa, leatherwork, fiestas, cactus, chiles, tortillas and nopales, pottery, silk shawl and Sierra Madre.  Also, Mexican tradition places a lot of emphasis on family connections and spending time together.

Yeh-Shin is a Cinderella story from China.  It dates back to the T’ang Dynasty and is one of the earliest recorded Cinderella stories.  Yeh-Shin, a hardworking and lovely girl befriends a fish, which is killed by her stepmother. Yeh-Shen saves the bones, which are magic, and they help her dress appropriately for a Spring festival. When she loses her slipper the king finds her and falls in love with her.

Cultural influences:  Symbols can reflect the thoughts and hopes of a particular cultural group.  Symbolism is an important part of Chinese culture.  Symbols found in the story are fish, kingfisher feathers of her cloak, gold slippers, and the old man with long hair. Chinese society has attached great importance to both elderly people and long hair. Respect for elderly people is part of Confucian doctrine. The Chinese have a tradition of keeping fish not only for food but, also enjoyment. The fish is a symbol or wealth and prosperity. The Spring Festival is New Year in China and can be traced back thousands of years.  It is a large, important festival where young people would meet each other for possible marriage.  It is celebrated with a lot of feasting.

The Golden Sandal is a Middle Eastern Cinderella story based on the Iraqi folktale of “The Little Red Fish and the Clog of Gold.”  Maha wants her father to remarry because he is gone so much so, he marries the neighbor who turns out to be mean.  Maha, who works hard for her new stepmother and stepsister, saves a red fish’s life.  The red fish allows her a wish. He grants her a gown of silk and golden sandals to wear to a wedding.  She loses her golden sandal and so Tariq, the prince in the story, looks for the owner who is Maha. Of course, Tariq and Maha live happily ever after.

Cultural Influences:  The bride’s henna ceremony is significant.  Women in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa use henna in a paste to make intricate temporary tattoos that decorate their hands and feet. Men and women attended functions separately, and that the bride’s henna ceremony was not a chance for young girls to meet a young man that they might marry, but a chance to meet the mothers of the men they may marry.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is an African Cinderella tale. Mufaro had two beautiful daughters; Manyara and Nyasha.  They are outwardly very beautiful but have completely opposite personalities. Manyara is selfish and assertive, while Nyasha is selfless and charitable. Word reaches them that the King of their land is searching for the “Most Worthy and Beautiful” girls in the land so that he can choose a queen. Both set out for the palace. Along the way they meet different people and are tested through mysterious situations that demand courage, kindness and strength of character. Manyara, in her haste to get to the palace, is rude and dismissive of these people; Nyasha, on the other hand, stops to help each one by sacrificing something of hers. When they get to the palace, Nyasha is chosen to be queen.

Cultural Influences: The names of the characters come from the Shona language: Mufaro means “happy man”; Nyasha means “mercy”; Manyara means “ashamed”; and Nyoka means “snake.”  Nyasha grew yams and millet in her garden. There are some native varieties of yams. Millet is a grain that is indigenous to southern Africa, too. It was used to prepare bread for the wedding feast in the story. Also, the king could transform himself into different things, like an old woman or a snake. Witchcraft and spirits are part of traditional Zimbabwe. They can serve various functions, including harming people or seeking revenge.


This unit will include grade-appropriate activities to develop literacy skills in fluency, comprehension and oral communication.  The following teaching strategies will be used:

  • Whole Group Direct Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction
  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Shared, Independent and Partner Reading
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Student Presentations

Classroom Activities

  1. Building Background

Students will work together in partners to read and analyze various fairy tales.  They will complete a graphic organizer to identify the elements that make up a story.  Teacher will review and define each of the elements.

  1. Storytelling

Partners will choose a fairy tale to prepare for telling.  They will read the story 3 times and complete a graphic organizer to help them learn the story.  Class time will be given to rehearse the story.  Teacher will review the importance of Voice in storytelling.

  1. Presentations

Partners will become storytellers.  They will present their stories to the class.  They will be evaluated with a rubric on voice, fluency, eye contact and actions.

  1. Reading Workshop

Teacher will read aloud the different versions of Cinderella.  Students will use a Venn Diagram to compare/contrast one version to another. Teacher will review story elements and theme and show where the stories originated on a map.

  1. Research

Small groups will choose a version of Cinderella to research.  They will identify how the story reveals information about the community’s culture, traditions, daily life, celebrations and games.  Additionally, they will identify the theme of the story. Teacher will provides websites for the students to use for research.  Students will present their findings to the whole class.


This curriculum unit is written for a 2-week term.  The first week will focus on fairytales and the various elements that comprise them.  Additionally, oral traditions will be explained and taught.

Week One:

PA State Standards:  CC.1.1.3.E, CC.1.3.3.C, CC.1.5.3.D

Objectives:  Students will read on-level fairy tales with accuracy, fluency, purpose and understanding.  The common themes found in fairy tales will be taught and students will identify them in their fairytale of choice.  Students will rehearse fairy tales with the goal of telling them orally, as in storytelling.


Day One:  The teacher will introduce the genre of fairy tales.  Students will name fairy tales they are familiar with.  The teacher will explain oral traditions and how fairy tales are stories that have been retold over and over.  To prepare for lessons in the following days, the teacher will become a storyteller by choosing a common fairy tale and tell the story orally to the class. Together, the class will identify the elements and complete a graphic organizer.  Some of the most common fairy tales include Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.

Guiding Questions:

What is a fairy tale?  What does retold mean? What fairy tales are you familiar with?


Partners will brainstorm common elements of fairy tales.  The class will come back together and the teacher will generate a list and expand upon the elements that are commonly found in fairy tales.  The list should include:

  1. Opening and Ending Line – Once upon a time and they lived happily ever after
  2. Here/Heroine and Villain
  3. Magic
  4. Royalty
  5. Problems and Solution
  6. Life Lessons


Chart paper, Story Elements Graphic Organizer

Day Two:

Teacher will have a book box of multiple fairy tales.  Students will be given time to explore and read a few of the fairy tales. Then, partners will choose and read a grade level fairy tale together.  After, they will complete a graphic organizer identifying the story elements.



Various fairy tales from classroom library, Graphic Organizer from Day One

Day Three:

Partners will present their graphic organizers.  After sharing, individual students will choose a fairy tale that they’d like to rehearse and tell orally to the class.

Day Four:

Individual students or partners will read their fairy tale three times to become familiar with the characters, problem and solution and sequence of the story. Time will be given for more rehearsal.

Day Five:

Students will become storytellers and take turns orally telling their fairy tale to the class with fluency. Students can dress up and act out the fairy tales they are storytelling.


Story Elements Graphic Organizer, Rubric for Storytelling presentations

Storytelling Presentation Rubric

Storytellers: ______________________________

Fairy Tale: ______________________________

  3-  Proficient 2- Basic 3- Needs improvement
Organization The story has a clear beginning, middle or end and includes all important plot elements. The story has a beginning, middle or end and includes most important plot elements. The story does not have a clear beginning, middle or end or is missing important plot elements.
Details The story has

many pertinent

details that add to

the plot.

The story has

some details that

add to the plot.

The story does

not have details

that add to the

plot (or has





The story follows

a pace that makes

it enjoyable and


Some parts of the

story are too fast

or too slow

The story is difficult to understand because it is too fast or too slow


Connecting with Audience The student

makes eye

contact and uses

expressive voices

and actions

The student

makes some eye

contact and/or

sometimes uses

expressive voices

or actions

The student does

not make eye

contact or use

expressive voices

or actions

Volume The words were

easy to hear and

understand; the


projected his/her


The volume was sometimes too soft or too loud


The story was

hard to follow

because the

volume was too

soft or too loud



Extension activity:

  1. Students can create their own “fractured” tales by changing different elements in the fairy tales they are reading and complete a graphic organizer. They can choose to share these tales orally with a small group.


Title: Title:
Characters: Characters:
Setting: Setting:
Problem: Problem:
Solution: Solution:
Point of View:

1st or 3rd Person?

Point of View:

1st or 3rd Person?



Week Two

PA State Standards: C.C.1.3.3.A, C.C.1.3.3.C,

Objectives:  Students will determine the central message, lesson, or moral in literary text and explain how it is conveyed in text.  Students will describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contribute to the events in a story.  In addition, the students will learn how the United States is a land of diversity and enriched by the culture and heritage of all citizens.


Day One:

The teacher will tell the class they will be exploring and digging deeper into a world- renowned tale, Cinderella.  The teacher will explain how Cinderella has been written in over 900 different versions and that every culture seems to have it’s own version.  Have a few students tell the Cinderella story, as they know it.   Students will ‘turn and talk’ with a partner about different Cinderella stories they know.  On a map of the world, find the countries or geographic areas where the Cinderella stories the class has read are based.  Tell them we will add to the map as we read more Cinderella stories.  Teacher will read aloud Cinderella by K.Y. Craft.   Explain that this is the version used by Disney that many children are familiar with. After, students will identify the theme and story elements in the story. Teacher records on chart paper.


Chart paper, World map


Theme: Hard work pays off.



long ago, Cinderella’s house, the Prince’s castle




Stepmother, stepsisters


The fairy godmother helps Cinderella go to the ball in a fancy dress and carriage.


Cinderella wants to go to a special event but her stepfamily gets in the way.


Cinderella and the Prince marry and live happily ever after.


Day Two:

Teacher will review the theme and elements of Cinderella.  Teacher will ask the students what information about the community’s culture, traditions, daily life, celebrations and games they noticed in the story and list them on chart paper.  Teacher will show the class a book basket with various versions of Cinderella.  Partners will choose a Cinderella story to read and complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting their story to the Cinderella story from Day One.


Cinderella Story:
Cultural Influences




glass slipper, rags, gown of gold and silver, cloak, petticoat, patches from Mademoiselle de la Poche


a royal Ball


father, stepmother, stepsisters, fairy godmother


mice, horses


fireplace, ashes, carriage, clock, straw bed, oranges, citrons





Venn Diagram:


__________________                ___________________
















Chart paper, Venn Diagram Graphic Organizer


Day Three:  Teacher will share the website Prezi: Influences of Culture on the Cinderella Story.  Students will dig deeper into the version of Cinderella they read.  Students will research that version online and list the elements they learned about the culture from the story on a graphic organizer.


Cinderella Story:
Cultural Influences














Materials:  Graphic organizer, websites for research: PA Power Library


Day Four:  Each student creates a visual representation of cultural differences in his/her Cinderella story to share with the whole class.


Materials:  White drawing paper


Day Five:

Partners will present their Cinderella story to the class explaining the cultural aspects they learned about from the story and showing their visual representations.  Students will identify the geographic area on the World map.  After presentations, teacher will explain the “sameness” amongst all of the Cinderella stories despite all of the differences



Guiding Questions:  Why are the story elements changed in each story?  How are all of the versions of Cinderella alike?


Teacher will assess the students’ presentations with a rubric.


Cinderella Presentation Rubric


CATEGORY 1 2 3 4
Setting Lots of descriptive words are used to tell the audience when and where the story takes place. Some descriptive words are used to tell the audience when and where the story takes place. The audience can figure out when and where the story took place, but there isn’t much detail (e.g., once upon a time in a land far, far away). The audience has trouble telling when and where the story takes place.
Characters The main character(s) are named and clearly described (through words and/or actions). The audience knows and can describe what the characters look like and how they typically behave. The main character(s) are named and described (through words and/or actions). The audience has a fairly good idea of what the characters look like. The main character(s) are named. The audience knows very little about the main characters. It is hard to tell who the main character(s) are.
Influences of Culture Identifies 4 or more aspects of culture in the story. Identifies 3 aspects of culture in the story. Identifies 2 aspects of culture in the story. Identifies 1 aspect of culture in the story.
Sequence Retells story in correct sequence leaving out no important parts of story. Retells story in sequence with 2-3 omissions. Retells story with several omissions, but maintains sequence of those told. Retells story out of sequence.
Voice Always speaks loudly, slowly and clearly. Is easily understood by all audience members all the time Usually speaks loudly, slowly and clearly. Is easily understood by all audience members almost all the time. Usually speaks loudly and clearly. Speaks so fast sometimes that audience has trouble understanding. Speaks too softly or mumbles. The audience often has trouble understanding.

Total : _____/___20_


Extension activities:


  1. Students can research online other countries and report about other Cinderella stories.
  2. Students can choose a different fairy tale to research and report on what other countries have similar tales.
  3. Students choose two new Cinderella stories to compare and contrast.
  4. Students can choose to “storytell” their Cinderella story to a small group or whole class.
  5. Students can write their own version of Cinderella.


Attar, Farid ud-Din.  The Conference of the Birds. Penguin Classics. 1984.

*This is an epic Persian poem about a journey of 30 birds led by a hoopoe (master) on a journey towards enlightenment.

Cahill, Mary Ann and Gregory, Anne E.  Putting the Fun Back into Fluency Instruction. The Reading Teacher. 2011.

*This article gives fun ideas for improving student fluency.

Campbell, Terry and Hlusek, Michelle.  Storytelling for Fluency and Flair. The Reading Teacher Vol. 69 Issue 2 September/October 2015

*This article details the positive benefits that storytelling has on fluency.

Carroll, Valerie.  Fish, Gourd and Glass Slippers: How Different Cultures tell the story of Cinderella. December 2016.

*A paper that examines six versions of Cinderella and the cultural differences among them.

Chin, Tsao Hsueh. Dream of the Red Chamber. Anchor. 1958.

*A Chinese love story during the Qing Dynasty that details the Chinese culture of that time.

Cook, Carolyn L. Cultural Storytelling as a Motivational Writing Prompt. The Journal of the National Association for Professional Development Schools. Volume 5 Fall 2012.

*A journal article about a study that addresses the question:  Does the use storytelling motivate English Language Learners to engage in literacy practices?

Lyons, Malcolm.  The Arabian Nights. Volume 1.  Penguin Classics, 2010.

* A well-known collection of folktales from the Middle East and India that illustrates aspects of the culture.

Palmer, Barbara, Sun, Lingzhi and Leclere, Judith. Students Learn About Chinese Culture through the Folktale Yeh-Shin. Multicultural Education, 2012.

* This article analyzes the figurative language that reflects Chinese traditional society and culture in Yeh-Shen.

McCassim, Adriana.  Influences of Culture on the Cinderella Story. Prezi, 2015

*This website provides a slide show detailing cultural aspects in various Cinderella stories.

Mello, Robin. Building Bridges: How Storytelling Influences Teacher/Student Relationships. 2001.

*A paper that examines the impact of storytelling in the classroom setting.

Sarma, Pandit Vishnu. Panchatantra  Rupa and Co. 1991.

* A collection of animal fables from India with messages on the conduct of life for both adults and children.

Wells, Gordon.  Children Talk their Way Into Literacy. 2003.

*A chapter from a book that discusses the relationship between action, talk and text in reading.

Worth, Sarah E. Storytelling and Narrative Knowing:  An Examination of the Epistemic Benefits of Well-Told Stories.  Journal of Aesthetic Education. Vol. 42. 2008.

*An article that argues the epistemological effects to reading, hearing and telling well-constructed narratives.

Worthy, M. Jo and Bloodgood, Janet. Enhancing Reading Instruction through Cinderella Tales. The Reading Teacher, Volume 46, Number 4. 1992.

* An article that outline a literature unit consisting of variations of the Cinderella story for use in the upper elementary grades.

Zipes, Jack.  The Irresistible Fairy Tale. 2012.

*A book that explores fairy tales and their role in cultural history and their influences of today.


*An online encyclopedia about Cinderella.

Student Resources

Balducci, Rita. Snow White. New York: Western Publishing, 1992.

*A classic Grimm fairy-tale about a jealous queen who orders her beautiful stepdaughter to be killed so that she can become the ‘fairest one of all.’

Coburn, Jewell Reinhart.  Domitila. Shen’s Books, 2014.

* A Cinderella tale from the Mexican tradition.

Craft, K. Y. Cinderella. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000.

* The classic story of  cinder girl who overcomes her evil stepsisters to find love.

Haley, Gail E. A Story, A Story. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1970.

* An African folktale of Ananse and how he acquires stories from the Sky God to give to children.

Hickox, Rebecca. The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story. New York: Holiday House, 1999.

* A story from the Middle East that tells how Cinderella finds loe with the help of a fish.

Humperdinck, Engelbert. Hansel and Gretel. 1971

* A Grimm fairy-tale about a brother an sister who are captured by a witch in the forest.

Louie, Ai-Ling. Yeh-Shen. New York: Puffin Books, 1982.

* A Cinderella tale of Chinese tradition.

McCole, Danielle. Grimm’s Fairy Tales:Rapunzel. Philadelphia: Running Press Books, 2001.

* A Grimm fairy-tale about an evil witch who locks Rapunzel in a castle.

McCole, Danielle. Grimm’s Fairy Tales:The Frog Prince. . Philadelphia: Running Press Books, 2001.

* The first in the collection of Grimm fairy-tales where a princess befriends a frog who turns into a handsome prince.

Patience, John. Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. Ohio: Landoll, 1993.

* A Middle-Eastern folktale that is a story within the Arabian Nights.

Schmidt, Karen. Little Red Riding Hood. Scholastic Inc. 1986

* A folktale of a young girl who is tricked by a wolf on the way to her grandmother’s house.

Steptoe, John. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. Pueblo: Live Oak Media, 2003.

* An African folktale that resembles the story of Cinderella.


The Core Curriculum of The School District of Philadelphia is aligned to the Pennsylvania State Standards for English Language Arts.  These standards include instruction on the following:

CC.1.1.3.E Read with accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

  • Students will read on-level text with purpose and understanding.
  • Students will read on-level text orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.

CC.1.3.3.A Determine the central message, lesson, or moral in literary text; explain how it is conveyed in text.

  • Students will be able recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
  • Students will identify the elements that make up a story.

CC.1.3.3.C Describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

  • Students will describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.


CC.1.5.3.D Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speak clearly with adequate volume, appropriate pacing, and clear pronunciation.


Social Studies

Students will learn how the United States is a land of diversity and enriched by the culture and heritage of all citizens.

This curriculum unit aligns to the National Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA)/Literacy.  The categories are Knowledge of Language, Comprehension and Collaboration, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure and Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity.

Knowledge of Language:

Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

Choose words and phrases for effect.

Comprehension and Collaboration:

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.

Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).

Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.


Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.

Read grade-level prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.

Key Ideas and Details:

Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Craft and Structure:

Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


This curriculum unit is intended for third grade.  It aligns with various Literacy standards, particularly those designed around Oral Fluency and Comprehension. The main focus of the curriculum is Storytelling and Multicultural Learning.  There are various activities planned around fairy tales, digging deeper into the fairy tale of Cinderella.   The first half of the curriculum provides opportunity for students to read, rehearse and story tell a fairy tale of choice.  The second half of the unit focuses on identifying and appreciating the multicultural aspects found in various Cinderella stories.  Many versions of Cinderella are read and analyzed, such as those written from the Middle Eastern, Chinese, African, French, and Mexican cultures.