Once Upon an Opposite: Using Multi-Cultural Trickster Tales to Promote Literacy

Author: Klair McGlynn


Philadelphia School District

Year: 2010

Seminar: Multi-Cultural Fairy Tales: Portals to the Humanities

Grade Level: Kindergarten

Keywords: fairytales, leprechaun, literacy, St Patricks Day, trickster stories

School Subject(s): English, Literature

The intention of the curriculum unit; “Once Upon an Opposite: Using Multi-Cultural Trickster Tales to Promote Literacy,” is to initiate an instructive, captivating and diverse vocabulary enrichment program for children in a kindergarten classroom. Lessons will examine the role of opposites in selected motifs in Trickster tales from around the world.  Because we can make any content meaningful and engaging to young children if we build it on the kind of powerful abstract concepts presented in trickster tales (for example, good, evil, happy, sad, kind, mean), my unit will explore the significance of opposites in trickster tales.         Trickster tales are very popular because of the humorous portrayal of protagonists. Nearly every culture has trickster tales in which a character uses wit, pranks, lies, deceit, and mischief to triumph over more powerful creatures. Yet tricksters do not always prevail, for they are often victims of another’s trickery. Children of all cultures take great delight in this human aspect of the stories. Students will be able to differentiate among the stories through discussion and activities linking the variants of a specific cultural tale.  The characters in those stories are generally animals with human traits, dealing with conflicts between good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, security and danger, cleverness and stupidity, hope and despair. This polarization fits into children’s expectations of life as they know it, through emotions.

The unit should be completed after the second marking period when students have developed basic concepts of print and can engage in and experiment in reading and writing. The end of March is also the ideal time to explore the genre of trickster tales. Around St. Patrick’s Day, students are already familiar with the leprechaun, an Irish trickster known for his cleverness and ability to get out of trouble. A culminating writing activity would be on April fools day when the students will write their own modern day version trickster tale.

Children will identify the origins of trickster tales by utilizing a classroom world map and will be able to describe and list tales variants, and divide the motifs into opposites for discussion and daily journal writing. Selections from the trickster folktale genre and various cross-curricular state standards and objectives are included in each lesson, all of which provide young children with many opportunities to develop understanding of others. And have fun!

Download Unit: McGlynn-unit.pdf

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