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K–12 teaching and learning · from the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Read a variety of African and African American folktales.
  • Identify and discuss the literary elements found in the folktales.
  • Create an illustrated plot map for a folktale.
  • Compare African and African American folktales to previously read fairy tales from other cultures.
  • Describe what they learned about African and African American culture from the folktales.
  • Write a modern-day folktale containing many of the elements found in the African and African American folktales that were read.

Classroom time required

One week or five 45-minute class periods

Materials/Resources

  • Copies of picture books of African and African-American folktales. Possible titles include:
    • Aardema, Verna. (1997). Anansi Does the Impossible: An Ashanti Tale. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
    • Aardema, Verna. (1992). Anansi Finds a Fool. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
    • Aardema, Verna. (1975). Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
    • Anderson, David A. (1991). The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth. Mt. Airy, MD: Sights Productions.
    • Hamilton, Virginia. (1995). Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales. New York, NY: Blue Sky Press.
    • Hamilton, Virginia. (1985). The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
    • Kimmel, Eric A. (2001). Anansi and the Magic Stick. New York, NY: Holiday House.
    • Kimmel, Eric A. (1988). Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock. New York, NY: Holiday House.
    • Kimmel, Eric A. (1994). Anansi and the Talking Melon. New York, NY: Holiday House.
    • McDermott, Gerald. (1972). Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
    • Musgrove, Margaret. (2001). The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth. New York, NY: Blue Sky Press.
    • Steptoe, John. (1987). Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. New York,NY: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books.
  • Textbook: African American Literature (1998). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. OR background information on African and African American folktales from some other source.
  • Butcher paper
  • Markers
  • Handouts:

Pre-Activities

  • Prior to this lesson, students reviewed literary elements and engaged in guided practice in identifying these elements using fairy tales, such as Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rumplestiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs.
  • Previously learned vocabulary includes: (Definitions taken from Scott Foresman Literature and Integrated Studies, Grade 8, 1997 or African American Literature (1998). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.)
    • plot: A series of happenings in a literary work.
    • conflict: The problem or struggle between characters or forces in a story.
    • climax: The turning point in which the main character takes action to tend the conflict. The most exciting or tense part of a narrative.
    • resolution: The tying up of the plot; the conclusion, where the implications in a plot are resolved.
    • setting: The time and place in which the story takes place.
    • theme: The underlying meaning of a literary work.
    • antagonist: Person or force in fiction that opposes the protagonist.
    • protagonist: The main character.

Activities

Day one

  1. Students will read pp. 83–-91, 97, 133–-143 in the textbook African American Literature (1998). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. OR background information on African and African American folktales from some other source. Students will take notes as they read. Information covered in this reading includes:
    • A description of typical characters found in African folktales (Anansi, Tortoise, Elephant, Monkey, Hare)
    • Explanation of how African folktales traveled to the United States on the middle passage and how they were transformed in America
    • A description of typical characters found in African American folktales (Brer Rabbit)
  2. Teacher will also review vocabulary defined in introductory reading, including:
    • Folk tale: A short narrative, passed down to succeeding generations through the oral tradition; often utilize animal characters.
    • Fable: A brief story, often originating in folklore, told to illustrate a moral point or point out human follies.
    • Myth: An anonymous story having its roots in the folk beliefs of a culture.
    • Trickster: A character who uses cunning and trickery to outwit stronger enemies.
    • Moral: The lesson the story is intended to convey.

Day two

  1. Classroom is organized into eight stations (tables or groupings of desks). Students are assigned to heterogeneous groups of four. Groups are assigned to a station. At each station is a copy of a folk tale picture book.
  2. Groups rotate through at least four stations, reading four picture books. One student reads aloud at each station, rotating who reads.
  3. After reading, students complete the handout “Identifying Literary Elements in African and African American Folktales” and discuss their answers with their group before rotating to the next station.
  4. Groups then agree on a story to create an illustrated plot map of on the following day.

Day three

  1. Groups return to the station of the story they selected to make a plot map on butcher paper with markers. Groups work together to create a plot map following the directions on the handout “Plot Map of African or African American Folktale.”
  2. Groups present their plot maps to the class as a whole. Students assess each group according to the rubric as they present.
  3. Individual students complete a Venn diagram comparing European fairy tales read during previous learning with folktales read during this study.
  4. Individual students reflect on what they learned about African and African American culture from reading the folktales and record their reflections. Reflections should include thoughts about what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the text, how the author’s choice and use of a genre shaped the meaning of the literary work, and what impact literary elements have on the meaning of the text.

Days four and five

  1. Students plan, write, and revise a modern-day folktale of their own, incorporating the same elements found in the African and African American folktales that were previously read. See the handout “Writing a Modern Day Folktale.”
  2. Students have the opportunity to share their stories.

Assessment

There are several assessments throughout this lesson:

  1. Plot maps created by groups demonstrate their understanding of literary elements. They are assessed using the rubric given.
  2. Venn diagrams and student reflections demonstrate their understanding of the unique elements of African and African American folktales from the background information and stories that were read.
  3. Writing modern day folktales demonstrate student understanding of literary elements and the genre of folktale. Folktales are assessed using the rubric given in the writing attachment.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 8
          • 8.RL.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
          • 8.RL.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
          • 8.RL.5 Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.RL.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend...
          • 9-10.RL.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
          • 9-10.RL.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
      • Speaking & Listening

        • Grade 8
          • 8.SL.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. 8.SL.1.1 Come to discussions...
        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.SL.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 8

  • Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives through analysis of personal, social, cultural, and historical issues.
    • Objective 1.03: Interact in group activities and/or seminars in which the student:
      • shares personal reactions to questions raised.
      • gives reasons and cites examples from text in support of expressed opinions.
      • clarifies, illustrates, or expands on a response when asked to do so, and asks classmates for similar expansion.
  • Goal 5: The learner will respond to various literary genres using interpretive and evaluative processes.
    • Objective 5.02: Study the characteristics of literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry) through:
      • reading a variety of literature and other text (e.g., young adult novels, short stories, biographies, plays, free verse, narrative poems).
      • evaluating what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the text.
      • evaluating how the author's choice and use of a genre shapes the meaning of the literary work.
      • evaluating what impact literary elements have on the meaning of the text.