/educators/lessons/grade-6-8/Elements_of_a_Fable

Elements of Fables

Identify and understand the key elements of a fable

Overview

Key Staff

This lesson will be taught by a language arts instructor; however, it can also be used in any alternative or supplemental program.

Key Skills

Developing Arts Literacies: Understanding Genres
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture

Summary

This lesson focuses on describing the general literary elements in fables. In this particular lesson, students will recognize the key elements of a fable (moral, character, and figurative language), while applying literal, interpretive, and critical thinking skills to the reading of a fable. Students will also evaluate the text by participating in class discussions and writing exercises.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Interact with the text using the four reading stances: global understanding, developing interpretation, personal reflections and responses, and critical stance
  • Activate prior knowledge and relate it to the reading selection
  • Identify meanings of terms unique to literary language
  • Demonstrate grade-level proficiency to read for literary experience using before, during, and after strategies
  • Respond to literature through writing and discussion

Teaching Approach

Thematic

Teaching Methods

  • Lecture
  • Visual Instruction
  • Self-Paced Learning
  • Direct Instruction

Assessment Type

Informal Assessment

Preparation

What You'll Need

Materials
Resources
Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Speakers
  • Projector
Required Plugins
Technology Notes

There is the possibility of multiple uses of multimedia. Test and prepare all multimedia before each lesson. Facilitator can cut down on paper by playing an audio or visual version of one or more of the listed fables above (see writing fables lesson for links).

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should be familiar with fables and the history of storytelling.

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should be familiar with

  • Fables
  • Sequencing a story
  • Using graphic organizers (sequence chain and Venn diagram)

Students should also have some experience with improvisation.

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Media Center or Library

Grouping

  • Small Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction

Staging

  • Arrange the classroom in a reading/discussion circle
  • Make sure students have no distractions and are seated comfortably
  • For younger students, create a reading circle (teacher sits in a recliner and takes on the role of storyteller, while students sit on a large carpet)
  • Make copies of handouts

Accessibility Notes

  • Struggling readers/ELL = Use the think-aloud strategy with reading the fables
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing = Electronic copy of text
  • Blind/Low Vision, or Mobility Impaired = Audio recording of the text

Instruction

Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Engage
Apply

Engage

Begin with a warm-up that focuses students on the topic (fables, moral lessons, or comparing and contrasting two different things).

1. As a warm-up, ask students to think of different ways that they have tried to acquire something they really want. Prompt them with questions such as the following:

  • Have you ever used flattery to get something you wanted?
  • Did the person you flattered grant your request?
  • What other methods have you used to get something you really wanted?

2. Then, ask students if they have ever read a fable. If so, have them share their prior knowledge of this genre. Explain that fables come from the oral tradition of storytelling found in folklore around the world.

3. Have students play the telephone g ame to experience oral retelling of a story. Whisper a one-line statement into one student's ear and ask each student to pass around the statement (until it reaches the last person). Have the last student stand up and say the statement to the rest of the class.

4. Tell the students what the original statement was and emphasize how stories can change as they are verbally repeated. Then, inform them that they will be learning about the history of storytelling in addition to fables.

5. Distribute and review the 'Vocabulary' Handout. Give some background information on the history of storytelling. Point out that many fables were eventually written down.

6. Tell the students that fables are a special kind of tale. In most fables, animal characters act like humans (personification). Explain that a fable teaches a moral (or lesson) about humans. Also, emphasize that a moral is drawn from what happens in a fable.

7. Read aloud (or show brief clip of) Aesop’s 'The Ant and the Dove'. Teachers can find this on a streaming video site such as YouTube or TeacherTube. Making copies of the story (for students to follow along) is highly recommended.

Build Knowledge

Students will learn the elements of a fable as well as the basic components of reading a fable.

1. Review with students the elements of a fable: characters, setting, events and a moral. In most fables the characters are animals. These animals usually represent specific human qualities (personification).

2. Review the concept of a moral. Tell students that fables are meant to teach a lesson or moral. The moral is usually revealed at the end of the fable. Sometimes the moral is delivered as a statement, such as "Be happy with what you have," or "It is easier to think up a plan than to carry it out."

3. Ask students to re-read The Ant and the Dove and have them orally identify the characters, setting, and moral of the story (the moral is already provided).

4. Tell students that they will be reading more fables individually and that they must be able to identify key elements of the fables.

Apply

1. Divide the class into pairs and have the students engage in an improvisation activity. The students should think of a scenario in which one person wants very badly to obtain something (tickets to a rock concert, a tasty dessert, an extension for a homework assignment, etc.). The other person has the power to grant or deny the request. The first person's job is to convince his or her partner to grant the wish.

2. Allow students to improvise for about a minute. Then, tell the students to switch places in the scene, with the other student trying to convince his or her partner to fulfill the request. (The student can choose a different desire to pursue.) Again, allow the students time to improvise for about a minute.

3. Bring the students back into the group and have them discuss the exercise.

  • What techniques did they use to convince their partners to grant their desires?
  • Did they use flattery? Humor? Begging? Bargaining? Intimidation?
  • Which strategies were most successful?

4. Next, have student read, listen, or watch two of Aesop’s fables.

5. Tell them to think about key literary elements of fables as they read. Following the reading, help develop comprehension skills by having students answer the questions about the fables on the accompanying 'Thinking About Fables' handout located within the Resource Carousel. (Elements of fables: Characterization, morals, personification).

Reflect

1. Have students discuss answers to all questions on the 'Thinking About Fables' handout (for both fables read).

2. Review the elements of a fable and the history of storytelling.

Assess

Assess the student's work by grading the work completed on the 'Thinking About Fables' handout.

Extend the Learning

1. Ask students to imagine that the crow was too smart to fall for the fox's flattery. Have each student think up one humorous line the fox might use to get the crow to drop the cheese. Re-read the story to the class using some of the students' lines. After doing this, ask the students to write an alternative conclusion in which the crow eats all of the cheese instead of dropping it.

2. Encourage students to read other fables by Aesop and fables from other authors. Allow time to share them with the class, challenging the other students to figure out the moral before it is stated.

3. Remind students that fables are stories that are told time and time again. Storytellers told fables over and over again. As they were retold over the years, they evolved in content, emphasis, and style. To illustrate the process of adaptation by individual storytellers, have several volunteers retell the story of "The Cat and the Mice." Allow them to change details, but not the main point. Explain that the process of retelling stories resulted in different versions of the same fable.

4. Have the class engage in a storytelling activity. Ask students to imagine that they are spellbinding tellers of tales. Have them choose a favorite fable and retell it in their own words before a group. Before they retell the fable, students should list the events in the fable in the order in which they occur on a sheet of paper or on note cards. They may use the list or note cards to practice telling the fable. As they deliver their fables, ask each student to vary his or her presentation. For example, tell them to change their pitch or volume of voice, or the speed of delivery.

Standards

The Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment through a set of common learning goals and assessments. In 2010, Standards were released for English language arts and mathematics. Common standards have not yet been released for science, social studies, and other subject areas, including the arts. In addition, some states have yet to, or have chosen not to, adopt the Common Core standards.

During this transitional period, ArtsEdge will present all relevant state and nationals standards as they apply to our lessons.

National Standards for Arts Education

For the full text of the content and achievement standards in Arts Education, visit our Standards section.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Theater

Grade 5-8 Theater Standard 2: Acting by developing basic acting skills to portray characters who interact in improvised and scripted scenes

Grade 5-8 Theater Standard 7: Analyzing, evaluating, and constructing meanings from improvised and scripted scenes and from theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 2: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing

Language Arts Standard 3: Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions

Language Arts Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Language Arts Standard 6: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

Language Arts Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

Credits

Writers

Kathy Cook
Original Writer

Tonya Abari
Adaptation

Sources

Print:

Zipes, Jack (ed.) and J. J. Grandville (ill.). Aesops Fables. "The Cat and the Mice." New York: New American Library, 1992. p.183.

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