Elements of Fables

Identify and understand the key elements of a fable


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


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


Teaching Methods

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

Assessment Type

Informal Assessment


What You'll Need

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


  • Small Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction


  • 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


Resources in Reach

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



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.


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).



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 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.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

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

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



Kathy Cook
Original Writer

Tonya Abari



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

Email Print Share


- +
Email a link to this page
Share This Page



Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center 

with the support of

The US Department of Education 

ARTSEDGE, part of the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, is generously funded by David Rubenstein.

Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kennedy Center education and related artistic programming is made possible through the generosity of the National Committee
for the Performing Arts and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.

The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
Unless otherwise stated, ArtsEdge materials may be copied, modified and otherwise utilized for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that ArtsEdge and any authors listed in the materials are credited and provided that you permit others to use them in the same manner.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
    Privacy Policy
| Terms and Conditions


You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.