/educators/lessons/grade-3-4/Cinderella Trilogy

ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Cinderella Trilogy

A cross-cultural examination of the Cinderella story. Do you know the other Cinderellas?


Key Staff

Classroom teacher, with possible support from art teacher and/or librarian.

Key Skills

Creative Thinking: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture


Students will compare and contrast three culturally distinct variations of the Cinderella folktale: “Rhodopis,” the Egyptian version; “Yeh-Shen,” the Chinese version; and “The Hidden One,” the Native American version. Through class discussion and hands-on activities, students will explore storytelling traditions, categories of folktales, and the basic components of fairy tales. Students will also learn about the cultures represented by each Cinderella tale through small group projects.

Learning Objectives

  • Explore storytelling traditions.
  • Explore components of a fairy tale.
  • Compare and contrast three culturally different versions of the Cinderella Story.
  • Research and present projects on each culture and country.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Hands-On Learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Research

Assessment Type

Informal Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Learner
Technology Notes

You will need Internet access.

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Cinderella is found in more cultures than any other fairy tale. In this lesson, students will read three versions from other cultures and compare them with the familiar Perrault version, while gaining an understanding of the structure of a fairy tale.

  • The Egyptian Cinderella, Rhodopis, is thought to be the oldest Cinderella story, dating back nearly 2000 years.
  • Yeh-Shen , (also spelled Yeh-hsien), the Chinese version, is thought to be the first written Cinderella story dating approximately from the year 850 A.D.
  • The Hidden One , (also known as The Rough-Face Girl) is the Native American story told by several tribes of the Northeast.

Prior Student Knowledge

It’s very likely that students will know the Cinderella story, but they may be most familiar with one of these versions:

  • Disney’s Cinderella
  • Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandi and Whitney Houston
  • Perrault’s Cinderella
  • The Brother’s Grimm’s Cinderella

Students will also probably be familiar with other fairy tales, such as “Jack and the Beanstalk,”  “Sleeping Beauty,” or “Puss in Boots.”

Physical Space

Computer Lab


  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


Students will be divided into small groups to work on one of the stories. Having students choose a slip of paper from a hat (or similar object) is an easy way to randomize groups. Prepare paper slips with the names of each of the three stories. Have equal numbers of slips for each story, totaling at least the number of students in the class (so, for a class of 22 students, you’d make eight slips for each story).

Accessibility Notes

Consider pairing struggling/striving readers with more able readers for the group work.


Resources in Reach

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

Build Knowledge


1. Ask students to name some of their favorite fairy tales and write them on the board. Since you’ll use these to make a chart later on, write them with this future use in mind, making a list down the side of the board. Keep these names on the board throughout the lesson. If students don’t list Cinderella, suggest it.

2. Explain to students that the fairy tales with which we are familiar today were first told long ago by storytellers. The basic framework of the story was passed down through generations. These stories were not written down, so they changed as new people told them. As each story traveled, it changed to reflect the culture and customs of the new tellers. As a result, there are many versions of popular fairy tales throughout the world.

3. Create a simple chart on the board where students can explore the essential components of a fairy tale. Examine the list of stories on the board from Step 1. Have students discuss story elements that these fairy tales have in common. Examples should include:

  • An unspecified time and place for the setting (“once upon a time”)
  • Characters who are either good or evil (kind or cruel)
  • The presence of magic (powers, events, beings)
  • A happy ending for the good characters
  • Justice for the evil characters

Write these characteristics in spaces across the top of the board, making a table of tales and components. Ask whether each component is true for each listed story (“Does The Ugly Duckling have a happy ending?”), and check them off as they are confirmed, to make sure that the suggested components actually characterize fairy tales generally.

4. Have the students retell their favorite fairy tale, changing the story to reflect their own time and place. Have students work in pair and then allow volunteers to present their new stories to the class, as time allows. Encourage students to tell different stories, and be sure that each student varies the story in a different way. As an alternative, you may wish to lead the class in a collective adaptation of the Cinderella story.

Build Knowledge

1. Have students read the three versions of Cinderella, individually or in groups.

2. Once students have read each story, have them compare and contrast the different versions using the interactive Venn Diagram, located within the Resource Carousel. If there aren’t enough computers for all the students, have students skip to step 3 and then pull students out to complete the interactive Venn Diagram. They can print their results for grading.

3. Have each student draw a slip from the prepared bowl to choose which fairy tale they will be working on. Have students gather in the groups determined by the slips

4. Have students research the cultural background of one of the stories. Activity Sheets for each story, Rhodopis, Yeh-Shen and the Hidden One, have three activities intended to lead students to learn more about the culture represented by the story. Let each student choose one activity and work with other students from the group on that activity, so that each group may produce as many as three projects. Activity Sheets are located within the Resource Carousel.

Explain to students that each fairy tale comes from a different culture. In order to better understand the culture and the country of origin, they will conduct research using online and print resources. Allow students at least 1-2 periods to complete their research; they may also complete it as homework. Use the websites listed in each handout for research.


1. Have students create projects described on the Info and Activity Sheets. Each sheet offers three activities designed to encourage research. The information students gather is then used to create an art work. Within the randomly-selected story groups, let each student choose the activity they’d prefer to work on. All students who have chosen a given activity can work together to complete it. Allow 1-2 class periods for research and creation. Some research may also be done as homework.

2. Have students present the results of their projects to the class.


1. Discuss how the differences in the cultures affected the stories arising from those cultures. Note the differences between the Cinderella stories from other cultures and the familiar version(s) of the Cinderella story. For example, in The Hidden One, the Cinderella character expects to make her own clothing and only asks for materials, and she helps to prepare the evening meal when she visits her bridegroom-to-be. How does this differ from Cinderella at the Prince’s ball?

2. Assessment students on their participation in classroom discussions and group research. Students should demonstrate, in class discussion, their understanding of storytelling traditions and the elements of a fairy tales.

In their research, students should demonstrate good research techniques and the ability to use online sources. The written research should use correct grammar and sentence structure. After the oral presentations, students should engage in a question-and-answer session about each culture and country. Use the Assessment Rubric to assess your students' work. You may find a copy of the Assessment Rubric in the Resource Carousel.

The Venn Diagram can also be printed out for grading.

Extended Learning

Invent a modern day Cinderella story that takes place in your town. Write the story only up to the point where the evil characters leave the hero or heroine alone at home while they go to a special event. Now switch papers with a classmate so that another writer finishes your story.

Create a Google Lit Trip for Cinderella, showing how the story has traveled around the world. Include all the Cinderella stories you can find.


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
National Standards in Other Subjects



Diane Messina
Original Writer

Rebecca Haden

Works Cited

Ai-Ling, Louie. Yeh-Shen. New York: Philomel Books, 1982. Climo, Shirley. The Egyptian Cinderella. Harper Collins Publishers: 1989. Martin, Rafe. The Rough-Face Girl. Putnam & Grossett Book Group, 1992. Sierra, Judy. Cinderella—The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series. New York: Oryx Press, 1992.

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