Friday, January 30, 2015

Einstein Read Fairy Tales

"You've got to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your prince."
"Sometimes, an ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan."
"He's a regular Pied Piper with those kids!"

     Fairy tales are tightly woven into the fabric of American culture, but fewer and fewer kids read them.  In fact, if it weren't for the Walt Disney movies, a lot of kids would be completely unacquainted with those timeless tales.  What a shame!  Fortunately, though, savvy authors of children's and YA lit are spinning those yarns into literary gold -- and luring young readers back into the Grimm world of make-believe.
Click here to read Chapter One
of Fairest, Marissa Meyers' latest fairy tale rewrite.
But wait!  There's more!

     The following lesson plan sprinkles a trail of bread crumbs back to the enchanted forest.  
Our tour guide?  Rumpelstiltskin.

Day One:  

     As the students read along with Kathleen Turner's wonderful performance for Rabbit Ears Audio, they sharpened their character analysis skills by seeking out text evidence to support inferences about the King:

     Because they are middle school students, we also discussed all sorts of outrageous "wonders" about the plot:

     "If he can spin straw into gold, why does he want her ring and her necklace?"
     "What does he want the baby for?"  (((EW!!!!)))
     "What IS Rumpelstiltskin?"

Day Two:  
     We got out our composition books for a creative writing activity stolen straight from a review of Gary D. Schmidt's Straw into Gold:

"What would have happened if the queen had failed to guess Rumpelstiltskin's name and the odd little man had taken her child? Why did he want the young prince?"  Fast forward ten years into the future and tell the story of the prince who was taken by Rumpelstiltskin.

     The students had a blast entertaining each other with their scary, hilarious, and outright ridiculous visions of the boy's future while I was able to interject questions and observations about setting, point of view, foreshadowing, hyperbole, etc, without their even realizing we were reviewing elements of literature -- (kind of an educational equivalent to slipping the dog's heartworm pill into a Snausage).

     After abundant time to enjoy each other's stories, I sent the students to "Rumpelstiltskin Rewrites," a list of books in which Rumplestiltskin and other fairy tales have been reimagined as YA fiction. 

     This lesson plan works . . . well, like magic with sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. During SSR the following week, students were spotted reading Adam Gidwtiz' A Tale Dark & Grimm, Marissa Meyer's Cinder and Fairest, and a collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales.

For a description of a dream class come true, see An LA Teacher's Dream Come True