Picture of student walking across a sloped swab holding a tamborine with the picture book Three Billy Goats Gruff. Picture of a rice box with pics from the story and a sequence board and a caption stating Fairy Tales Fun

Fairy Tales: Fun Lessons That Students Will Love

Fairy Tales are great to teach a range of goals. Incorporating drama, play, songs, instruments and technology; they can be so much fun. Have you considered this strategy as part of shared reading for teaching comprehension, extending comprehension or assessing? I love to use music, pictures and props to teach retell. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Fairy Tales – Selecting the Books

First things first. When teaching to sequence a story we need to select picture books that have a very clear beginning, problem and resolution, with only a few characters.  With this in mind, I love to teach Fairy Tales. Last year I used the following stories as part of a 7 week unit (the last 3 weeks was Christmas focused otherwise the whole ten weeks would have been Fairy Tales).

  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Jack and the Bean Stalk
  • Where the Wild Things Are (ok not technically a fairy tale but I usually include it in this group)
  • The Jolly Postman – I adapt this and have it as the last book of the theme. It summarises the other stories beautifully and it ends in a party!

Another obvious Fairy Tales choice would be ‘The Gingerbread Man’, but I had just used this book as part of a different theme. Cinderella can be fun too. I did that one several years ago when I had mostly higher functioning students. We did some great dance routines at the ball!

Plan the Week

I typically have the same format each week and follow the ‘I do’, ‘We do’, ‘You do’ when it comes time to sequence using props, instruments, pictures and technology.

Monday – Introduce the Fairy Tale; Predict from cover and throughout

Tuesday – characters and settings – have 5 pictures printed and laminated and introduce here, the pictures will be used to sequence as we go

Wednesday – problem – ‘I do’ – I model the retell with some props and sequence the laminated pictures. I also sequence on Boardmaker Online with minimal input from the students.

Thursday – solution – rules for retell – ‘We do’ – we do the retell in circle with the students. Where appropriate or suitable the students stand. We complete the Boardmaker Online sequencing activity together.

Friday – review the retell rules; teacher tells the story using the Boardmaker Online pictures first. We check the Boardmaker Online sequence then – ‘You do’. The students act out the retell with more movement (and or musical instruments) with decreasing levels of prompt as able.

I incorporated musical instruments with each Fairy Tale as appropriate and songs along with dress ups and props. The songs I use are from the wonderful Peter Combe Classic Fairy tales. These are widely available so search your go to music purchasing site. Where able, I got the kids up and moving. One of the most enjoyed was our interpretation of  ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’.

An example using The Three Billy Goats Gruff Fairy Tale

Day one, I played a big drum during the repeated lines. I had 5 pictures in front of the students and I sequenced utilising Boardmaker online.

The next day the students took turns playing the drum. I sequenced the pictures with minimal input from the kids.

On the third day we each had an instrument. We listened to the song story and played the instruments only during the chorus. Great to practice following instructions and core language, ‘stop’, ‘listen’, ‘go’ or ‘play’. The kids played a bigger role in sequencing the pictures then we checked on line.

On Day four the students sequenced the pictures with less support and walked up to the IWB to help match or sequence the pictures. I also utilised two large solid foam wedges, put together a ‘bridge’ and I modelled how to walk up the ‘bridge’, stop, play the instrument and then walk down the other side. We then supported the students to do the same.

Single photo of a student walking across two triangle shaped large swabs, holding an instrument with adult supporting her. In front of the swabs standing is as 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff' Fairy Tale book.

As the ‘goat’ played a tambourine, the rest of us sang a snippet of the ‘Billy Goat Gruff song’ as follows: “don’t eat me up, don’t eat me up, there’s a bigger billy goat coming soon, don’t eat me up, please Mr Troll, let me go”. They then walked down the other side. One student who couldn’t walk up the ramp, played the part of the Troll and banged on the drum as the adult supporting him said the line “who’s that trip trapping on my bridge”. Of course, a Big Mack Switch would have been great too!

The last day the students knew what to expect and all participated as independently as possible. They enjoyed it so much we ended up doing it again the following week.

Boardmaker Online Sequencing of Fairy Tales

I made 5 pictures using the sequencing board on Boardmaker Online for the Fairy Tales. I then printed these pictures out, laminated and applied Velcro. The printed pictures are used during reading and the online version after reading. Having the same pictures from the online sequencing available offline means they can also be used for assessment if wanted, away from the technology, for individual students. They can also be used for students who are at a matching level to walk to the IWB to locate the next picture in the sequence. The following week the pictures are used in task boxes/sensory boxes as an extension to the story. I also leave the picture sequence strip and pictures out with the book and props for the children to ‘play’ and extend as they wish.

You can access and download the sequencing for the Fairy Tales to your Boardmaker Online Account and print out or access the sequences to play online for the ones that I have created so far here: The Three Billy Goats Gruff; The Three Little Pigs; Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk. When you hit play the sequence will be jumbled. As each picture is dragged into its place an audio statement will say “that’s right” and read what is on the label or it will say “No, try again”. It will let students try one more time. If incorrect it will self correct.

Have Fun

It is essential that all staff are enthusiastic and have fun during the Fairy Tales retell unit. That way the students gain confidence. It is about participation, social skills, taking risks as much as it is about sequencing and retelling the story. For those that are ready to sequence a story, the multi-modal approach is a great way to teach and assess. Others may be matching pictures or following one-part instructions such as ‘put on’, ‘touch this’; answering a range of Blanks questions or using a switch or AAC. If you’re new to AAC I invite you to check out this post.

Dramatic and Musical Fairy Tale retells are fun therefore they create great opportunities for learning, no matter what the goals are. They are easily differentiated to meet a range of needs so perfect for early years rooms or self-contained classrooms and special school settings.

Have a try. Your students may well surprise you.

Aroha, Ann

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