Lesson plan

Elements of Traditional Literature

Teach your class about the genre of traditional literature, made up of stories from around the world that have been told for generations. In this lesson, students will read fairy tales and compare story elements in each piece of literature.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Exploring Fictional Text pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Exploring Fictional Text pre-lesson.

Students will be able to recognize the elements of fictional text.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  1. Tell students that today, they will be learning about genres of literature called fairy tales, folktales, and fables. These genres are all examples of fictional Traditional Literature.
  2. Discuss new vocabulary, and what each word means. Traditional Literature comes from all different countries, and is comprised of stories that were passed orally, through telling stories aloud, from generation to generation. Fables are stories that contain a lesson or moral, such as The Tortoise and the Hare.
  3. Explain to students that The Tortoise and the Hare is a fable because it has a strong moral. The moral of the story is that taking time to do something right, rather than rushing it, means you will do it better.
  4. Show the class the folktales and fairy tales you will be talking about today.
(10 minutes)
  • Start by looking at folktales and fairy tales together.
  • Tell your students that folktales and fairy tales are similar, so they have many things in common. Ask students to name a few fairy tales that they’re familiar with.

Once you have a list of fairy tales from students, write a list of common elements that are found in fairy tales and folktales, including:

  • Special numbers (things usually happen in 3s or 7s)
  • Magic
  • Use of specific language (“Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after”)
  • Animals that talk, think, act, and feel like people
  • Takes place in the past
  • Good character and bad character (good vs. evil)
  • Teach a lesson
  • Royalty
  • Love

  • Tell students that not all fairy tales and folktales have all of these elements, but many do.
  • Using the chart attached, revisit the story of Tony’s Bread by Tomie dePaola.
  • Fill in a few of the elements for the class, backing up your assertions with evidence from the book.
(5 minutes)
  • Encourage the class to help you finish filling out the elements chart for Tony’s Bread. Students should discuss how they know the story has certain elements using text evidence.
(30 minutes)

This independent working time will be completed in small groups.

  • Divide students up into five groups, and assign each group a different fairy tale to read and analyze.
  • Each group will take turns reading their fairy tale, and discussing which elements their book has from the Fairy Tale Chart.
  • Once they have finished reading their fairy tale, each group should fill out the chart for their story.
  • Students who finish first should read independent reading books until everyone finishes.
  • As they read, ask students to look for elements in their independent reading books to see if the books are examples of Traditional Literature.
  • Enrichment: Students who need a challenge can read two fairy tale texts and compare/contrast the stories by discussing the fairy tale elements that they may or may not contain.
  • Support: Students who need additional help should analyze shortened versions of the above fairy tales with easier text. As a variation, you can place these students in a group with the above level students so that they can work together to read on-level texts.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students together and ask them to present their findings.
  • Discuss their answers with the class, and fill in the remainder of the chart for each fairy tale together.
(5 minutes)
  • Remind students to always think about elements a story has in order to determine if it is a fairy tale, folktale, or fable.

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