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Using Folktale Themes in the Classroom
as the Center of a Unit or Lesson

* A List of Folktale Themes to Investigate

Just as a piece of literature can be the springboard for many related areas of study, a folktale or a folktale theme can also be the center of a lesson plan or a unit that can touch several curriculum areas at once. Learning to retell a folktale from a particular geographical area, for example, may offer insights into the topography, climate, customs, attire, and values of the people who told the story and passed it on. In this way, the thorough study of a particular folktale migrates quickly out of simply the language arts area and ventures into social studies, geography, science and philosophy.

A story with a strong metaphorical meaning could symbolically describe an era in history. For example, Aesop's fable "The Sun and the Wind" celebrates the power of gentleness, and could be used as a springboard to discuss pacifism and violence in either history or current events. Or, folktales told by African captives during the time of slavery in the United States can offer poignant insight into American society and its values.

Since folktales are metaphorical by nature, they have been used traditionally as a teaching device by cultures around the globe. Possibilities to integrate stories into the teaching of contemporary subject matter are endless.

Stories to include in thematic folktale units can be found generally by reading folktales in the 398.2 section of the public library.

* A Storytelling Bookshelf for Teachers

A List of Folktale Themes to Investigate

Since folktales discuss many aspects of life, in metaphor, thematic subjects can be devised to investigate the world of folktales. In some ways folktales celebrate the uniqueness of peoples around the world, but in many ways the commonality of human experience is also revealed.

Folktale Themes:

  • Fables: Animal Stories From Around the World
  • Folktales of the Sea
  • Starlore: Tales of the Night Sky
  • Story Feast: Folktales About Food
  • A Garden of Stories: Folktales About Plants
  • Folktale Heroes and Villains
  • Tall Tales: Stories of Fantasy and Exaggeration
  • Creation Myths From Around the World
  • Folktales of Our Feathered Friends (Bird Stories From Around the World)
  • Trickster Tales From Around the World
  • Cumulative Tales (Stories that include lists to remember)
  • Gender and Story (strong women/nurturing men: Confronting Stereotypes Through Story)
  • Love Stories (folktale and fairytale romance: Courtship Then and Now)
  • Tales of the Supernatural (Ghost Stories from Around the World)
  • The Flowing Story (Water in Myth, Legend and Lore: Sea Stories)
  • Geographical Studies Through Folktales (India, Arctic, Africa, Asia, the Americas etc.)
  • Rites of Passage (Tales of Childhood, Marriage, Parenting, Aging)
  • A Multicultural Celebration Through Folktales (Tales of Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans etc.)
  • The Sky is Falling! Stories About Stories (Rumors, gossip, and exaggeration)
  • Tales of Peace & War
  • Journeys: Folkloric Travel (Mythic, Magical and Ordinary)
  • Tales of Clothing From Around the World (Magical Shoes, Caps and Capes of Invisibility, Changing Clothes/Changing Station in Life)
  • Big and Small: Stories About Size (Giant Tales, Miniature Characters)
  • Rainbow of Tales: Color in Story
  • Topography Tales:
    • Frost and Fantasy—Stories From Arctic Peoples
    • Jungle Expedition—Folktales of the Global Tropics
    • Stories of the Desert

* Storytelling Lesson Plans and Activities

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