It’s Grimm Out There

Raise your hand if you went trick or treating as Cinderella.  If you did, I bet the vision you had of yourself was constructed by Walt Disney not the Grimm Brothers.  Most recall the fairy tales, but do not know the true stories as the Grimm Brothers (Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm) collected and published them in the early 1800s. Cinderella does not quite follow the story that many of us have become familiar with. In this tale the stepmother and the stepsisters are more disturbing than one can imagine as when the evil stepsisters try on the shoe (gold not glass slipper), they sliver off parts of their feet to make them fit.  Yes, that’s right…you read correctly.  They actually cut off parts of their feet per the stepmother’s request.  It is the blood that cues the prince that he has chosen the wrong maidens each time and for their crime of falsehood the stepsisters are punished.  At the wedding of the prince and Cinderella, two pigeons peck out the eyes of the stepsisters, causing the sisters to be blind for the rest of their lives.

Can you imagine your students studying these stories in a unit on fairy tales?  Fairy tales are familiar folk tales that are passed orally through generations and therefore connect students with earlier generations who enjoyed the same tales.  These stories can help students learn about story structure and characterization, as well as about the archetypes and motifs found in these stories.  Lessons learned can be taught throughout the school years.  The perfect lessons for Halloween!!!

Ideas for teaching:

  • Read different versions of the Grimm fairy tale Cinderella, which is a popular fairy tale that has been told around the world in versions slightly different than the U.S. version.  Students can read the story and use a venn diagram to compare and contrast the similarities and differences.  Show students how different cultures tell the stories.
  • Have students write their own versions of fairy tales based on the classics to learn
    story structure.  Stories should include all the basic elements of a story such as setting and plot and some of the elements common to fairy tales such as magic. Have students retell the stories from a different perspective than the one used, such as the villain as retellings increase our comprehension of stories.  Perhaps they could create an illustrated book (maybe electronic) of their story.  Maybe they could film their story into a movie or create a scrapbook chronicling their story.
  • Teach students about archetypes, a character that essentially stays the same over time, such as the wicked witch, the hero, and the princess. Knowing common archetypes increases our abilities as readers to make inferences about characters, thereby increasing our comprehension.
  • Point students to other writings that have been based on the Grimm stories, such as the Sisters Grimm Series, in which two sisters learn they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, whose famous book of fairy tales is actually a history book.  Could be read as a class read aloud or as an independent student SSR book. This series is good for ages 8 and  up

Resources for teaching:

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