worldtales.pngUnit 5: Hand-Me-Down Tales from Around the World

In this fifth six-week unit of second grade, students use the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson to examine a wide variety of folktales and informational books about the world.

Building on previous units, students write opinions and narratives related to the folktale/world theme of this unit. Students discuss text features as a part of reading of informational text. Although students have compared versions of tales in unit two, they will now compare the narrative to the poetry version, using the story of the Pied Piper. Students develop independent reading skills as they read texts on grade level (and beyond) throughout this unit.
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Theme Essential Question
How are stories and poems alike? How are they different?

Focus Standards for the Unit:
LAFS.2.RI.3.7: Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
LAFS.2.RL.1.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
LAFS.2.SL.2.4 Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.
LAFS.2.SL.1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.
LAFS.2.W.1.3 Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe action, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

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Suggested Objectives:

    • Read poetry, informational text, and literature on grade and stretch levels.
    • Retell folktales from diverse cultures, determining their central message or lesson.
    • Write imaginative narratives in which they tell a well-elaborated story.
    • Ask and answer questions of a guest speaker.
    • Use text features in nonfiction to aid comprehension of the text.
    • Compare a variety of versions of the same story (e.g., versions of Stone Soup), contrasting the differences in story elements and key details.
    • Compare a poetry version and a prose version of the same story (e.g., the Pied Piper legend).
    • Learn the irregular forms of plural nouns.
    • Memorize a poem and record it.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

  • This unit teaches:
    • Music and Dance: Sergei Prokofiev, ballet
    • History and Geography: World geography (e.g., places of origin for folktales: Nigeria, Thailand, Mexico, Peru, etc.; cultural comparisons)

    This unit could be extended to teach:
    • History and Geography: (e.g., e pluribus unum, Ellis Island, etc.)

Sample Activities:

Reading Poetry, Speaking and Listening
Introduce the unit by asking students about using their imaginations to go places. Introduce a poet who lived over one hundred years ago and also loved to go places in his imagination: Robert Louis Stevenson. As a child, he was sometimes sick. While confined to his bed, he created imaginary lands in his head, such as The Land of Counterpane. He also loved the sea. As students read (recite) his poems, have them think about his imagination and how he loved to wonder about the world. (You may want to read and reread his poetry throughout this unit, encouraging the students to look for poetic elements. Most of all, direct children to enjoy the idea of going places in their minds as you read folktales from around the world. Having a large world map to mark the place from which the story comes will give this unit a stronger geography focus.) (RL.2.4)
Art, Speaking and Listening
How can we view folktales in an artistic way? Have students view clips of the ballets provided. After viewing clips of each folktale ballet, discuss with students: “Can you see the storytelling clearly in these works? If so, how? If not, how would you, as a dancer or choreographer, make this clearer for the viewer? Does viewing a folktale, rather than reading it, change the meaning for the viewer? How so?” For background on ballet, see the essay titled “The Ballet” at the Metropolitan Museum. It may be helpful to introduce concepts of ballet through the artworks listed previously. (SL.2.5)
Music, Art, Speaking and Listening
Explain to the students that Sergei Prokofiev is a Russian musical composer who wrote a musical rendition of the folktale called “Peter and the Wolf.” Explain that he used different musical instruments to represent the characters in the story. Compare and contrast different productions of this piece (e.g., animated version, music-only CD, video of the ballet). (RL.2.2, RL.2.6, RL.2.9, SL.2.2)
Narrative Writing, Language Usage, Language Mechanics
Give the students this prompt: “All of the stories we read in this unit were folktales of some kind. Why do you think stories are handed down from one group of people to another? Be sure to support your opinion with strong reasons.” Remind the students that their sentences should have subjects, verbs, and proper end punctuation. (W.2.1)
Reading Literature, Narrative Writing, Language Mechanics
Give the students this prompt: “Write an imaginary narrative telling about a time you passed through a mysterious door and ended up in a different country. The country may be from the folktale unit, from a book you have read, or just a place you want to visit. Be sure to say where you find the door, the country where the door leads, and how you arrive back where you began. Include details to describe action, thoughts, and feelings. Be sure to end your story well, thinking about how authors wrap up stories.” Remind the students that their sentences should have subjects, verbs, and proper end punctuation. (W.2.3, L.2.2a)
Language Usage, Speaking and Listening
After reading “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” do a word activity based on the poem. Collect some plural nouns from the poem. Talk about the singular for each word and how it is made plural (e.g., rats, babies, vats, children, tongues, shoes, and mice). Extend this activity by collecting the plurals of irregular nouns in particular. (L.2.1b)
Reading Literature, Reading Comprehension
Have students select a folktale to read. Provide each student with a piece of plain white paper. Then, give these instructions: "Read a folktale with a partner [a stronger reader can read to a weaker reader, or they can take turns or read chorally]. When you are finished reading the folktale, follow these directions:
  • Fold your paper into fourths.
  • Draw a picture of the main characters in one square.
  • Draw the setting in another square.
  • Draw your favorite part of the plot in another square."
In the last part, write a few sentences describing what you think the folktale is teaching.
Reading Poetry, Performance
Revisit the Robert Louis Stevenson poems, reminding students how they have used their imaginations to visualize the folktale being read and the places being read about (see the first Class Discussion/Poetry activity). Discuss how repeated readings may deepen a poem’s meaning, and challenge the students to memorize one of the poems to share in front of the class. Record the students’ poetry performances with a video camera. (RL.2.4, SL.2.5)
Reading Poetry, Speaking and Listening
Introduce the poem “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning. This poem is a narrative based on a legend that is thought to have happened in Hamelin, Germany. Remind students that a legend is a story in which some things really happened and other things have been exaggerated over time as the story was passed down through generations. Ask the students which parts of the legend are probably true and which events have been exaggerated over time. Read the poem to the children. Give the students an opportunity to retell the story, confirming that they understand the main events of the story. Using a program such as “Comic Life,” allow students to create a comic strip of “The Pied Piper” story told in the narrative poem. (The language in this poem is quite sophisticated. Reading the Kellogg book first will scaffold student comprehension of the poem. It will also provide another opportunity to compare versions.) Ask questions such as: “How many of you think this story could have really happened? What was the story teaching?” (RL.2.2, SL.2.4. L.2.4)
Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening
Read the book Stone Soup (Marcia Brown) aloud to the students. Introduce other versions of the book (e.g., by Muth, Seeger, and Davis). Compare and contrast the versions of the story, using a teacher-created graphic organizer that addresses who, what, where, why, when, and how questions or a graphic organizer that addresses character, setting, plot, and conclusion categories. Encourage student participation by handing each child three sticky notes to use to post information on the graphic organizers. (RL.2.2, RL.2.9)
Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening
Introduce the characteristics of folktales by reading one or two and asking students what the tales have in common. Then, invite speakers to read folktales from home countries. For example, invite someone from Cuba or the Caribbean to read Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale (Carmen Agra Deedy). As the visitor reads the story, have students consider what message the folktale might teach. When the story is over, the speaker could share some information about the country from which the folktale comes. Give an opportunity for students to ask questions about the folktale and the country. (SL.2.3, RL.2.2)
Reading Informational Text, Research
If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People (David Smith) is an informational book packed with rich facts about the world. One of the interesting things about this book is that it shows the world as if it were a village of just one hundred people. Although you may have time for just a few pages, focus on how much information can be learned from the illustrations and text. Keep a list of the information that the students glean from the pages as you read. (RI.2.3, RI.2.6, RI.2.7)
Reading Informational Text, Speaking and Listening
The informational books in this unit are based on themes like shoes or bread. For example, the author of these books, Ann Morris, studied interesting shoes from all around the world, had photographs taken of them, and then published them in a book, Shoes, Shoes, Shoes. As students read the books, ask them to look at the way the book is organized and locate the information about each photograph by using the index. As they study the book, challenge them to find the location on a world map from where those shoes came. To link to geography, give each pair of students a world map to mark as the text moves from one place to another. (After the students have had an opportunity to study multiple books in this series, ask them why they think the author wrote these books for children.) (RI.2.5, RI.2.10, RI.2.6)

Online Resources:

Sample Literacy Block
Reading Workshop
Familiar Reading (15 min)
Word Study (30 min)
Read Aloud (15 min)
Reading Workshop (1 hour)
Book Talk (5 min)
Mini-Lesson (10 min)
Independent Reading-Guided Reading-Independent Research (40 min)
Sharing-Reflection-Feedback (5 min)
Writing Workshop
Writers Talk/Mini-Lesson-Status of the Class (10 min)
Independent Writing/Guided Writing/Investigations (45 min)
Sharing/Reflection/Feedback (5-10 min)

Narrative Poem