"And the lesson of this story is...": Learning from Folk Tales and Fairy Tales

"And the lesson of this story is...": Learning from Folk Tales and Fairy Tales
Dolley Madison: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Many popular American fairy tales were written and widely published during Dolley Madison’s lifetime, often in Europe.  Usually these stories had an educational purpose as well as an entertaining one, because they all “taught” lessons about life – the difference between good and evil, proper respect for one’s elders, and the value of ideas like honesty, hard work, and sympathy for those who are treated badly. One would expect that as a young girl, Dolley heard such stories, read to her by her mother.  In turn, then, Dolley undoubtedly read some of these tales to her son.


In this lesson, students will learn some of the history of folk tales and fairy tales, and their importance in teaching life lessons.  Students will respond by writing or drawing a contemporary folk tale of their own to be bound in a book to share with others. 

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Word processor (or paper and writing utensil).  Drawing computer program (or paper and coloring utensils).


1. Locate a book of fairy tales.  For older students, the stories by Davy Crockett may be more appropriate.  The links listed in sources under websites may be sufficient for your sample.

2. Have the students read the story or read it with/to them. (Teachers may decide to make this assignment a small-group effort, depending on the level of their students).

3. For younger students, have them draw a picture (using computer software or paper and crayons) of their favorite part of the tale.  Instruct older students to write a fairy tale of their own (using a word processor or paper and writing utensil.)

4. Compile a book of folk/fairy tales drawn or written by the students for distribution in the school.

Extending the Lesson:

Encourage students to read or share their fairy tales to the entire class.  Students could also read one fairy tale a week to the class.

Sources & Resources:


        Grimm's Fairy Tales
           *This site provides the stories through audio for younger students or deaf students

        Mother Goose
        Example of tales to download as e-books

        Grimms’ Fairy Tales for younger students with good animation and audio

        Davy Crockett

This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.