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Junior High Creative Writing Activity: A Fractured Fairy Tale

Children hear and read fairy tales at a young age. When they reach late elementary and junior high school age, they can explore and discover inconsistencies in fairy tales i.e. Goldilocks breaks into the Bears’ house and vandalizes it. Here is a creative writing activity in the form of a parody.

This is the most popular creative writing activity in our junior high class. This plan has worked well for me as a junior high teacher, but I think could be used with upper elementary students. I think it can be modified and meet the needs of younger and older students.

We use Jon Sczieska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf as a model of a parody.

The unit plan includes:

Process

Reading the story to the class and brainstorm differences between the original and this version? Most students are familiar with the original story of The Three Little Pigs, but have it on hand if someone is unfamiliar with the story.

What fairy tales are students familiar with? Brainstorm and create a list. What parodies of fairy tales are they familiar with? Have they seen Shrek? What makes Shrek different from other fairy tales? Students may recognize Shrek as a parody of the genre and has features and structure of a fairy tale while it spoofs the genre in various ways.

What twists can be used to rewrite a fairy tale i.e roles of antagonist and protagonists or plot events? Some examples students have shared include what if the third little pig refused his siblings refuge to teach them a lesson where would they stay?  Could the pigs organize a pig posse to run the wolf out-of-town?  Would they have become ‘ham jam’?  What about the story from the wolf’s perspective?  What if the wolf were a vegan?

What other fairy tales are students familiar with?  Brainstorm and make a list. This helps students choose a fairy tale to rewrite. Choose a familiar fairy tale and brainstorm ways to ‘fracture.’ We have used Cinderella. The list can offer starters for students and could also be used in the parody of another fairy tales. What if…

  • Cinderella has beautiful step sisters?
  • The prince cannot dance?
  • Cinderella is a homebody who likes to cook, sew, and clean and is not interested in attending the ball?
  • The magic wand is defective and does not get the spell right?
  • Cinderella does not want to get married?
  • Cinderella wants a car and not a carriage?
  • Etc…

Brainstorm elements fairy tales share and create a graphic organizer to hand out. Some features have included:

  • Once upon a time…
  • Good vs. evil
  • Beautiful heroine and handsome prince
  • Magic/supernatural
  • Personification
  • …live happily ever after
  • Etc…

Students can ‘fracture’ a fairy tale and change stories in unexpected, clever, and humourous ways by altering characters, modifying language, using a modern context, etc. The fairy tales still remain true to their original forms despite changes.

Here are sites to find fairy tales or refresh memories about the fairy tales students choose: Story Nory, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Ivy Joy. Some sites include other genres i.e. fables. Stick to fairy tales as they are well-suited for this project.

Students include an outline or web and a rough draft. Peers or teachers can proofread the story so students can edit.

Final Product

A picture book format is popular. The authors of the picture book can read to their stories to younger students.

Words of caution

  • This is not a yearlong project
  • Students  need to choose something of a manageable length.
  •  Usually the audience is younger. Students should use appropriate language and images, keep the book short i.e 20 pages, and use large font.

Assessment

I use this activity to assess creative writing, sharing orally, and finding appropriate images for the story and the audience. As well, there are brainstorming, proofreading, and editing.

Questions

What engaging writing activities do other teachers use in their classrooms? What changes can be used for older and younger students? What other assessment purposes can you think of for this type of activity?

About ivonprefontaine

I have been an educator for almost 20 years. Prior to that, I worked in private industry for 15 years, then returned to university to earn my education degree. For the past 11 years, I have been a co-creator of learning in a unique, progressive, alternative educational school of choice. Currently, I am engaged in a doctoral program at Gonzaga University in Spokane. A main theme in my learning there has been the roles of systems thinking, complexity theory, and organizational theory, and how they apply to education generally and the learning environment I share with students, parents, and colleagues.

99 responses »

  1. Pingback: A Note « Teacher as Transformer

  2. JK Bevill - Lost Creek Publishing

    Reblogged this on lost creek publishing and commented: :-)

    Reply
  3. A very nice technique…I like the suggestions that ignite the creative process!

    Reply
  4. How wonderful that the students appreciate the lessons! I’m sure they love their teacher!

    Reply
  5. Wonderful-I used to use this unit too! However, when I taught the K-2’s I found quite a few of them did not have the background of the original story. We had to read the original, internalize it and then go on.

    Reply
    • It is interesting that this is a unit for younger children. I have wondered if their lack of background with the stories did not create a problem. It sounds like you adapted the plan to meet that need. Thank you for the comment Sarah.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for the wonderful links Ivon. Those sites are awesome! :-)

    Reply
  7. Oh how I love to be your student. I enjoy creative writing in many forms. When I was in a creative writing poetry challenge with just 5 mins given, I didn’t write anything on my own. Instead I combined two poems with two lines from each poem alternately, it was like a person questioning and another person answering them. The staff appreciated me ’cause I was fidgeting with tension and anxiety when my name was called out.

    Reply
    • That sounds like an interesting idea for students. Many junior high students are unsure about what to create and giving them something like what you did would help overcome some of that.

      Reply
  8. Awesome post! Thanks… :) Bette

    Reply
  9. Ivon,

    I KNOW you will not want to miss my post this coming Monday 20th May, it will illustrate a Teachers role and impact as a transformer VERY well indeed …. :)

    Reply
  10. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    This sounds fantastic – I love this.

    You’ve brought me recall of a Hans Christen Anderson book my sister had in childhood, and being a hoarder, still has. She has swap cards we had in the orphanage!!

    That book though, I absolutely pored over. It had wonderful drawings. And oh, The Little Match Girl and The Red Shoes, I adored. Adored.

    You’re a great teacher, I reckon.

    Reply
  11. I am a former teacher, most recently a college instructor in developmental reading and English. This is a fabulous activity! I wish I’d known about it before I retired.

    Reply
  12. Observant analysis

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  13. Hi ! Thanks for the like on my blog ” Native American Indian Pottery” From the comments on your post you are a well like teacher. I am not a teacher but when in England I was invited to schools and museums to talk about Roman pottery to the l2 year age. The feed back from them was fantastic. From then on I knew how it felt to be a teacher and appreciated them more than I did when at school myself. Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Reply
    • You are welcome Rita. Thank you for stopping and leaving the lovely comment. I think we are all teachers in some way. Art is a form of teaching that I think is immeasurable and it brings such delight to the world.

      Reply
  14. Reblogged this on Reason & Existenz and commented:
    Great exercise!

    Reply
  15. Your blog reminds me of Frank McCourt’s approach to creative writing based on the student excuses found in a teacher’s desk. Most of the were quite fanciful. He set the kids to developing better and better excuses for missing class, tardiness, etc.

    My high school had a wonderful English teacher. His approach to poetry was to start with Limericks. He’d recite a few. the kids would laugh and then he’s invite them to write a better Limerick. Before anyone noticed he’d escalate into more serious poetry. the kids (all boys) actually liked it. You are an inspiration!

    Glad you liked the pictures from QC. I have several older blogs on Halifax that might interest you, along with book reviews. Nation is considered a young adult book.

    God Bless,

    Don

    Reply
  16. Thank you for visiting and liking my blog. Love this entry of yours and will share it with my daughter who is about to embark on a career of teaching languages. She’ll love it.

    Reply
  17. Just shared on FB & Twitter. THANKS, again!

    Reply
  18. I wanted to say thank you for re-posting my poem You Were Talking About Bliss. I really do consider that at the high end of compliments that someone would want to share one of my poems with theuir readers and their site space. Thank you again. />KB

    Reply
  19. Sir, you have a great blog, I will catch as many of your posts as I have the time to. Thank you for the work you do, not just on this blog but also in your teaching and for learning more skills at the university. You do sound like an interesting person, I am looking forward to your posts.

    ted

    Reply
  20. Oh!! I love this story….told from the Wolf’s point of view. Yes! He was framed and so misunderstood. If I remember correctly, he just wanted a cup of sugar and it was the pigs who overreacted? It wasn’t his fault that he kept sneezing that day, and he really did not intend to blow their houses down..
    There’s another one that I love (I forgot the name of the book). It’s about what happened AFTER the princess kissed the frog and he turned into a prince. She married him, but deep inside he was still a frog. She finally realized how unhappy he was being a human….when she came into a room and found him jumping on the furniture….and licking their lily pad wall paper. Haha!
    Wonderful creativity!

    Reply
    • Thank you Mary. I used Shrek as the prototype. Most students had seen one of the series and it helped them write the parody. As well, it was designed to look at the world through a different, unexpected perspective.

      Reply
  21. This is one of my favorite books that we own for my daughter! I actually think this is a great activity for older students as well. I teach Communication Studies and these are fun activities to get students thinking about perspective, miscommunication and the importance of considering audience in message creation. I haven’t used it in a while, but will definitely be pinning this to my idea board for teaching. Right now I’m teaching Argumentation and Debate and this could be a good way of presenting the idea of “two sides (or more) to every story/argument”. :) Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • It would definitely fit into that type of context. I have seen similar lesson plans used from Grade 2 and up with this concept so I think you are absolutely right that it can be done with children/students at a variety of ages with modifications.

      Reply
  22. Taught 33 years Miami Dade minority inner city schools high school history. Except for college bound most 2-5 years below grade level so mandated special writing and reading assignments in lessons plans to document lessons. (What do they think social studies teachers do all day in the class anyway?). One lesson I used was to take a pic from a mag of some event, post on board and had kids write just 3 paragraphs: what is going on, how did it come about, how will it end. Then during the course of the week I would call up 8 a day for one on one edit and then rewrite assignment. Probably the most productive thing I ever did. Most teachers taught the standard lessons the standard way with standards tests and naturally half the kids failed. I always tried to design something a kid could do to earn a C especially art/history projects. Saw no sense in failing everyone as underachievers.

    Reply
    • Thank you for a great comment and insight into what can happen in classrooms. Students thrive on things that connect with them in their learning and, more importantly, people who connect with them. The one-on-one time from a caring adult might have been the only time they had an adult pay attention to something they did.

      Reply
  23. I used to lecture on Fairy Tales (to adults, businesses, etc.). Under STORY POEMS, on my blog, you can see a couple of the shorter tales. Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, etc. Just in case you’re interested. The stories are for all ages. I self-published a book, BLACK CAT TALES, so that people could have the stories, if they wanted them. I just took them to lectures with me.

    Reply
  24. WONDERFUL post. Thank you.

    Reply
  25. o super. Just super duper. Right down my wooded lane, and off into the forest. I recently finished (last week) a 3K revisiting Cinderelly, and have since outlined a fun, second approach. I like the term fractured fairy tales! That sounds officially “right”…for these slightly off bits.

    Is it? Is it a coin of your own…

    A lot of fun. Any way you look through this Once Upon’a…

    Reply
    • No, I did not coin the term. I modified a Grade 2 activity for junior high school students and used materials a colleague provided to make it work. Students looked forward to it each year and quite often modified previous writing from the year before.

      Reply
    • Thank you. I must confess it was not my idea initially. I modified an activity another teacher used, but the students loved it and would ask about it at the beginning of the year. Returning students had the upper hand as they would use previous year’s learning as a foundation.

      Reply
      • You are Welcome! As long as the thought is provoked and boundaries get moved around or removed completely I believe it’s excessively important. I am every grateful to my 11th grade teacher for allowing me freedom after years of being a slave to format. Making the decision to include such an exercise, to me, is brilliant.

      • Your second last sentence is intriguing. My dissertation topic is about pedagogy that includes the lived experiences of the learners, including the teacher, in the classrooms. We each bring an autobiography to learning which includes our personal curriculum.

      • I feel that it was very humanizing and the curriculum because instantly more relevant since I was permitted to relate to it in any which way I saw fit. I also retained the skills which were being emphasized and did not feel uncomfortable with my own ability and desire to grow as a student in turn. It was a turning point because I started to become self motivated at that point and stopped performing out of fear of failure. I developed a better sense of self.

  26. “Loved” to read this story to young ones as it presents another point of view and always generates meaningful discussion. How fortunate your students are to have such an informed and creative teacher!
    Best!

    Reply
  27. Ivon – thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope we can visit each other often. This is a terrific perspective and sounds like it would be a lot of fun to teach. Makes me think how We act out fairy tales in real life as drama triangles. What a great way for kids and adults to see the roles they might be playing! Thank you for the inspiration.

    Reply
  28. I did one on the seven dwarfs and their problems. It is in my archives. Give it a read and let me know what you think?

    Reply
    • It looks good. Once we got past the presentation of the idea, students could choose the fairy tale they wanted to fracture. I don’t recall them using the seven dwarfs. Popular ones were Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Princess and the Pea.

      I could what you have done working quite well for junior high students. I was surprised by how many students were not familiar with fairy tales so this enriched their lives that way.

      Reply
  29. I did parody on Jack and Beanstalk. Why is the psycho Mr Entitlement played as a children’s roll model? He is a sneaky thief and murderer raised by a greedy mother niether with any conscience . Hey, it was the poor giant that was the victim.

    Reply
  30. Re: fairy tales – perhaps being simple in their delivery. Children one hundred years ago enjoyed fairy stories without much ado to how they were delivered… I enjoyed fairy tales 40 years ago for the same reason. children in India grow up roughly – pulled around and bullied even but for sure they are happier with their lot than their western counterparts… ;)

    eve

    Reply
    • I was always surprised how few of my students had a background in fairy tales, so the unit served the purpose of introducing them to a wonderful genre in a fun way. Thank you for an insightful comment Eve.

      Reply
  31. Most effective and creative approach ! You are a great educator,my friend !!!
    Warm regards,
    Doda

    Reply
  32. Why I love Terry Pratchett, love all stories from mythology to fairy tales.

    Reply
  33. Thanks for visiting my site again Ivon, that Walter really is a rascal, he may yet turn up again perhaps in a few months time. Keep up your excellent work. Joe

    Reply
  34. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I love the ideas he came up with!

    Reply
  35. I remember a cartoon when I was young that often had fractured fairy tales. They were hilarious. This is such a fun way for your students to explore the changes one simple alteration can make to a story.

    Reply
  36. I wish I’d read this post before I retired from teaching writing! However, I had a few really good ways to get students to write (will share if interested).
    I miss all the fun and creativity that came from my students’ explorations on paper.

    Reply
  37. Well, I found out why I wasn’t getting your posts. You were another person who was erased from my Reader. I don’t know how many are gone. This is a wonderful post.

    Reply
  38. This is so interesting, bit too advanced for my students as they have no exposure to fairy tales at all. However I am working on that! Thanks for stopping by my blog and I will delve into yours for teaching tips as a volunteer just doing her best!!

    Reply
    • Actually, this was an activity modified from a Grade 2 activity I found on the Internet. The other thing we did was included younger students and budded them with a junior high mentor.

      Reply
  39. Great post. thanks for following me and introducing me to this blog. I’m not a teacher but I am on some committees in our school. That experience makes me appreciate teachers who look for ways to reach students. I am also a huge fan of storytelling (I read that post earlier today).

    Reply
  40. I love fairy tales and they cover most of the important topics in one way or another (one might agree or not with Freudian interpretations but The Uses of Enchanment has many good points) and I love the scope they have for twists and turns, modernization… It must be a great class

    Reply
  41. Reblogged this on The Blogging Pot and commented:
    Some great creative writing ideas here xx Rowena

    Reply
  42. I did Jack and Beanstalk parody on Feb 15, 2011 post.

    Reply
  43. Inspiring post. A teacher is always a learner and a learner is always a student.

    Reply

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