Fairy Tales

by Snejana Stoykova

When teaching writing to students, there are many advantages to using the genre approach instead of the traditional essay. (the five paragraph argumentative essay) Many teachers do not teach genres because they tend to think of genres as “a type of category of a text,” explains Charles Cooper in his essay What We Know about Genre. Therefore, these educators rely strictly on novels, short stories and poetry only. However, Cooper suggests that poetry has many sub-genres such as – haiku, epic, sonnet, etc. How do we distinguish between those? And also, are we only supposed to read types of genres? According to Cooper “genre” is a type of “writing produced every day in our culture, types of writing that make possible certain kinds of learning and social interaction.” (25) Each genre has a unique form, allowing a versatile approach to all writing. “The formula for defining genre is usually class plus differentia , with the differentia generally comprising characteristics of either subject matter or form.” (Enos 279). Therefore, the instructor teaches not only writing, but also style and a diverse structure; vastly different from the traditional essay, which includes, an introduction, body, and conclusion. Many students are bored by that rote structure and therefore put little thought or effort into their assignments. The reason instructors receive poorly structured essays is because the topics they assign to students and the format they are required to use are joyless. Students are rarely allowed to write about something they enjoy. Teaching genre studies is exactly about pursuing the students' interests. There is a plethora of genres; therefore, students can choose what topic they desire. It leaves room for variety and choice, which puts the individual student in control of their work. They will care about their assignment. This freedom of choice makes it less an assignment and more a personal exercise of creation.


Many advocates of the genre study agree that teaching it contributes to the classroom. It allows us to teach the genres that are often avoided in the classroom due to concern that the students will not be adequately prepared for the Regents and ELA examination. This study proposes an approach to teaching fairy tales, using the genre study, alongside the usual fiction and non-fiction genres.


Why Teach Fairy Tales?


There is no doubt in my mind that fairy tales are worth examining in depth. Fairy tales are well known amongst children and adults and are beloved by all. Children often pose questions like “Who am I? How ought I deal with life's problems? Who must I become?” Fairy tales can provide guidelines to these questions. Many who oppose the teaching of fairy tales argue that they are not realistic; they claim that children are often confused between reality and the story. However, Piaget shows in numerous studies that children's minds remain animistic until they reach puberty. Although they might accept their parents' scientific answers, realistic explanations are usually too difficult for them to comprehend. Thus left behind, they often feel “overpowered and intellectually defeated.” (Bettelheim, 48)


Bettelheim, a child psychologist and huge proponent of the use of fairy tales, suggests that they should be read to children because this is where they learn about life. “Many young people, who today suddenly seek escape in drug-induced dreams, apprentice themselves to some guru, believe in astrology, engage in practicing ‘black magic', or who in some other fashion escape from reality into daydreams about magic experiences which are to change their life for better, were prematurely pressed to view reality in an adult way.” Bettelheim, 51) Perhaps one way to avoid all of these problems would be to keep the magic in our children's lives until they are ready for a more adult mentality.


During my research, I found many teachers who use fairy tales in their classrooms. However, I was disappointed when I realized that most, if not all of these teachers were at the elementary level. This genre, even though it is often used for children's entertainment, has serious historical undertones that a child would not be able to grasp at the elementary level. I firmly believe that fairy tales should be taught at the high school level, so both students and teachers can address issues like crime, morality and social duty – all of which are addressed indirectly in fairy tales, and all of which a child's mind picks up subconsciously but cannot properly frame in meaningful ways at so young an age.


Many students have weak writing skills. Although some have a talent for writing, they do not get to display it because schools base writing usually on one area: the argumentative essay. Their talent is wasted because schools focus on this one genre. An example of that would be my personal experience in college. During my undergraduate career I was trained to become a journalist. Therefore, I was writing mostly newspaper articles; as a result, I often find it difficult to write in any other form. As Bomer suggests, “a sense of genre is one of the most important mental frames we use in our writing.” (Bomer, 109) High school students are taught to write in only one genre and thus become incapable of writing any other way. Many of them are unprepared for college because they have a single-track way of expressing themselves; writing is a form of thinking and a medium for debate. They lack original thoughts and ideas, and are equally incapable of expressing them, which makes it difficult to succeed in college study.


New York State educators might worry about students passing the ELA or Regents Examination, so year after year we teach the same tired-and true essay format. It is becoming more apparent that in doing so, we are restricting our students' ability to think in favor of standardized testing. I am confident that teaching fairy tales will improve our students' writing. Fairy tales have a specific structure and organization that allows them to be easily identified. If at the end of the unit, students are able to write fairy tales on their own, then we will have succeeded because our students have recognized and integrated organization skills. Through the process of writing their own fairy tales, students will develop research skills, which in turn reinforce academic skills in all disciplines.


However, the question is how this change of curriculum is likely to be viewed by administrators, given time, budget constraints. Some argue that the Regents does not provide much room for improvisation, but as mentioned above, if students learn to write in any genre, educators have already won the battle. To write fairy tales, students must unlock the imaginations that they have sheltered away, and overcome the restraints the argumentative essay imposes. They need to learn that writing is not a one-size-fits-all affair. We want students to be original. We do not want to read our ideas being spat back at us in their essays. Also, students will learn several forms of thought organization. To write a good argumentative essay, it has to follow a certain format. The same is true for journalism, and also for fairy tales. Teaching a different genre will show students the difference between the genres and the importance of structure. It will also be something new and exciting for them to learn.


Writing is not the only important thing that comes out of teaching fairy tales. Fairy tales teach students analytical skills. Throughout the history of literature, authors have made references to fairy tales in order to make their characters more believable and scary. For example, in the tale of Little Red Ridding Hood, upon seeing the wolf the girl exclaims:


“O grandmother, what large ears you have!”…

“O grandmother, what great eyes you have!”…

“O grandmother, what a terrible large mouth you have!”(In some translations the last line reads “what large teeth you have.”)


Similarly, in the novel Jane Eyre , by Charlotte Bront?, Sandra Gilbert, a feminist criticism analyst, suggests that Bront?'s description of Broklehurst, the mean headmaster of Jane's school, resembles the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood .


“What a face he had…what a great nose!...And what large prominent teeth!” ( Jane Eyre )


In her essay Plain Jane's Progress , Gilbert notes that this description of Broklehurst is similar to the wolf from the famous fairy tale. The man is a beast in the literal and figurative sense. He also brings Jane to Lowood. “Where else would a beast take a child but into a wood?” (Gilbert, 480)


The only way students will see the similarities between Jane Eyre and Little Red Riding Hood is if they are intimately familiar with fairy tales. The same could be said for any genre. Authors often borrow from each other's works and good analysts of literature will be able to make the connections between the texts. This has the effect of enriching each story and also of showing that great literary works are not islands of isolation. They build on each other's legacy.


Fairy tales are also important outside the classroom. We do not exist in a vacuum. For better or worse we must teach students about life. What better way to examine our culture and its values than through the clear ideas, moral choices, and extremes inherent in out fairy tales? Fairy tales teach children the rules of society. They often express in a direct-manner what is acceptable and what is not. An excellent example of this is Donkeyskin or The Princess in Disguise . The tale begins with the usual “once upon time.” There was a king and queen that were loved by all of their subjects. However, the queen died, and her last wish is for the king to marry “a woman more beautiful and better formed” than she. The king waited for such woman but could not find one. Until one day he realizes that his daughter is more beautiful than his late wife, and decides to marry her.


“The princess was horrified when she learned of her father's plans. She ran to her godmother, a wise and powerful fairy, who counseled her to put off her father by requesting wedding gifts which the king could not possibly deliver.”


Of course we, as adults, can see the princess' dilemma. Her father intends to commit incest. Children might not know the proper word, but from the fairy tale they will be able to assume that marrying your father is wrong; why else would the princess be so mortified? (Cashdan 4) This and other examinations of morality reflect the predominant views in our culture.

In addition to examining our morality, fairy tales can also teach useful lessons about life. Cashdan, the author of The Witch Must Die , writes that Sleeping Beauty could teach children about obeying their parents and staying away from places they were warned about. The same could be said about Little Red Riding Hood ; the lesson there is not to talk to strangers.


The conclusion is that fairy tales are not only useful in the classroom but also in real life. A child might not be able to explicitly comprehend the issues involved, but will absorb the lesson deep in the subconscious.


History and Definition of Fairy Tales



As mentioned above, the fairy tale genre is “one of the most well-known, most loved, and most influential genres of literature” (Jones 2). It is a product of oral tradition, dating back before the Middle Ages or to even biblical times. “The earliest written records in almost every culture acknowledge the pre-existence of fairy tales.” (Jones, 1) The stories have been retold many times over the years without the help of the large anthologies that now stock the shelves of our bookstores. This rich oral tradition allows for many variations, especially on the more popular stories. A good example of this is Snow-White and The Seven Dwarfs . This fairy tale alone has over 400 different versions. (Jones) As an oral tradition, most fairy tales originally belonged to the folklore genre. Due to that folkloric heritage, defining “an originally oral genre such as the fairy tale” is very difficult. Since the tales were spread orally there is no “real” version. The authors are mostly unknown and the real title is in question. However, no matter how many versions exist, they all share the format of the fairy tale genre.


According to Steven Jones, the author of The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of Imagination , the genre shows extraordinary stability. Despite the multitude of narrators, these stories show little dramatic change between versions, which shows there is something appealing about it. It is the ability to touch people's lives that has ensured the fairy tale's survival. The story-tellers repeated it because people loved it. People loved it because “it tells us something about ourselves that we want and need to know” (Jones 5).


Fairy tales have a magic appeal, a “feel-good” quick fix, but we treasure them mostly because they speak to the human heart. They are so beloved that we have adapted versions for the big screen. Some of the most popular fairy tales have been made into Disney cartoons. The audiences love the story of Cinderella so much there are over 500 oral and cinematic versions of it. This alone Jones suggests is a proof of the importance of the fairy tale genre.


However, there is one question that still haunts the fairy tale lover: how did the genre develop? It is obvious that fairy tales are the culminations of thousands of people, evolved through countless retellings. There must have been an original creator somewhere. Others liked the original idea so much they kept repeating it; adding their own details, changing it a little bit, but not enough to make a difference. The process seems so spontaneous because the fairy tales were started as an oral tradition, long before people could write. However, this spontaneity, evidenced by their sudden full-fledged appearance in historic documents, only serves as confirmation of their previous existence. This may be one mystery we are never going to be able to solve.


Fairy tales have a specific structure which allows us to differentiate them from other genres. To discover the specific elements of the fairy tales, we have to contrast them with the characteristics of other folk-related narratives. There are three major forms of folk narratives: myths, legends and folk tales.


Myths are narratives that use gods and other immortal figures. These narratives are used to explain the function of the universe. Legends are a sort of historical narratives. They use extraordinary characters, experiencing incredible events, in order to explain cultural ideas and norms. Folktales are even further subdivided, containing fables, jokes, novellas, and fairy tales. They often examine human nature.


It is important to distinguish among these categories because we relate differently to different genres. As mortal beings, we relate differently to myths, with their immortal characters, than we do to folktales, where ordinary protagonists are closer to us; they remind us of ourselves. “Their concerns with getting married and establishing a home speak directly to our most individual needs” (Jones 9). This is why folktales are considered entertaining: we can laugh at ourselves, express our fears, and reveal our innermost intimate thoughts.


Although fairy tales are considered a sub-category of the folktale genre, they are somewhat different from the rest of the subcategories: romantic tales fables (cautionary tales) and jokes (humorous tales). They still depict ordinary people and address real life problems. The one major difference is that fairy tales depict “the magical or marvelous phenomena as a valid part of human experience.” (Jones, 9) However, we must make a clear distinction between the other two genres that deal with the stuff of fancy: animal fables and tall tales.


Animal fables use animals to personify human characteristics. In tall tales, such as the story about Paul Bunyan, there is the presence of something marvelous and “magical” but they are not fairy tales. In fairy tales the characters have to interact with something magical. This symbolizes the feelings of ordinary people dealing with everyday problems. “As Freud, Jüng , Gèza, Roheim, Lüthi,… Bettleheim, and a host of others have suggested, fairy tales speak the language of the subconscious mind” (Jones 11). The fairy tale represents the world, both our innermost world and the real one.


What People Think of Fairy Tales Today


Many scholars such as Bettleheim believe that fairy tales are for children. However, Sheldon Cashdan offers a different explanation. He believes that this is a myth, and gives an example using Donkeyskin . Cashdan believes that since most fairy tales illustrate such gruesome subjects, like incest and murder, they are intended for adults. As mentioned above, I believe that the fairy tales were intended for children. Even if they do not have the proper vocabulary to explain the events in the story Donkeyskin , they will still know that incestuous relationships are wrong.


The second “myth,” Cashdan explains, is that fairy tales were not written by the Grimm Brothers. This has never been a myth. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm never intended to present all of these tales as their creation. In the early 1800s they published a collection of fairy tales called Children and Household Tales. The brothers' mission was to preserve the German children's fairy tale. Although the anthology is considered one of the most comprehensive collections of all time, it was never the brother's intentions to claim credit for any of the stories.


The third myth Cashdan deposes is that fairy tales were never meant to teach us any lessons. Cashdan believes that fairy tales were meant exclusively for entertainment; to think that there are moral lessons involved is wrong. The author believes that this misconception comes from Charles Perrault, whose stories were always accompanied by little rhymes such as the following:


Little girls, this seems to say

Never stop upon your way

Never trust a stranger-friend;

No one knows where it will end.


This rhyme accompanies the French version of Little Red Riding Hood. Cashdan speculates that this rhyme was put in the tale by Perrault himself to make it look like the story has a moral. However, even without this little poem, the tale itself brings up the good point of - little children should not trust strangers.


Cashdan also thinks that the “so-called lessons contain questionable advice and incline toward cynicism.”(9) He bases his conclusion on the following rhymes:


Godmothers are useful things

Even when without the wings.

Wisdom may be yours and wit

Courage, industry, and grit –

What's the use of these at all,

If you lack a friend at call.


This is a rhyme that accompanies Perrault's version of Cinderella . Cashdan seems to think that Perrault is teaching that intelligence, courage and hard work will not pay off if you do not have friends in high places. He thinks that this is a moral that will be useful for someone entering politics, thus solidifying his argument that fairy tales were meant for adults. However, this little poem can be interpreted in many ways. It could teach us that although not all of us have a magical godmother, they are useful and wise and that for all of the wit and courage we have it's not going to do us a whole lot if we don't have good friends to help us when we need it. It is Mr. Cashdan himself, who is cynical, not Perrault's little rhymes.


The Elements of Fairy Tales


As previously mentioned, the fairy tale genre is a sub-category of the folktale genre. In order to distinguish them, I will introduce the seven elements of fairy tales that are uniquely defining them.

1) Fairy tales must have a special beginning and/or ending. They usually begin with: once upon a time, or there once was, or there once lived . The ones that have the special ending say: and they lived happily ever after .

2) Fairy tales always have at least one good character and that role is usually restricted to the protagonist.

3) Fairy tales always have evil characters; if not evil, at least misguided. It is the role of the good character to overcome the obstacles that the villain creates.

4) Royalty and/or castles usually exist in fairy tales, but they are optional. We have many fairy tales that do not have castles such as The Little Red Riding Hood .

5) Magic is often prevalent.

6) There is an obstacle which must be overcome.

7) In fairy tales, things often happen in threes or sevens. A good example of this is Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.


And she worked, gazing at times out on the snow, she pricked her finger, and there fell from it three drops of blood on the snow.


And of course Snow-White later lives with seven dwarfs. Another good example is Cinderella .


Now it came to pass that the King ordained a festival that should last for three days, and to which all the beautiful young women of that country were bidden, so that the King's son might choose a bride from among them.


Also in the story Cinderella keeps going to the ball all thee nights before she loses her shoe.


Integration into the classroom


Now that I have explained the background information of fairy tales, the next step would be integrating them into our classrooms as a part of a genre study. The following are steps on integration into the classroom.

The first step of course will be introducing the genre, as a writing structure, to the class. The class will learn about genre studies first and the definition of genre. The definition of genre can be taken from various articles by Cooper, Bomer, or Calkins. Teachers may take these articles and give students a short mini lesson based on them. Thus, students will be familiar with genre studies before attempting to introduce them to one specific genre.

Step two would be introducing students to the genre of fairy tales. They will need to know the genre's history. Students should be taught this, not because they need to know it, but because it is interesting information and it will capture their attention. Not many people know that there are 600 versions of Cinderella . Since there are no books that give a clear definition of the fairy tale genre, the class as a whole can brainstorm to come up with their own definition and a list of characteristics each fairy tale might have. These will be used later as criteria for grading students' fairy tales.


1) Fairy tales must have a special beginning and/or ending. They usually begin with: once upon a time, or there once was, or there once lived . The ones that have the special ending say: and they lived happily ever after .

2) Fairy tales always have at least one good character and that role is usually restricted to the protagonist.

3) Fairy tales always have evil characters; if not evil, at least misguided. It is the role of the good character to overcome the obstacles that the villain creates.

4) Royalty and/or castles usually exist in fairy tales, but they are optional. We have many fairy tales that do not have castles such as The Little Red Riding Hood .

5) Magic is often prevalent.

6) There is an obstacle which must be overcome.

7) In fairy tales, things often happen in threes or sevens.

8) 2-4 pages in length, single-spaced


In the article The Art of Teaching Writing, Lucy Calkins suggests that no matter what genre is being studied, she'll begin by “finding an example of it that shocks my socks off” (Calkins 364). Although all children love fairy tales, not many are familiar with their “original” versions. Most children, especially in the United States , are TV watchers. If they are familiar with The Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella , it is only because they have seen “Disneyfied” versions of them. To “shock the socks” off my students, I would first play Disney's version of Cinderella and then, we as a class, will read the Grimm's version of it together. I bet that they will be quite shocked to discover that in Grimm's version, not everyone lives happily ever after. In the Disney version Cinderella marries the prince and nothing else is mentioned about her step family. In sharp contrast, the Grimm's version ends like this:


So as the bridal procession went to the church, the eldest walked on the right side and the younger on the left, and the pigeons picked out an eye of each of them. And as they returned the elder was on the left side and the younger one on the right, and the pigeons picked out the other eye of each of them. And so they were condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood.


After this we may discuss some of the other versions. For example in Perrault's version, Cinderella so good and pure, after her marriage she forgives her step sisters and decides to help them find husbands. Then, everyone lives happily ever after . There is a movie called Ever After: Cinderella Story , in which one of the steps sisters is friends with Cinderella. At the end the step mother and the other sister are stripped off their titles and have to work as servants for the rest of their lives. Because of major differences in the plots such as the ones mentioned above, fairy tales are better off taught to older students at the high school level.


An excellent exercise for the students would be for them to find as many different version of another tale (for example, The Sleeping Beauty) assigned by the teacher. This exercise can last as long as the unit takes to teach. Students can start with the popular versions by Grimm, Perrault and even Disney. To find more versions they would have to do research which will help them later on to generate ideas when they write their own fairy tales. The students would have to use the library so they can explore the world of fairy tales online.


Where to Find Examples of Fairy Tales


•  Go to your local or school library and ask the librarian for help if you are not sure what to look for.

•  Look for the big Grimm, Perrault or Anderson anthologies. They all have excellent examples of fairy tale. There are version of these tales in books such as Jane Eyre and poems by Anne Saxton.

•  Go online to a search engine and type “fairy tales”. In a matter of minutes you will be provided with hundreds of examples beginning with the most popular ones.

The following chart will be shown to the class:











And/or Castle

Magic Use

Something Magical




3s or 7s






























Then the class as a group can come up with examples to fit all seven categories of the chart. An example of “3s or 7s” could be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ; an evil character could be Cinderella's stepmother. Students will have to brainstorm as many different fairy tales as possible to complete the chart. A model chart (The Elements of a Fairy Tale) is also included in Appendix A and C.


As a final exercise, ask the students to read fairy tales at home and observe whether or not they follow the pattern. While reading, they should also write in their notebooks any ideas that might lead to the creation of a fairy tale. This is what Nancy Atwell calls “writing territories.” Students are asked to write down their own ideas. When time comes for them to write they will be able to look at the list of ideas they have and choose the one that is most appealing to them.


Next, after the students will pick their topic, the teacher should provide them with a rubric which will show them how their assignments will be graded. Although they will be writing about something that they came up with, the rubric will provide them with guidelines regarding the genre and what is acceptable and what not. Appendix B has the writing assignment followed by the rubric.




The students' first assignment, besides generating ideas in their writer's notebooks, would be picking a protagonist for their tales. They will have to pick between a male and female character. These must be “ordinary” people; meaning they are mortal and not gods like in the myth genre. Fairy tales are usually specific in detailing the main character. Snow-white, for example, had “ a skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony .” I would write the following sentence on the board: Snow-white had white skin, red lips and black hair. This will be an example on how not to write. We want our protagonists to be memorable. Adding detail to a story makes it more vivid and the characters more human. Students will be required to make a list in their writer's notebooks regarding their main character. While students are writing, the teachers should be coming up with their own lists. Teachers should show their list to the students, so that they can get some ideas. The list I came up with follows:





Living Conditions





Relationships with others


Love relationships







Lives with fairy godmother in a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park

Hair as golden as the sun, eyes as green as emeralds,

Hated by her stepmother, who is currently disguised as a snake and follows Emilia everywhere she goes

A servant boy named Lorenzo loves her, but is so poor he doesn't think he deserves her.

Emilia's heart is a diamond. Stepmother wants to kill her to sell the diamond and buy drugs.


The conflict stage is written like that to show students that their fairy tale can take place at any time. It doesn't have to take place in the past. It can be a modern fairy tale.


The second mini-lesson would emphasize creating a believable evil character. It is easy to create good fairy tale characters. All you need to do is make them pretty, with a kind heart. Nothing else need be said. However, creating an evil character can prove quite challenging. This is one spot where students should be careful not use clichés. Their evil characters should be original and be able to scare their readers. These characters have to want to do something forbidden: think of murder, gluttony, adultery, etc. Students should not think of evil character as icons of evil; they are human beings with the same sort of desires and wishes as the good characters; however, they are willing to use twisted methods to achieve their goals. Also, students should remember that evil characters do not think of themselves as evil. They do not maliciously kill people because they are evil. They only use their wickedness to advance in life. This will teach the students that evil characters are complex and they should not just rush and create bad characters that murder because they can. The instructor may reward students for well thought-out and complex characters. The lesson should begin with reading of fairy tales. Teachers should only read the description of the evil characters and what they want to do. Students should take careful notes and then they should write in their writer's notebooks samples of evil characters. Step one – male or female. Step two – relationship to the protagonist. Step three – why do they want to kill the protagonist or do something forbidden to him or her. By adding all of those details in their writer's notebooks, students unknowingly keep coming up with new ideas about their fairy tales.


A third mini-lesson, following draft one of their fairy tale, could include the developing of the tale itself. It has to follow a certain pattern. Fairy tales usually begin with a harmony being disrupted. Once upon a time there lived … and everything was good and peachy … until one day … and … . The disturbance usually lasts for most of the story. Then something magical happens, which helps to restore order. At the end everyone (except the villain, who dies a gruesome death, or lives but in a lot of pain) lives happily ever after. This will help students achieve better organization skills.


Students are often intimidated and shy when it comes to putting their fantasies on white paper. A way to make their fears disappear is by creating a class fairy tale. The instructor can ask each student to contribute something to the fairy tale. One student might be in charge of the protagonist, one of the antagonist, one of the surroundings, etc. Eventually the teacher can put all of these details together to show the class a rough draft of a fairy tale. Since we educate, we should not be afraid to do all of these exercises along with our students. Nancy Atwell suggests that modeling for our students enables the students to undertake the project with excitement.


Additional Lessons


Many people believe that Fairy tales are sexist. I will definitely try and fit a lesson on that. I will try and show that in my opinion the fairy tales are not sexist, but sometimes their adapted screen versions are. An example of that will be The Little Mermaid . In the “Disneyfied” version of this tale is seems that the mermaid princess is never going to be happy unless she marries the prince. The class should read together the original version and write a short paragraph on whether or not they agree with the statement. Teachers should try showing students that Ariel dies in the real version, but not because she didn't marry the prince. She died because she loved him. The evil witch told the mermaid that if the prince married another she will die. Ariel's sisters begged the witch to reverse the curse by selling their beautiful hair to her. They managed to buy a dagger, which if used by Ariel to stab the prince in the heart, will get rid of the curse. Lesson being this particular story is about love. What about Cinderella ? She was poor until she managed to marry the prince. Students and teachers should try looking deeper than the surface. Cinderella had to overcome many of her shortcomings before she married the prince. The prince should not be considered the stronger sex. He should be considered as a reward for a job well done.


To solidify my point that fairy tales don't have to be sexist in order to be good, teachers should show the movie Cinderfellow. The movie is a modern day fairy tale that includes a male protagonist named Cinderfellow. He lives with his wicked step brothers and he has to clean their cars, change the oil, etc. Just because it is a comedy, it doesn't mean that it doesn't have the elements of a fairy tale.


Peer Review


Peer review is another way to keep students involved with their work. Many compositions specialists such as Soven and Atwell recommend it. Soven suggests that many teachers become discouraged when using peer review because students don't stay on task and they questions are not answered sufficiently. One way to make sure you have a successful peer review is giving students questions that they need to answer as part of their grade. Many students are reluctant to correct their peers' papers, however they should realize that writing is a process that takes several drafts before becoming a masterpiece. Correcting one's mistakes is good for them. When peer reviewing, students will be reminded that the fairy tales were repeated thousands of time over the years, each narrator revising them a little bit until they were put into the anthologies we are now so familiar with. If students' fairy tales are read by peers, they will feel less threatened. The reviewer will have to answer questions regarding the work, which will appear in Appendix C.






Rewards are necessary for such a monstrous project. Since students were allowed to freelance on their tales, chances are they worked hard to create original fairy tales. Publishing a class anthology would be one way for students to see the products of their hard work. If the school has a newspaper, the teacher can ask if they can do a short article on the hard work the students did. There are numerous internet websites that publish student work. One of them is: http://www.thewritesource.com/publish.htm . There is a wonderful book out there called Publishing with Students . The book explains how to publish students' works step by step.


Also, the class can vote for the best fairy tale, best villain, best hero, supporting character, etc. They can have their own version of the Academy Awards night where each contestant goes home with a reward. The instructor can also ask the art teacher to integrate these lesson plans, to help the students illustrate their own tales.

























Works Cited


Atwell, Nancy. In the Middle: New Understanding About Writing, Reading , and Learing . Portsmouth , N. H.: Boynton-Cook, 1998


Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales . Vintage Books & Random House, New York . 1989.


Cashdan, Sheldon. The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives . Basic Books, New York . 1999.


Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales . Barnes & Noble. New York 1993


Jones, Steven Swann. The Fairy Tale: The Magical Mirror of Imagination . Twayne Publishers, New York . 1995.


Warner, Maria. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers . Farrar, Straus and Giroux , New York . 1994.


Zipes, Jack. When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition . Routledge, London . 1999


Bomer, Randy. Time for Meaning: Crafting Literate Lives in Middle and High School . Portsmouth , N.H. : Heinemann 1995.


Calkin, Lucy McCormick. The Art of Teaching Writing. Portsmouth , N. H.: Heinemann, 1994


Cooper, Charles. Evaluating Writing: The Role of Teachers' Knowledge about the text, Learning, and Culture. Urbana , III: National Council of Teachers of English, 1999


Enos, Theresa. Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition . Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age. New York , 1996.


Gilbert & Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination . Yale University Press. 1979








The information was taken from a website with fairy tale lesson plans www.geocites.com/ljacoby_2000/fairytalechart.html




Introduction to Fairy Tales


Appendix A


Defining the Genre of fairy tales:


•  doesn't have a clear definition

•  it is a sub genre of folktales

•  brainstorm to develop our own definition


How do they differ from the other genres?


•  myths use gods and immortal protagonists

•  legends – extraordinary phenomena

•  folktales – real people, with real life problems

•  Fairy tales are closest to folktales. They use real people that in one way or another encounter magic, which according to Bettelheim is a normal event in the world of fairy tales.


Group Work:


1) Read the following two fairy tales and answer the following questions.


•  How are they structured? Are their structures similar to one another?

•  Look at the beginning and the ending. Does it follow the elements of fairy tale chart that we looked at?

•  Use the chart to see if this is actually a fairy tale









And/or Castle

Magic Use

Something Magical




3s or 7s
































•  We never discussed this in class, but try and venture a guess of what's the significance of the use of three and seven?


Please select someone to read the story. One person should be the note taker, and one should be the presenter.


How do you know whether or not this is a fairy tale or another type?


Each group will be presented with two examples of tales. One of the tales will be a fairy tale (if they follow the above chart they will be able to recognize it). The other tale will be either a tall tale, myth, legend, or fable. Each group will have a different genre. Based on the information they had on what it is and isn't a fairy tale, they should be able to distinguish it from the other genres.


Where to Find Examples of Fairy Tales


•  Go to your local or school library and ask the librarian for help if you are not sure what to look for.

•  Look for the big Grimm, Perrault or Anderson anthologies. They all have excellent examples of fairy tale.

•  Go online to a search engine and type “fairy tales”. In a matter of minutes you will be provided with hundreds of examples beginning with the most popular ones.


Writing Assignment

Appendix B


Using the knowledge you have regarding fairy tales, it is now your turn to create one. Your topic can be on anything as long as it follows the fairy tale format. Don't forget to create a memorable villain. Remember, evil characters are what give children nightmares. Fairy tales warn as well as teach morals to children. If your character is not scary/bad enough the fairy tale is not doing its job.


Your fairy tale should follow the same criteria we derived in class together:

•  2-4 pages in length, single-spaced

•  Should have the typical beginning and/or ending

•  Must have some royalty or nobles

•  Must have a disturbance of the peace at the beginning

•  Must have a good character and a bad character

•  Remember that animals that are assigned human characteristics is not a part of a fairy tale. They are called animal fables. You have to have some other magic than just a talking animal.



Due Dates:

Draft One and Peer Review __________

Draft two will be submitted on ______________ for comments from the teacher

Draft Three ___________


Editing Lesson


A good in between drafts lesson plan might be on including details. This lesson might follow the same format as adding details to the protagonist. Teacher should give a sentence such as:


It is a cold night.


Students' task is to expand that sentence so it can show and not tell. While students are writing in their writers' notebooks, teachers should be writing as well. Teachers should ask students to read their sentences and then share what they have written.


I looked out and saw the ice crystallizing on my window.


Teachers should also explain that during the editing phase they will be looking for four things: vocabulary, organization, ideas, and dynamics of their work. A short mini lesson on vocabulary might work here. Choose words that are closely related to fairy tales. Students should look through fairy tales and make their own list.



Rubric for Creating a Successful Fairy Tale


The following rubric will be used to grade your final drafts. While writing your fairy tale, refer to it to make sure you didn't miss anything. A similar rubric will be used when grading your Regents exams. Make sure you read this thoroughly.


6. Excellent Work:


•  The work follows the fairy tale format.

•  There is a connection between your paragraphs.

•  You have well-developed, complex characters.

•  Your story teaches a moral clearly.

•  You use vocabulary that would be used by your target audience. (Like in Grimm Bros.)

•  Spelling, punctuation, and grammar excellent.


5. Good Work:


•  The work follows the fairy tale format for most parts

•  There is some connection between the paragraphs but it doesn't flow in areas.

•  You have well-developed characters.

•  Your story teaches a moral, but its clarity could be improved.

•  You use vocabulary that would be used by your target audience

•  Spelling punctuation and grammar need some work, but are otherwise ok.


4. Satisfactory:


•  The work follows the fairy tale format, but is missing some key elements.

•  There is some connection between your paragraphs, but it doesn't flow.

•  Your characters need improvement.

•  Your story's moral is vague.

•  Vocabulary can be spiced up a bit; it will not inspire your target audience.

•  Spelling, punctuation, and grammar need work


3. Looks good but…


•  Confusing Format – where were you during class?

•  Disjoined paragraphs – we really need to talk!

•  Your characters do not need improvement. You need new characters.

•  Questionable moral or lacking thereof.

•  Too simple a vocabulary.

•  Need to get acquainted with the thesaurus, punctuation and grammar need improvement.



2. I really don't want to read this:


•  What's a format?

•  Paragraphs... what are these?

•  Very simple characters.

•  Why teach morals?

•  You use basic vocabulary, too simplistic.

•  Your language skills are limited and incoherent.



1. I am crying…


•  Your fairy tale does not follow any guidelines. Your topic is hazy. Your characters are simple or non existent. Your language skills are limited and incoherent.




Appendix C


Exchange your fairy tale with someone else. Read your classmate's tale and answer the following questions. Simple Yes or No answers will not be sufficient.


1. My first reaction to the fairy tale was…


2. Does it follow the fairy tale format? If yes, what elements did you discover were more predominant? If no, what was missing? Suggest ways the writer can improve.


3. Does it have complex and well-developed characters? What did you like about them? Was there enough description to show and not tell What didn't you like about them? What would you change?


4. Is the problem resolved at the end? What happens to the protagonist? What happens to the evil character?


5. Please use the following chart and put a check mark for everything that applies.









And/or Castle

Magic Use

Something Magical




3s or 7s









































The Regents Unified Essay


The Regents Exam will ask you to read two passages, and write a unified essay on a topic that exists in both passages. Since we all want to pass the Regents with a 6, we are going to write a similar essay in class.


Your Task: After you have read both passages, write a unified essay about the morals of both stories as revealed in the passages. Be sure to use ideas from both passages to establish a controlling idea about what a moral is. You must draw evidence from each passage to support your statement.


Passage one:

“Cinderella” by Anne Sexton.


You always read about it: the plumber with the twelve children who wins the Irish Sweepstakes. From toilets to riches. That story.   Or the nursemaid, some luscious sweet from Denmark who captures the oldest son's heart. from diapers to Dior. That story.   Or a milkman who serves the wealthy, eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk, the white truck like an ambulance who goes into real estate and makes a pile. From homogenized to martinis at lunch.   Or the charwoman who is on the bus when it cracks up and collects enough from the insurance. From mops to Bonwit Teller. That story.   Once the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed and she said to her daughter Cinderella: Be devout. Be good. Then I will smile down from heaven in the seam of a cloud. The man took another wife who had two daughters, pretty enough but with hearts like blackjacks. Cinderella was their maid. She slept on the sooty hearth each night and walked around looking like Al Jolson. Her father brought presents home from town, jewels and gowns for the other women but the twig of a tree for Cinderella. She planted that twig on her mother's grave and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat. Whenever she wished for anything the dove would drop it like an egg upon the ground. The bird is important, my dears, so heed him.   Next came the ball, as you all know. It was a marriage market. The prince was looking for a wife. All but Cinderella were preparing and gussying up for the event. Cinderella begged to go too. Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils into the cinders and said: Pick them up in an hour and you shall go. The white dove brought all his friends; all the warm wings of the fatherland came, and picked up the lentils in a jiffy. No, Cinderella, said the stepmother, you have no clothes and cannot dance. That's the way with stepmothers.   Cinderella went to the tree at the grave and cried forth like a gospel singer: Mama! Mama! My turtledove, send me to the prince's ball! The bird dropped down a golden dress and delicate little slippers. Rather a large package for a simple bird. So she went. Which is no surprise. Her stepmother and sisters didn't recognize her without her cinder face and the prince took her hand on the spot and danced with no other the whole day.   As nightfall came she thought she'd better get home. The prince walked her home and she disappeared into the pigeon house and although the prince took an axe and broke it open she was gone. Back to her cinders. These events repeated themselves for three days. However on the third day the prince covered the palace steps with cobbler's wax and Cinderella's gold shoe stuck upon it. Now he would find whom the shoe fit and find his strange dancing girl for keeps. He went to their house and the two sisters were delighted because they had lovely feet. The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on but her big toe got in the way so she simply sliced it off and put on the slipper. The prince rode away with her until the white dove told him to look at the blood pouring forth. That is the way with amputations. They just don't heal up like a wish. The other sister cut off her heel but the blood told as blood will. The prince was getting tired. He began to feel like a shoe salesman. But he gave it one last try. This time Cinderella fit into the shoe like a love letter into its envelope.   At the wedding ceremony the two sisters came to curry favor and the white dove pecked their eyes out. Two hollow spots were left like soup spoons.   Cinderella and the prince lived, they say, happily ever after, like two dolls in a museum case never bothered by diapers or dust, never arguing over the timing of an egg, never telling the same story twice, never getting a middle-aged spread, their darling smiles pasted on for eternity. Regular Bobbsey Twins. That story.


Passage Two


Cinderella The wife of a rich man fell sick, and as she felt that her end was drawing near, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said, dear child, be good and pious, and then the good God will always protect you, and I will look down on you from heaven and be near you. Thereupon she closed her eyes and departed. Every day the maiden went out to her mother's grave, and wept, and she remained pious and good. When winter came the snow spread a white sheet over the grave, and by the time the spring sun had drawn it off again, the man had taken another wife. The woman had brought with her into the house two daughters, who were beautiful and fair of face, but vile and black of heart. Now began a bad time for the poor step-child. Is the stupid goose to sit in the parlor with us, they said. He who wants to eat bread must earn it. Out with the kitchen-wench. They took her pretty clothes away from her, put an old grey bedgown on her, and gave her wooden shoes. Just look at the proud princess, how decked out she is, they cried, and laughed, and led her into the kitchen. There she had to do hard work from morning till night, get up before daybreak, carry water, light fires, cook and wash. Besides this, the sisters did her every imaginable injury - they mocked her and emptied her peas and lentils into the ashes, so that she was forced to sit and pick them out again. In the evening when she had worked till she was weary she had no bed to go to, but had to sleep by the hearth in the cinders. And as on that account she always looked dusty and dirty, they called her Cinderella.

It happened that the father was once going to the fair, and he asked his two step-daughters what he should bring back for them. Beautiful dresses, said one, pearls and jewels, said the second. And you, Cinderella, said he, what will you have. Father break off for me the first branch which knocks against your hat on your way home. So he bought beautiful dresses, pearls and jewels for his two step-daughters, and on his way home, as he was riding through a green thicket, a hazel twig brushed against him and knocked off his hat. Then he broke off the branch and took it with him. When he reached home he gave his step-daughters the things which they had wished for, and to Cinderella he gave the branch from the hazel-bush. Cinderella thanked him, went to her mother's grave and planted the branch on it, and wept so much that the tears fell down on it and watered it. And it grew and became a handsome tree. Thrice a day Cinderella went and sat beneath it, and wept and prayed, and a little white bird always came on the tree, and if Cinderella expressed a wish, the bird threw down to her what she had wished for. It happened, however, that the king gave orders for a festival which was to last three days, and to which all the beautiful young girls in the country were invited, in order that his son might choose himself a bride. When the two step-sisters heard that they too were to appear among the number, they were delighted, called Cinderella and said, comb our hair for us, brush our shoes and fasten our buckles, for we are going to the wedding at the king's palace. Cinderella obeyed, but wept, because she too would have liked to go with them to the dance, and begged her step-mother to allow her to do so. You go, Cinderella, said she, covered in dust and dirt as you are, and would go to the festival. You have no clothes and shoes, and yet would dance. As, however, Cinderella went on asking, the step-mother said at last, I have emptied a dish of lentils into the ashes for you, if you have picked them out again in two hours, you shall go with us. The maiden went through the back-door into the garden, and called, you tame pigeons, you turtle-doves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to pick the good into the pot, the bad into the crop.

Then two white pigeons came in by the kitchen window, and afterwards the turtle-doves, and at last all the birds beneath the sky, came whirring and crowding in, and alighted amongst the ashes. And the pigeons nodded with their heads and began pick, pick, pick, pick, and the rest began also pick, pick, pick, pick, and gathered all the good grains into the dish. Hardly had one hour passed before they had finished, and all flew out again. Then the girl took the dish to her step-mother, and was glad, and believed that now she would be allowed to go with them to the festival. But the step-mother said, no, Cinderella, you have no clothes and you can not dance. You would only be laughed at. And as Cinderella wept at this, the step-mother said, if you can pick two dishes of lentils out of the ashes for me in one hour, you shall go with us. And she thought to herself, that she most certainly cannot do again. When the step-mother had emptied the two dishes of lentils amongst the ashes, the maiden went through the back-door into the garden and cried, you tame pigeons, you turtle-doves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to pick the good into the pot, the bad into the crop. Then two white pigeons came in by the kitchen-window, and afterwards the turtle-doves, and at length all the birds beneath the sky, came whirring and crowding in, and alighted amongst the ashes. And the doves nodded with their heads and began pick, pick, pick, pick, and the others began also pick, pick, pick, pick, and gathered all the good seeds into the dishes, and before half an hour was over they had already finished, and all flew out again. Then the maiden was delighted, and believed that she might now go with them to the wedding. But the step-mother said, all this will not help. You cannot go with us, for you have no clothes and can not dance. We should be ashamed of you. On this she turned her back on Cinderella, and hurried away with her two proud daughters.

As no one was now at home, Cinderella went to her mother's grave beneath the hazel-tree, and cried - shiver and quiver, little tree, silver and gold throw down over me. Then the bird threw a gold and silver dress down to her, and slippers embroidered with silk and silver. She put on the dress with all speed, and went to the wedding. Her step-sisters and the step-mother however did not know her, and thought she must be a foreign princess, for she looked so beautiful in the golden dress. They never once thought of Cinderella, and believed that she was sitting at home in the dirt, picking lentils out of the ashes. The prince approached her, took her by the hand and danced with her. He would dance with no other maiden, and never let loose of her hand, and if any one else came to invite her, he said, this is my partner. She danced till it was evening, and then she wanted to go home. But the king's son said, I will go with you and bear you company, for he wished to see to whom the beautiful maiden belonged. She escaped from him, however, and sprang into the pigeon-house. The king's son waited until her father came, and then he told him that the unknown maiden had leapt into the pigeon-house. The old man thought, can it be Cinderella. And they had to bring him an axe and a pickaxe that he might hew the pigeon-house to pieces, but no one was inside it. And when they got home Cinderella lay in her dirty clothes among the ashes, and a dim little oil-lamp was burning on the mantle-piece, for Cinderella had jumped quickly down from the back of the pigeon-house and had run to the little hazel-tree, and there she had taken off her beautiful clothes and laid them on the grave, and the bird had taken them away again, and then she had seated herself in the kitchen amongst the ashes in her grey gown.

Next day when the festival began afresh, and her parents and the step-sisters had gone once more, Cinderella went to the hazel-tree and said - shiver and quiver, my little tree, silver and gold throw down over me. Then the bird threw down a much more beautiful dress than on the preceding day. And when Cinderella appeared at the wedding in this dress, every one was astonished at her beauty. The king's son had waited until she came, and instantly took her by the hand and danced with no one but her. When others came and invited her, he said, this is my partner. When evening came she wished to leave, and the king's son followed her and wanted to see into which house she went. But she sprang away from him, and into the garden behind the house. Therein stood a beautiful tall tree on which hung the most magnificent pears. She clambered so nimbly between the branches like a squirrel that the king's son did not know where she was gone. He waited until her father came, and said to him, the unknown maiden has escaped from me, and I believe she has climbed up the pear-tree. The father thought, can it be Cinderella. And had an axe brought and cut the tree down, but no one was on it. And when they got into the kitchen, Cinderella lay there among the ashes, as usual, for she had jumped down on the other side of the tree, had taken the beautiful dress to the bird on the little hazel-tree, and put on her grey gown. On the third day, when the parents and sisters had gone away, Cinderella went once more to her mother's grave and said to the little tree - shiver and quiver, my little tree, silver and gold throw down over me. And now the bird threw down to her a dress which was more splendid and magnificent than any she had yet had, and the slippers were golden. And when she went to the festival in the dress, no one knew how to speak for astonishment. The king's son danced with her only, and if any one invited her to dance, he said this is my partner. When evening came, Cinderella wished to leave, and the king's son was anxious to go with her, but she escaped from him so quickly that he could not follow her.

The king's son, however, had employed a ruse, and had caused the whole staircase to be smeared with pitch, and there, when she ran down, had the maiden's left slipper remained stuck. The king's son picked it up, and it was small and dainty, and all golden. Next morning, he went with it to the father, and said to him, no one shall be my wife but she whose foot this golden slipper fits. Then were the two sisters glad, for they had pretty feet. The eldest went with the shoe into her room and wanted to try it on, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her big toe into it, and the shoe was too small for her. Then her mother gave her a knife and said, cut the toe off, when you are queen you will have no more need to go on foot. The maiden cut the toe off, forced the foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the king's son. Then he took her on his horse as his bride and rode away with her. They were obliged, however, to pass the grave, and there, on the hazel-tree, sat the two pigeons and cried - turn and peep, turn and peep, there's blood within the shoe, the shoe it is too small for her, the true bride waits for you. Then he looked at her foot and saw how the blood was trickling from it. He turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, and said she was not the true one, and that the other sister was to put the shoe on. Then this one went into her chamber and got her toes safely into the shoe, but her heel was too large. So her mother gave her a knife and said, cut a bit off your heel, when you are queen you will have no more need to go on foot.

The maiden cut a bit off her heel, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the king's son. He took her on his horse as his bride, and rode away with her, but when they passed by the hazel-tree, the two pigeons sat on it and cried - turn and peep, turn and peep, there's blood within the shoe, the shoe it is too small for her, the true bride waits for you. He looked down at her foot and saw how the blood was running out of her shoe, and how it had stained her white stocking quite red. Then he turned his horse and took the false bride home again. This also is not the right one, said he, have you no other daughter. No, said the man, there is still a little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her, but she cannot possibly be the bride. The king's son said he was to send her up to him, but the mother answered, oh, no, she is much too dirty, she cannot show herself. But he absolutely insisted on it, and Cinderella had to be called. She first washed her hands and face clean, and then went and bowed down before the king's son, who gave her the golden shoe. Then she seated herself on a stool, drew her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and put it into the slipper, which fitted like a glove. And when she rose up and the king's son looked at her face he recognized the beautiful maiden who had danced with him and cried, that is the true bride. The step-mother and the two sisters were horrified and became pale with rage, he, however, took Cinderella on his horse and rode away with her. As they passed by the hazel-tree, the two white doves cried - turn and peep, turn and peep, no blood is in the shoe, the shoe is not too small for her, the true bride rides with you, and when they had cried that, the two came flying down and placed themselves on Cinderella's shoulders, one on the right, the other on the left, and remained sitting there. When the wedding with the king's son was to be celebrated, the two false sisters came and wanted to get into favor with Cinderella and share her good fortune. When the betrothed couple went to church, the elder was at the right side and the younger at the left, and the pigeons pecked out one eye from each of them. Afterwards as they came back the elder was at the left, and the younger at the right, and then the pigeons pecked out the other eye from each. And thus, for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness all their days.