Fractured fairy tales are a great way to help students see how story elements—like character, plot, setting—shape the stories we read and write.
What do we call it when an author takes a classic fairy tale and changes it into something completely different? It’s called a fractured fairy tale. And kids love them. “It’s by far my students’ favorite language arts unit every year,” writes teacher Jessie Averson, a second-grade teacher in Tennessee. We asked teachers across the country for their favorite tips on teaching fractured fairy tales. Here are the top 11 ideas. (Plus, see our list of fractured fairy tales at the bottom of the page!)
1. “Start off by asking students to share their favorite fairy tales. Record the list on a piece of chart paper. Then ask the class: ‘What makes a fairy tale a fairy tale?’ You’ll be amazed at their answers, and it will lay the groundwork for all the work that follows.” —Jessie Averson
2. “Choose a fairy tale that you know well and TELL the story—no props, no pictures—just tell it. Storytelling is becoming a lost art. You will be amazed at how your students respond as they paint pictures in their minds while listening to your words. My students become instantly quiet and focused when I begin to tell a story.” —Linda Joyce
3. “Read three or four or five traditional fairy tales aloud. If your students are familiar enough with the stories, tell the stories collaboratively as a class at circle time. As they relate the tale together, your students may discover that they do not all remember the story the same way.” —Ellen Ivory
4. “Readers’ theater is essential. Choose a fairy tale or two and have groups of three or four students each take a different version and perform it as readers’ theater! My second graders loved it and they made their own props too! —Mallory Wintercorn
5. “Fractured fairy tales are great for teaching about point of view. Read titles such as ‘Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!’ or ‘The Story of the Three Bears as Told by Baby Bear’ by Nancy Jean Loewen and talk about how different characters might have a different perspective. Loewen also has versions of ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs.'” —Karen Griffin
6. “As a side STEM activity for ‘The Three Little Pigs,’ gather building materials such as straws, popsicle sticks, Legos, etc., and explore how effective they are as building materials!” —April JW
7. “We make our fairy tale unit cross-curricular. We plant beans after reading ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ We also build castles with recyclable items. After reading ‘Cinderella,’ we do an activity where we measure Cinderella’s, her sisters’ and her godmother’s shoes. We do problem solving with the characters from fairy tales. It all ends with Fairy Tale Day, when kids dress up as princesses, knights and dragons. Such a fun celebration for everyone!” —Mylene Arseneau
8. “I like the idea of a creative writing assignment or—for younger kids—a storytelling assignment. Swap the bad guys in the stories. The Big Bad Wolf from ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ chases Hansel and Gretel. What would happen? How would the stories be different?” —Phil Weber
9. “In drama class, I would choose a fairy tale and then change three objects in the story and the students would have to come up with ways to keep the storyline but still include the objects. For ‘Snow White,’ instead of an apple, use a tissue box; instead of a mirror, use a computer. The kids loved it!” —Laurie Elliot
10. “There are so many versions of ‘Cinderella’ from different cultures. When I taught second grade, we did a unit called ‘Around the World With Cinderella.’ Students made passports and read versions of ‘Cinderella’ from several continents. They had to compare and contrast a few stories and then they wrote their own.” —Kenya Brown
11. “After my second graders study fairy tales, we read ‘The End’ by David Rochelle. It starts with ‘and they all lived happily ever after,’ and it ends as you can imagine with ‘once upon a time.’ My students think it’s so funny!”—April Ralph
Books that feature fractured fairy tales:
Download and print the full-size PDF here.
Little Red Riding Hood Stories
Three Little Pigs Stories
View the list here.