Friday, October 27, 2006

What's the moral of the story?



“Admit it. You know you’d just love to tell stories about al of the annoying, weird, pain-in-the-neck people you know. But you wouldn’t want to be a gossip. Well here’s how it’s done.”


Interested? Squids Will Be Squids, Fresh Morals and Beastly Fables from Jon Scieczka and Lane Smith of Stinky Cheese Man fame, model Aesop-like fables with humorous morals. The philosophy of the authors: “"If you can't say something nice about someone, change the guy's name to Donkey or Squid."

Grasshopper Logic is one of my favorites, see if it sounds like anyone you know:


“One bright and sunny day, Grasshopper came home from school, dropped his backpack, and was just about to run outside to meet his friends. “Where are you going?” asked his mom. “Out to meet some friends, “ said Grasshopper. “Do you have any homework due tomorrow?” asked his mom. “Just one small thing for History. I did the rest in class.”


And so Grasshopper’s mother lets him go to play, warning him to be back for dinner.

After dinner, Grasshopper’s mom reads the “small thing” he needs to finish:

“Rewrite twelve Greek myths as Broadway musicals. Write music for songs. Design and build all sets. Sew original costumes for each production.”


Of course, Grasshopper’s mom asks how long Grasshopper has known about the assignment, to which he answers (Let’s moan and all say it together now!) “I don’t know.”

Moral? “There are plenty of things to say to calm a hopping mad Grasshopper mom. “I don’t know” is not one of them.”

This is a great mentor text for ideas and voice, allowing students to change those things that happen to them into fables with morals that all can live by. Of course, you have to be careful of the bathroom humor (Skunk, Musk Ox, and Cabbage are hanging out on a porch...Moral: He who smelt it, dealt it) but some modern day morals are also included (Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t play with matches.)The fables in the book also celebrate clarity and brevity in writing – none are more than a two page spread, complete with wonderful illustrations.


Don’t think you have time for this type of writing when you have to prepare for the T-E-S-T? Fables from The Panchatantra,from India, appeared on our state tests last year. Interestingly, students seemed to do well with the literal questions….and not so well on the abstract pieces related to the moral. Can’t think of a better, and more engaging, test prep activity than this one!

6 comments:

Lisa said...

I like the story of the crocodile and the monkey. I think that my students would respond well to activities that dealt with morals and animals. I know that the students did not do that well when answering the question about the jackal (I think it was a jackal)on the state test. I think I will try it for voice. I haven't focused on that very much at all. It is creative and the students will like it because there is not "right or wrong".

Lisa said...

I like the story of the crocodile and the monkey. I think that my students would respond well to activities that dealt with morals and animals. I know that the students did not do that well when answering the question about the jackal (I think it was a jackal)on the state test. I think I will try it for voice. I haven't focused on that very much at all. It is creative and the students will like it because there is not "right or wrong".

Lisa said...

Sorry, the computer was taking too long and I pressed send twice.

TimC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TimC said...

At first I feel the students wouldn't take these types of story seriously, however after seeing the effect and simple why in which the stories deals with using "voice" they may come around. These types of stories are easy to create/ imagine plus are quick references to effective writing using the 6+1 traits.

Dana Leone said...

The first year of preparing for the fourth grade ELA I came upon an old Scottish fable book. Quick one- two page stories with simple to more complex moral themes. We knew that higher thinking skills would be required, despite the fact that many teachers felt the students were not developmentally ready. My students did not do well with these, even after weeks of modeling. The day before the test, I gave it one more shot and read them a tale of The Magician's Mouse, most didn't get it; so I spent 30 mins. going point by point through the story. Well it was serendipity or God's intervention, the same exact theme fable appeared on the ELA the following day. It felt like I had cheated fate but my students looked like little masters of inference. Every year since I returned to the library for the book two months before the ELA, the librarian finally gave it to me, because no ever took it out. It still is my little secret because it has proven to be invaluable almost every year. However, your suggestion may make the transition to this difficult task more palatable. Fables and moralistic folktale remain an ELA constant, we must prepare our students for the challenge.