Learning / Lower School

Second Grade Glimpse


Chinese Curriculum Unit: 民间故事 Folktales | English Curriculum Unit: Fairytales

What are the similarities and differences between fairytales and folktales? Are there only good people and bad people? What are common themes and essential elements that thread throughout this genre? Second grade students explore answers to these questions through the lenses of studying folktales in Chinese and fairytales in English.

Students gather on the rug in English class as the teacher adds to a Venn Diagram about the books Prince Cinder and a more traditional Cinderella story. “Why do you think the author decided to make these changes to the story? How does it improve the story?” the teacher asks. Students come up with conjectures about the purpose of these changes to think through how they will plan out changes for their own fairytale adaptations in writing workshop. Students later settle onto pillows in the classroom library and comfortable corners of the room for reading workshop, jotting on Post-it notes about character traits, feelings, and types. One student notes that the eagle is the villain in The Three Little Dassies and suggests that the author had changed the setting of the story to the deserts of Namibia so the characters have to change to animals that are native to the area. She tells her reading partner that she plans to make the human the villain and the chickens the heroes in her own retelling of The Three Little Pigs during writing workshop because she is changing the setting of her story to a farm. Later that day, the students get out their writing workshop folders and begin planning how to add dialogue and action to their stories.

In the Chinese classroom, students explore two classic Chinese folktales, reviewing 周楚除三害 Zhou chu Chu San Hai and studying 神笔马良 Shen Bi Ma Liang. In English class, students were introduced to Yeh-Shen, a Chinese Cinderella story, through a read aloud, and this dialogue continues in Chinese class where they perform reader’s theater through a script of 叶限 Yeh-Shen. The narration in the script is written in English and the dialogue is written in Chinese, so students are able to practice fluency and reading with expression for both languages. In addition, students share their opinions on the characters they portrayed in Yeh Shen and offered peer feedback on how to improve their performance based on character traits and feelings. They also collaborate on painting the backdrop for the play in art class. Later, parents are invited to a performance of Yeh Shen to celebrate the students’ creative work.

Examples of Enduring UnderstandingsExamples of Essential QuestionsFocus of Integration
ChinesePeople go through changes in lives and stories.Are people only good or bad?

What do folktales teach us about people?
Culture, Change and Continuity, Self Development
EnglishFairytales have universal themes and can be adapted by changing the setting and/or characters.How do writers adapt fairytales?Culture, Change and Continuity, Self Development