Rethinking Fables and Fairy Tales: A Story Retelling Activity
By the time your child is in virtual elementary school, he or she is likely to know who Little Red Riding Hood is and what happened to Goldilocks when she invaded the home of the Three Bears. These are just a few examples of storytelling standards that have entertained and inspired generations of young minds.
Now encourage your child to rethink his or her favorite bedtime stories in this simple story retelling activity. Just ask your child to think “What if…?” and then to change the story based on the new premise.
Choosing a Tale to Retell
Because this storytelling activity is so versatile, you can easily customize it to your child’s interests or learning needs. It can be written in a paper, illustrated in a homemade book, shared orally, acted out on stage, and more.
This activity is also a great way to help your child think like a writer and exercise his or her verbal-linguistic intelligence. In addition, your child will be practicing a reading strategy by self-questioning. All your child has to do is start by asking, “What if?”
Here are a few ideas to get your child thinking.
- “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”: What would happen if the third bowl of porridge wasn’t “just right”?
- “The Three Little Pigs”: What would happen if the wolf felt remorseful after blowing down the first two houses? What would happen if a fourth little pig appeared in the story?
- “The Tortoise and the Hare”: What if the hare had paced himself better? What if a third animal had joined the race?
- “The Little Red Hen”: What if the other animals had helped bake the bread instead of insisting “Not I!” when the hen invited them to join her?
Other popular stories to choose from include “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “Stone Soup,” and “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” If your child is unfamiliar with any of these tales or classics from Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm, now is the time to introduce them.
Remember that you have plenty of freedom when it comes to choosing a tale. To get in the spirit of the season, your child can retell a holiday-themed story. There are even some online storytelling tools your child can experiment with, such as Scholastic’s Story Starters application. Just spin the wheel and the tool will generate a new topic that you can incorporate in your retelling! For example, what if you turned “The Three Little Pigs” into “a love story about an adventurous warrior whose brother is trapped by a goblin”? How could you fit this new topic in with the original tale?
Story Retelling Tips
Consider using the following tips to give this activity more structure.
- Suggest changing the setting—either the time or place for the story. What if Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother lived in a big city apartment instead of in the woods?
- Ask your child whether he or she wants to change the beginning, middle, or end of the tale. This will give you the opportunity to discuss cause and effect or review the parts of a story (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution).
- Help your child make an outline. Use a graphic organizer to determine which plot points will stay the same, which ones will change, and when the changes will occur.
- Ask your child to think of a message or theme he or she wants to add to the story. How do the characters or plot need change to convey this message? If your child wants to keep the original message, how can he or she change the tale without changing its meaning?
- Start with a story told in a song, such as “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” What if Puff found a new friend after Jackie grew up?
- Look into similar stories from other cultures. For example, many cultures have a Cinderella rags-to-riches type of story that recognizes inner beauty. The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin is an Algonquin variation on the theme. Compare and contrast Martin’s tale with Disney’s Cinderella movie or the musical version by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Creative Story Exercises
Ask your child how he or she wants to retell the story. Choose one of the following:
- Instead of retelling one tale, choose two and combine them. The popular play Into the Woods includes several fairy tale characters interacting with each other to create a whole new story line.
- Write a paragraph of the story and then pass it to a partner so that he or she can write the next paragraph. Working silently, keep passing the paper back and forth so you can both put your own spin on the retelling.
- Create your own picture book to illustrate your retelling, but don’t include any words. Ask someone to look at it and see if he or she can catch all of the changes you have made.
- Turn the retelling into a play or puppet show that you and your friends or siblings can perform. Present the play to some unknowing audience members and see their reactions when it doesn’t turn out the way they expect!
- Write two different retellings of the same story. Which one do you prefer?
- Write a back story. Why is the evil queen in Snow White so jealous of Snow White’s youth and beauty?
How do you plan on structuring this story retelling activity? Share your ideas with us by posting below!