Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Social-Emotional Development with Fables

By Rhonda McDonald, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger

Fables are an engaging way for you to teach a moral or a lesson because the character development of fictional human and animal characters often involve character traits of real-life people. This is a great way to introduce kids to social and emotional learning. In today's blog post, I'll explain how you can use three level F fables to facilitate social and emotional development.

Hundreds of years ago, tales were told and retold as they passed through generations of people. At some point, they were written down, so there may be variations from the original tales, but the message of the moral remains the same. Aesop’s Fables, as they have become known, are timeless. You can share these tales with students today as a means of presenting kids with models for developing moral behavior in a non-threatening manner.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

In The Boy Who Cried Wolf , the boy learns a valuable lesson about the importance of being honest and telling the truth. The main character guards a flock of sheep and decides to sound the alarm about a wolf coming to harm the sheep. After the first two times of falsely sounding the alarm, help comes to fight off the wolf. But after the third time, when the wolf really comes, no help arrives. People nearby do not believe him after being tricked twice.

You can have students act out the role of the boy and the villagers to understand that in a dangerous situation, such as the arrival of the real wolf, people may not come after being tricked by a false alarm. To help kids deepen the real-world connections they make, ask students what they think would happen if they called 911 for an emergency.

Some students may recognize that the responders could arrive but may quickly find nothing wrong. Then you could ask: What would happen if this continued? Do you think the 911 responders would continue to come to help?

As the discussion is unfolding, students should be able to understand that honesty is a valued quality for any person. Be sure to take note of positive responses from the class on a bulletin board or chart. A visual reminder of the goal helps to create a culture of kindness within the classroom. Each example recorded on the chart should be celebrated with a round of applause or sticker on the chart to indicate how many students agree with the statement.

After this discussion, you can incorporate three corresponding nonfiction books for kids to build content-area literacy as well as real-world connections about wolves and sheep. These include Is It a Wolf or a Coyote? , Wool for My Sweater , and Sheep . Then you can use the following questions for an engaging discussion about responsibility and honesty: Why do sheep need someone to watch over them? Why are sheep valuable to a farmer? What is the difference between a wolf and a coyote? What are some other jobs where you need to be responsible and honest?

The Tortoise and the Rabbit

The second level F fable in today's blog post is The Tortoise and the Rabbit . This is the classic tale of the boasting rabbit that races against the tortoise to see who is faster. The rabbit is so sure of itself that it decides to take a nap while the plodding tortoise keeps going slowly and steadily to its victory. This narrative text is a helpful way to teach kids not to brag about themselves and to never give up even when the task seems impossible.

A fun extension activity that you could include in your guided reading lesson plans involves a race around the playground. In small groups of up to five students or with the entire class, have students make predictions about who they think would win and brainstorm different obstacles or things to slow down the other racers. Here are some variations of obstacles: one group takes baby steps, while another group takes giant steps; one group could hop on one foot, while another one group walks backward; one group skips and the other spins, etc.

Discuss the effect that boasting has on friends by asking, Is it kind to always be talking about yourself? Give kids a model of giving compliments to friends in place of talking about yourself. Talk about how brave the tortoise was to try something that seemed very hard. As an extension of this story, students could rewrite the story and change the main animal characters to other animals that are known to move fast or slow, such as a cheetah and anteater, or a falcon and a turkey.

The three informational texts that correspond to themes within The Tortoise and the Rabbit include Ready, Set, Go! , Taking Care of Pet Rabbits , and Turtle or Tortoise? If there is a student in the class who has a pet rabbit or turtle, let them share prior knowledge with the whole group about how to care for the pet. You can also encourage that student to bring their pet to class to engage kids with realia.

You can also have students create a word bank of adjectives that pertain to rabbits or turtles by having them make observations from pictures of each animal. For an art project, ask students to draw different rabbits or turtles using the adjectives from the word bank and put the pages of drawings together into a small booklet. Have them write a sentence on each page, and then display the booklets in the classroom.

The Dove King

The Dove King is a leveled book that may be less familiar to some striving readers. It is a tale about a flock of doves that travels to look for food. They see some seeds on the ground and decide to fly down and eat them. While eating, a net is thrown over the group. The only way to escape the net is for the flock to work together and fly upward at the same time. The lesson learned is the importance of working together. A group is much stronger when it works together.

Talk with the class about different tasks that could be completed by working together. Try some of the following examples with one person, a pair, or a larger group: building something with blocks, working a puzzle, lifting a heavy box, cleaning up toys, moving a table, etc. The lesson learned in this fable is important in many aspects of life because there are always opportunities that kids will need to work with others to complete a task.

The paired texts for this fiction book for kids include Doves , Seeds , and Nets for Work and Play . With these leveled books, you can encourage students to practice their research skills to explore different birds that work together in nature. For example, flocks of geese travel together and eagles work together to build huge nests. Students could draw and write about different beaks of birds to determine what foods they eat.

Teaching with fables is a fun way to show students that social and emotional  development is important.  They provide you with a tool to enhance the culture of  kindness within the classroom. Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming ideas to use level G fables for social and emotional learning!

Rhonda was a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia. She now substitutes and visits schools and libraries to lead writing workshops, story time, and parent workshops. She is also an author of children's books and several titles in our  Kaleidoscope Collection  and Zoozoo Animal World  series.  Neat Feet Two Voices is the second nonfiction book available in the fall of 2019 in a reader's theater format that follows  Nest Quest Two Voices , both of which Rhonda has authored. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more by Rhonda on our blog .