Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book of the Day Activities: Multicultural Tales

Books of the Day for July 26 - August 1

Because this week's books are traditional fairy tales, you are likely to find various versions of them. I have included images of the versions with which I am most familiar, however, I encourage you to seek out other versions and read them to your class/children. They may take delight in comparing the various stories! Please respond below if you have other tales or activities that will go with any of the featured books for this week. Please add your own books and/or activities in the comment section!

Here are some activities that will go with all of the books on this week's list:
  • Mark on a map or globe the areas where these stories originated.

  • Make passports for the children and let them stamp them every time you read a book from a different country.
  • Connect with a different classroom (pen pals, e-pals, or another classroom in the school) and compare/contrast different versions of the stories.

  • Even young Preschool and kindergarten students can begin to learn the difference between real and pretend. Talk about what "fairy tales" and "folk tales" are and look for ways to tell if a story is real or pretend (ex: talking animals, magic, etc)

  • Make flags of the corresponding countries. Learn a little about what the colors and symbols represent.

  • Use the Internet to go on a "photographic" tour of the countries featured in these books.

  • Several of the books on this list are Caldecott Winners (Lon Po Po, Anansi the Spider, Strega Nona). Learn about the Caldecott honor and bring children's attention to the illustrations in these award winning stories!

Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel

  • Practice saying the main character's name: Tiki tiki tembo-no sa rembo chari bari ruchi pip peri pembo! The children will have fun just trying to learn the name.
  • Allow the children to clap out and count syllables in the name. Then count the syllables in their own names and classmates' names.
  • Research the meanings of each child's name. Older students can also research the meanings of their parents' names.
  • Tie this story into a theme on opposites. One brother had a long name and one brother had a short name. Make a list of other opposites with the children!
  • Note: Make sure that children know that this is a "pretend" story since most people of Chinese decent do not really give their children long names like Tikki Tikki Tembo...

Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco
  • Visit the author's website.
  • Use this story as an opportunity to talk about patience; the main character in the story wants things "now." Have children discuss and/or illustrate times when they have to be patient (waiting for their turn on a bike, going to the store with mom, etc).
  • Learn about Matryoshka dolls or Russian Nesting Dolls. The Russian Legacy Website has a lot of good background information for adults. Some websites have the dolls for sale between $30 and $40.
  • Have the students rewrite and illustrate the story.

The Mitten by Jan Brett

  • Make a mitten match activity: the teacher should cut mittens from tag board and decorate each pair various patterns and colors. Laminate the mittens and store them in a container of your choice. Encourage students to find matching pairs. Note: the mitten patterns can be used for all sorts of activities: matching upper/lower case letters, matching opposites, pairing pictures w/beginning letter sounds, addition activities, etc. Here is an example of mitten match game using colors.
  • Use Jan Brett's site which has mitten and animal patterns to make a flannel board or file folder version of the story.
  • Use the animal patterns from Jan Brett's site (see link above) to make an Beginning Sounds Game: have children match the animals with their beginning sounds. This game can be done on a magnetic board, flannel board, or made into a file folder game.

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola *This story may not be a traditional "folktale" since it is an original story. But it has a lot of the elements of a traditional tale!

  • Make a chart of the various Italian words used in the book (Grazia: Thank you
    Per Favore: Please, etc).
  • If you (or a parent) has a pasta maker, make pasta from scratch!
  • Have a gelati tasting or make cannolis.
  • Compare/sort different types of pasta (elbow, bow tie, spaghetti, etc). Make a pasta collage.
  • At the easel, encourage children to paint their own pictures of their Magic Pot. Antony's pot had pasta but encourage students to come up with their own ideas of what they would want in their pots.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema

  • Young children will love to say this big word "onomatopoeia" which is really a fancy word for words that imitate sounds. Have the class make a list and write it on chart paper. Examples: buzz, wham, woof, moo, bang, choo-choo, etc...
  • Make sequencing cards and have students put the major story events in order.
  • Do "nighttime" drawings using colored chalk and black construction paper.
  • Learn about a few of the animals in the story (iguana, python, rabbit, crow, monkey, owl, lion, and of course, mosquito). Sites such as National Geographic for Kids often have video, pictures, and facts that are appropriate for young children.

Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott

  • Use a child-friendly computer program like KidPix to have children create their own spiders.
  • Visit the PBS Kids' Africa site.
  • Learn about spiders and other arachnids
  • Make a spider - search the web for "spider crafts" and you will find dozens of options!
  • Make a spider snack: body = large marshmallow, legs = stick pretzels, eyes = mini chocolate chips (attach w/ a dot of peanut butter if there are no allergies)
  • Make a Venn Diagram and compare a "real" spider with Anansi

Lon Po Po by Ed Young*Thanks to peekabooplay (on Twitter) for reminding me to add this one!

  • Read this version and a more familiar version of Little Red Riding Hood and help the students compare/contrast the stories.
  • Make a graph of what version the class likes the most. When making graphs with young children it is most important to be very visual.
  • Do a "Fact" vs "Fiction" activity about wolves.
  • Learn to write some letters or count to 10 in Chinese.

Other Favorite Folktales from Twitter:

Katjewave said, "The Bossy Gallito is a Cuban folktale retold by Lucia Gonzalez."

peekabooplay loves Brett's version of Goldilocks.

Katjewave likes Just a Minute! by Yuyi Morales. It's a counting book in a tale about how Abuela tricks Sr. Calavera.

meristemstudio said, "Some of my favorite multicultural fairy tales are retold by Gerald McDermott..."

Katjewave is a huge 'Cinderella' fan, and since she's EVERYWHERE in the world, suggests Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by Steptoe.


  1. I'm a huge fan of trickster tales, so I'm entering a few:
    "Zomo the Rabbit" a Trickster Tale from West Africa" by Gerald McDermott
    "Borreguita and Coyote" by Verna Aardema
    "Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti" by Gerald McDermott
    "Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest" by Gerald McDermott
    The trickster tradition is found throughout the world, but Anansi is probably my favorite.

  2. Tomie de Paola has two wonderful multi-cultural books from Native American tales, "Legend of the Indian Paintbrush" and "The Legend of the Bluebonnet".
    Back when we had time to teach art, I accompanied these stories with "bark" painting. We took brown paper bags, crumpled them up, soaked them in very watered down brown/black tempera 'soup', then smoothed them to dry. Afterwards, we painted scenes from the stories with bright tempera paint and when dry, outlined the painting with black marker.

  3. Kate - Thanks so much for adding these ideas! I will repost them on Twitter!

  4. I love One Night in Frogtown, which is a story celebrating cultural diversity through music. Comes with a music cd to expose the children to the different types of music, too. You can find it on in the book category.

  5. Rasco from RIF ( today posted 4 covers of Cinderella stories from Southeast Asia in keeping with the One Shot Southeast Asia sponsored by Chasing Ray ( later this week.



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