Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Beginning of the Year Book Study for Upper Elementary: Cinderella Fairy Tales

One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the year with my fourth graders is a book study on Cinderella. I have collected numerous read aloud books that follow the plot line of and were inspired by Cinderella. The students love this unit in my classroom and I use it to work on a vast array of skills. The best effect from doing this unit is to get students talking to set the tone for student-led discussion at the beginning of the year.

The skills that I like to highlight in this unit are:
-compare and contrast- this skill is obviously the primary skill in exposing students to such similar stories. I have done this two ways with venn diagrams: comparing the first two books read or having students compare and contrast their two favorite books. I think you'll find, though, that comparing and contrasting is a skill you can sprinkle throughout your interactive read aloud and it will drive student-led discussions.

-predictions- once students understand the Cinderella plot line, they can start making some great predictions and justifying their predictions with evidence from another text!

-plot- Repeating the same plot over and over again helps students internalize the standard plot structure.

-context clues- I love that a lot of the books I have found take place in different settings all around the world. A lot of the books I chose give the students a little taste of a different culture with some language or dialect from that region or country. Students can use their context clues to figure out what some of these new words mean!

-character traits- Since the characters are similar, give or take, in each story, I make a point to also put an emphasis on character traits. It's a great opportunity, again, to make sure that students are justifying their claims with evidence during discussions. I love using this Character Trait chart from Workshop Classroom's tpt shop. I actually have the blank one printed out as a poster that I constantly reference throughout the year. For start of the year purposes, I show the students the filled in chart.

When students are more comfortable with a story, I've found that the discussions are quite impressive. So that is why I always start my year with this unit.

I read one book a day. I am lucky to have a generous 30 minute block that can be used to incorporate an interactive read aloud at the start of each day. If you don't have that luxury, you could use these folk tales in an extended unit.

Use this list as a guideline! There are so many other Cinderella-inspired stories out there that I'm sure are wonderful. If you have any that I haven't mentioned, please let me know about them!

The book I always start with is a classic Cinderella story. The book I use for this is,,,

This is the story heavily inspired by Charles Perrault, who many of us think of as the classic Cinderella story with the glass slippers. I am always surprised at how few of my students have seen the Disney movie so this is an essential starting point. 

After I read the classic story, there is no necessary order that I read the following books in.

The Chinese version of Cinderella is actually the original story. This tale is a reproduction of the Chinese manuscript that dates back to the 5th century, one thousand years before the story first surfaced in Europe. Starting with this story instead of the Charles Perrault version is a great option!

I am especially drawn to this book because it breaks down typical gender roles of a Cinderella story. The main character is a young male!

This tale is based on Algonquin folklore, so it lends itself well to tying in or briefly introducing any Native American content you teach. As a Virginia teacher, this book is especially remarkable since we specifically teach about the Algonquin tribe.

I think this is the most fun book to read and at the end of the year my students often ask for me to read it a few more times! I like to read this story with a bit of a twang as that is how the book is written- in the regional dialect. As a Virginia teacher, the fact that this story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains is a bonus that leads to a geography tie-in! So any Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky or West Virginia teachers... take note!

Cinder-Elly is a student favorite because it's written in a rap! This hip-hop Cinderella story that takes place in a modern urban setting. My students are able to identify with the main character in this story best because her story takes place in the current times. I find that character traits integrate well with this book.

My family is Persian so I love incorporating this story into my Cinderella unit. I also have trouble finding stories that depict middle eastern characters (or just non-Caucasian characters in general) so this book is relevant and influential. Shirley Climo is also a favorite author of mine in the folklore genre as you can tell since her books are on this list multiple times.

As teachers, we all know that Tomie dePaola's books make great read alouds and Adelita is no exception. This is a Mexican Cinderella story. My students are heavily hispanic so it's fun to have them explain what some of the words in this book mean as dePaola incorporates a ton of spanish words (don't worry, there is a glossary in the back and all meanings are easily decipherable). If your students don't speak spanish, this book is great to incorporate those context clues!

Here are some other titles that would work for this unit, but I have yet to have any experience with! If anyone has recommendations for these, please let me know! I love adding to my collection for this unit and keeping a few Cinderella-insired stories in my classroom library for interested students to read throughout the year. As you can see, there are so many different options from a variety of cultures for you to choose from.




  1. What a great post! I love doing a Cinderella unit with my fourth graders too! Cendrillon is a part of our ELA anthology series, so I start with that one and then have my students compare and contrast other versions too. I've done The Korean Cinderella and The Golden Sandal, which my students LOVE! I've also used Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella and Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, which they really enjoy too! I just ordered The Irish Cinderlad and Adelita to add to my unit, thank you for sharing!

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