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Educator Resources

The Hare and the Water: A Tanzanian Folk Tale Lesson

Rabbit drinking

Students explore the literary elements of a Tanzanian folk tale about animals collaborating to dig a well.

Supporting resources

Feed the Future Water Project Ghana (Contaminated water)

The Hare and the Water

This folk tale stars a shrewd hare who thought he got the best of everybody, until he met his match

Students will make connections between the message in the tale and contemporary life in Tanzania as shown through pictures on the Water in Africa website. They will create original conclusions to the tale and cooperatively illustrate the folk tale using oil pastels.

How can folk tales reflect the values and beliefs of contemporary society?

How can these lessons be applied to society today?


Students will be able to

  • Identify the literary elements of folk tale.
  • Create alternate endings that are consistent with the elements of a folk tale.
  • Understand and apply the lesson of the folk tale by working collaboratively.
  • Provide contemporary examples of how the folk tale is relevant today.
  • Collaborate on a illustrated end product of the folk tale.


Day 1 and Day 2 
1. Begin by telling students that you are going to share with them a folk tale called "The Hare and the Water". Distribute the story to students and have them read it along with you. Beginning readers can fill in words they recognize when you pause. More fluent readers can read the story aloud to partners. Read the story aloud again with great expression. You may wish to assign some students the role of different characters and have them interject the lines of their characters in your narration.

2. Discuss the story with students with guided questions such as: Why did the king giraffe call a meeting (what problem needed to be solved)? How did the animals decide to solve the problem? How did the hare act? Did the hare's actions cause him trouble right away? What eventually happened to the hare? Do you think the hare learned a lesson?

3. As the folk tale is discussed, make a storyboard of the sequence of events on butcher paper (from left to right) or on the board. Call on students to briefly illustrate the events on the storyboard. Provide students with copies of the Storyboard Picture Plan and have them record the events along with you. Connect the events with arrows, and instruct the students to do the same. An example follows:
African village is dry.
King Giraffe calls animals to meet
Animals dig well together.
Hare lazes around.
Hare sneaks water.
King has Elephant guard well.
Hare tricks elephant.
King Giraffe is angry.
Hare tricks Antelope and others.
King calls Tortoise to help.
Tortoise cleverly hides in well.
Tortoise captures Hare.
Tortoise brings Hare to King Giraffe.
Hare is punished.
Animals enjoy water.

Day 3 
1. Reread the folk tale to the class or have students retell the folk tale referring to the storyboard. As the tale is reviewed, ask students to identify the main elements of the folk tale. (See the list below.) Circle their responses and label the elements on the storyboard. If you wish, students may also record the elements on the Folk Tale Elements handout. For example, if students say that the one of the main characters is the giraffe, circle the word or picture of the giraffe and write "Main Character" on the storyboard.

Folk Tale Elements
Main characters: Hare and Tortoise, King Giraffe
Secondary characters: Elephant, some students may also say antelope
Setting: Tanzania, Africa, in a dry season (refer to a map)
Problem: No water
Solutions: Dig a new well together
Traits that aid: Animals work together and solve problem; tortoise is clever
Traits that hinder: Hare is lazy and tricky, a nuisance
Conclusion: Hare is punished
Outcome: The animals enjoy their clean, fresh water in peace
Lesson: By working together, a village can have enough water for all, but don't expect something (water) for nothing (not helping).

2. Next, ask students to wonder about what happens to the hare. As a class, brainstorm some ideas for new conclusions and outcomes for the folk tale. There is no one right answer, but remind students that the endings should be a good fit with the rest of the folk tale. They should also keep true to the message that the folk tale delivers: that by working together, problems can be solved.

3. Ask students to generate some possible conclusions and outcomes. List on the board. Some possibilities are as follows:

  • Tortoise is rewarded.
  • Hare has a consequence.
  • Hare comes back to the village thirsty and sorry.
  • Hare returns with gift to make up for his laziness.

Outcome Scenarios

  • Hare is allowed back in and helps dig all future wells (he is a great burrower).
  • Hare is banished to live beyond the village and dig wells by himself.
  • Hare never learns his lesson and hops from village to village looking to sneak water.
  • Hare's trickiness is exchanged for wisdom; his laziness for work.
  • Hare must serve others from the well in order to share the water.

4. Instruct students to write up a two or three sentence conclusion. Try out their suggestions by placing the conclusion and outcome before or after the last sentence in the story.

Day 4 
1. Make arrangements to use the computer lab or computer projection equipment so you can introduce your students to the Water in Africa Theme Page.

2. Let students get familiar with the Water in Africa Theme Page. Then direct them to the Tanzania pictures and stories or direct the class to certain passages within the resources from that country. Ask groups of students to find and share examples of how the folk tale of the hare and tortoise applies to life in Tanzanian villages shown in these images and stories.

3. Allow students to explore other pictures on the Water in Africa Theme Page as well. They will find many examples of people working together to build wells, gather water, and such. Discuss why this would be necessary for the health and livelihood of these communities.

Day 5
1. Introduce students to the project they are expected to complete. Tell them that they will have an opportunity to show that they too can make group decisions and work together to make something wonderful happen. The final product will be a collaboratively illustrated version of the hare and tortoise folk tale. Their goal is to visually recreate the folk tale's message—-through cooperation, a village may get access to water, but those who do not cooperate cannot expect to benefit from the labor of others. In keeping with this theme, students will also be assessed on how well they work together.

2. Refer to the storyboard and ask students to determine which key parts of the folk tale need to be illustrated. Students may use the Storyboard Picture Plan handout to keep track of illustration assignments or this can be listed on the board. Ask students to volunteer or assign them the responsibility for specific illustrations. Be sure to include some illustrations of favorite alternate endings.

3. In keeping with the folk tale theme of collaborating for water, water will be represented in many of the pictures. To give the pictures movement and flow, have students use pastels to illustrate their pictures in a swirling style.

4. Refer students to Illustration Tips or share the tips with students while demonstrating the swirling style that each picture should contain. Also show students how to zoom in on their scenes. Explain that their illustrations will be viewed by others at a distance. Familiarize students with the Evaluation Rubric  beforehand.

5. Since individual students are illustrating different parts of the same story, it is important to help students determine how they are going to draw the giraffe, hare, and tortoise so that they look similar across the story. Students should draw main characters in similar styles and colors. Monitor students as they draw, offering tips and suggestions for keeping the illustrations connected. Encourage students to get up and look at each other's artwork. Occasionally have students line up their works-in-progress so they can see how their collaborative effort is coming. Discuss and revise as necessary.

1. Arrange for students to display their illustrations and retell the folk tale to other classes. Have them rehearse using their own words as a celebration of their own cooperative efforts. The final product, including the retelling, will be evaluated according to the rubric.

2. When students visit other classes, ask them to share how they applied the lesson of working together to develop this illustrated retelling of "The Hare and the Water." Also, have students share examples of how this folk tale is still relevant in some Tanzanian villages. The following are some suggestions for the retelling of the folk tale: Line up students with their illustrations and backs to the audience. Have students turn around only as their scene unfolds. Remind students to wait to begin to speak until they have fully turned around and to hold their pictures below their chins.

Frameworks and standards

Behavioral Studies Standard 2: Understands various meanings of social groups, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function.
Benchmark—Knows that language, stories, folk tales, music, and artistic creations are expressions of culture.

Language Arts, Standard 6: Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of literary texts.
Benchmark—Applies reading skills and strategies to a variety of literary passages and texts
Benchmark—Knows the defining characteristics of a variety of literary forms and genres

Life Skills
Working With Others, Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
Benchmark—Takes initiative when needed
Benchmark— Contributes to the development of a supportive climate in groups.

Working With Others, Standard 5: Demonstrates leadership skills
Benchmark—Enlists others in working toward a shared vision
Benchmark—Celebrates accomplishments
Benchmark—Recognizes the contributions of others

Visual Arts Standard 2: Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art
Benchmark—Knows the differences among visual characteristics (e.g., color, texture) and purposes of art (e.g., to convey ideas). Visual Arts Standard 3: Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts.
Benchmark—Selects prospective ideas (e.g. formulated thoughts, opinions, and concepts) for works of art.


Follow-up Activities
Study two Central African folk tales featuring the hare and the tortoise. See Additional Resources below.

Compare the hare and tortoise with the trickster coyote and clever raven in Native American tales.

Have students write their own folk tales. They may wish to identify a community concern and pose a solution to it in an original tale. See Additional Resources below.

Additional Resources
Two companion folk tales can be found in The Magic Drum: Tales from Central Africa, by W. F. P. Burton. London: Methuen and Company, 1961.

For more folk tale lesson ideas visit: