Identifying Structured Patterns in Folk Tales

Students will learn that folk tales follow a pattern, and they will attempt to analyze a story to discover its pattern.


  • Students will be able to find patterns in a text.
  • Students will be able to use the text of a folk tale to increase their skills in reasoning through the identification of analogies.
  • Students will be able to construct their own folk tale based on elements of their own culture.


  1. Explain to students that folk tales often have a structured pattern underlying their story line. Being able to uncover the pattern can increase their ability to think about and analyze the story at higher levels. Explain that there is a pattern within the selected folk tale that doesn't have anything to do with the literal elements of the story. Give each student a copy of the Folk Tales Worksheet, and go through the example given with them.
  2. Ask students if they can think of any other story they've read or film they've seen that contains this pattern. Use the handout to outline the pattern. To ensure that students understand the difference between the literal story and the structured pattern, work through the left-hand column of the chart on the Folk Tales Worksheet with them. Explain that this column is meant to be used to record the literal elements of the folk tale that correspond to the structured pattern.
  3. Choose one or more folk tales from the Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools program website. Have students work with a partner to complete the right-hand column of the Folk Tales Worksheet by writing down the literal elements of the folk tale.
  4. Have partners share their findings.

Frameworks and standards

Enduring understandings

  • Folk tales contain universal themes that transcend their culture of origin.
  • Folk tales occur in all cultures and teach important lessons about life.

Essential questions

  • What does this folk tale teach me about my culture and other cultures?
  • What life lessons can we learn from folk tales? 


Have students use the pattern in the selected folk tale to write a folk tale of their own creation. Students can use the Folk Tales Worksheet as a graphic organizer to begin to brainstorm the literal elements of their own folk tale. Before students begin working on their folk tales, review the information on folk tales with them. Remind students of the structural elements of folk tales: an introduction, a development, a climax, a conclusion, and a moral. As students are brainstorming the plot of their own folk tale, have them compare their initial notes with a partner prior to writing.

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