"Ivan the Fool" Lesson 1

Students will read a classic folk tale for comprehension and enjoyment.

This lesson was prepared specifically for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), but may be used in elementary classes for native speakers of English, as well.


  • To practice shared reading
  • To practice summarizing a text
  • To practice taking notes from a text
  • To practice using a dictionary for definitions
  • To use context to define words


  • Monolingual English dictionaries 


  1. Tell the class that they will practice shared reading, which means that each student will work with one or two others to read the folk tale. Each person in a group of two or three should read a section aloud and the other students of the group should listen. Put strong and weak readers together (but don't tell the students you are doing so).
  2. Tell the groups that after every few paragraphs, they should stop and discuss what they have read. They should ask themselves questions such as:
    1. Who are the characters? What kinds of people are they?
    2. What is the setting of the story?
    3. What are the characters doing? Why?
    4. What will happen next?
  3. Ask the students to take notes about what they discuss, because, for homework, they will be writing a summary of the story.
  4. Do not pre-teach vocabulary, except for the words "czar" and "czarina." Explain that "czar" is the Russian word for emperor, and "czarina" means empress. Instruct the class that, if they encounter words they do not understand, they should ask their partner(s) for a definition. If no one knows the meaning, then they should look up the word in a dictionary and use the context of the story to figure out the correct meaning. The students should write down the words and definitions that they look up.
  5. Let the class begin reading. Circulate to ensure that each group is on task.
  6. Remind the students that they will use their discussion notes to write a summary of the story for homework. If not all students have finished reading by the end of the period, they should finish reading the story on their own and then write a summary as best they can. Ask the students also to turn in a list of the words they looked up, along with the definitions.


  1. The summaries written by the students can determine how well they comprehended the folk tale. If there are instances where the students clearly did not understand what was happening in the story, hold a class discussion about the story during a subsequent period.
  2. After checking the accuracy of the definitions of the vocabulary words submitted by the students, tell each group that worked together to make quizzes for each other—crossword puzzles or word searches in which the students have to match the words with their definitions. Allow the students a few days to study before the quizzes are administered. 

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