"Ivan the Fool" Lesson 3

Students will learn that a quest is central to many folk stories, and they will write their own, incorporating a quest.

Background Information

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 learn about quest stories in traditional literature
  • To compare quest stories from various cultures
  • To work cooperatively to design a board game
  • To practice writing instructions
  • To practice oral presentations (optional)
  • To practice writing summaries (optional)


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. Students should have already read the folk tale at least once before doing these activities.

Quest stories

  1. Elicit from the students the meaning of the word quest. [A search, a hunt, or the seeking for something; a long trip in search of a particular goal, often entailing challenge.] Write the definitions on the board.
  2. Ask the students what quest or quests are evident in "Ivan the Fool." [The czar was searching for wives for his sons. The czar was seeking a worthy successor. The sons were seeking to inherit their father's position....] Ask what challenges were involved in these quests. [The czar's quest was difficult, because he didn't want to alienate any of his sons by selecting brides they might not like; Ivan had to travel a long way before he found his wife....]
  3. Ask students to name stories from their own literary traditions that involve quests. Students can give synopses of the stories so everyone has an idea of what they are about.
  4. Lead the class in a discussion about quest stories and try to elicit that a quest theme might represent an allegory of life, i.e., that life is a series of challenges and long-term quests that we undergo. Can students name quests in their own lives that they are willing to share with the class?

Design a board game

  1. Divide the students into groups of three to five.
  2. Ask each group to design a board game that illustrates the czar's quest to find good wives for his sons and to find a worthy successor to his position. The game should include
    • How each son found his wife.
    • The tasks each wife had to perform.
    • The conversations between Ivan and his wife.
    • How Ivan's wife accomplished her tasks.
    • The reaction of the czar to each wife's task.
    • What the brothers' wives did in response to the successes of Ivan's wife.
    • What happens at the feast.
    • The czar's final decision.

If necessary to stimulate creativity, show the class various examples of board games, e.g., Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Candyland, Clue.

  1. Give the groups materials and time to work together to design their board games.

Writing instructions

  1. Ask students what the criteria are for writing instructions, and write their responses on the board or other display device:If possible, pass around instructions from games so students can see actual examples.
    • Written in list form
    • Written in sequential, step-by-step order
    • Written in short, simple sentences
    • Objective of game is usually stated in the beginning, and how to win the game is stated at the end
  1. Tell the students that now that they have created their board games, they have to write instructions for how to play the games. Students should work in their groups to write their instructions.


  1. If the students give oral presentations, evaluate the presentations according to a rubric used by the class for such a purpose.
  2. When playing the games, students should closely follow the written instructions. Students should complete theEvaluation of Instructions rubric (find link above) to show the game designers the degree to which their instructions were accurate and easy to follow.


  1. Ask each group to give a presentation that describes their game.
  2. Ask the groups to trade games with a neighboring group and play the other group's games.
  3. Allow the groups to report their experiences with the games to the whole class. If appropriate, have them share what they learned both from making the games and from playing them.

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