The study of humans and animals in cooperation and conflict within folktales from different cultures lends itself to a simple lesson on ecology and endangered species to help students can make connections between the relationships between human beings and animals in folklore and the relationship between people and the environment in our world.
Through examining several examples of tales from around the world that focus on the relationship between people and animals, students will learn about humans living in cooperation with the land and sea and with the beasts that inhabit them. This lesson plan addresses various helpful animal tale types, such as animal nurses who rear great heroes after they have been abandoned as infants, and beasts that lend supernatural aid to humans.
In this lesson plan, students read and learn to understand fairy tales in order to recognize their universal literary structures and themes. They compare similar fairy tales from different cultural and geographic regions of the world to see over-arching plots featuring conflicts between good and evil and imagery and motifs that are repeated across many cultures and time periods.
Through studying Beatrix Potter's stories and illustrations from the early 1900s and learning about her childhood in Victorian England, students can compare/contrast these with their own world to understand why Potter wrote such simple stories and why she wrote about animals rather than people.
After encountering visually stunning examples of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and engaging with the literary conventions of Anglo-Saxon poetry, students will be prepared to study Beowulf. Dispelling stereotypes about the so-called “dark ages,” this lesson helps students learn about the production of early manuscripts and the conventions of Anglo-Saxon poetry, solve online riddles, and write riddles of their own.