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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Exploring Appalachian Folktales

Our monthly theme of genre studies is well underway. As you know, we are studying one tiny - but rich - genre: Folktales from the Appalachian region. The definition of a folktale is a story passed down through the generations, usually by oral re-telling. They are usually very old stories, and have many different variations. Stories tend to change each time it is retold - people add details, forget parts, and exaggerate sections they find the funniest or most interesting.

Today, I read

The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday. It didn't take long for the children to realize that this was an Appalachian variation of the three little pigs. We talked about how the story was different than the version we are most familiar with, and why that might be so. It was also interesting that many children have learned a version where all of the pigs miraculously survive the sly fox, although this story was almost certainly told first as a warning to children about the dangers of 1) not listening to their elders, 2) doing a job the easy way and 3) being gullible. In this version, two of the little pigs met an unseemly end.

After I read the story, we gathered in a circle. I started to retell the story we had just heard, remembering as many details as I could (but forgetting many, like the names of the three little pigs - I renamed them Leo, Antony and Andrew). After a bit, I turned the story over to Leo, who continued it, and then Antony took over ... and on and on. Our version of the story definitely resembled the story, but there were many slight changes and omissions. This was a very concrete way for the children to learn how stories can change through the years.

What's next? Well, the children will pair up tomorrow for a writing exercise, and are also clamoring for a creative dramatic exercise. We are really enjoying reading and listening to these wonderful stories.

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