Having students rewrite a fairy tale or fable is a classic Creative Writing project–and for good reason! There is so much for students to learn and so many skills for students to practice during this process. In this post, I break down my method for having Creative Writing students rewrite a fairy tale.
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Why Have Students Rewrite a Fairy Tale?
There are endless possibilities when it comes to fun and engaging Creative Writing projects. So why have students rewrite a classic story?
There are plenty of benefits. (And if these don’t work for your class, try doing an Author Study Project instead!)
When students are asked to write a story from scratch, they often go blank. Just coming up with and committing to a story idea can take my students weeks. We don’t have that kind of time.
But when students have to rewrite a fairy tale or fable, a lot of the story creation process is already done. They know the major events in Snow White or Cinderella. All they have to do is give it their own spin.
Endless Creativity Options
Another benefit to having students rewrite a fairy tale rather than create a story from scratch is that they can really show off their creativity.
Now, it might seem like creating a story from scratch would be the more creative option, but one’s creativity really shines when there are limits. What can you do when the characters and major plot points already exist?
You’ll be delighted to see how many ways your students come up with to justify the evil witch’s behavior.
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #1: Provide Examples
The first thing you’ll have to do when starting this project is to provide students with examples.
There are so many rewritten fairy tales out there–in books and film. Choose at least one to share with your students that you can refer to again and again.
Try to pick a fairy tale retelling that is as close as possible to the kind of story you want your students to create. While Shrek could arguably be called a rewritten fairy tale, it’s not the kind of story you want your students to write, so avoid tempting examples like these.
Instead, try to find one that is short and clearly flips one classic fairy tale or fable.
I like to use The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka. In fact, I make a production out of it.
I tell my students we’re having story or circle time, just like back in kindergarten. I even pass out little fruit snack packs to really hit them with the nostalgia. Then, I read them The True Story of the Three Little Pigs showing off the illustrations as we go.
After I read the story, we discuss it and its differences from the real Three Little Pigs story. It’s at this point that I pass out the project assignment sheet.
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #2: Provide Specific Scaffolding
“Choose a fairy tale or fable and rewrite it” seems like it should be specific enough directions, but it’s really not. Most students will need a little more specificity to create a good product.
So before you assign the fairy tale, I recommend deciding for students how they will rewrite the fairy tale.
Another way you could have students flip their fairy tales is to have them change a character’s gender. What if the story had a prince and an evil warlock instead of a princess and a witch? What if a woman saved the day instead of a man?
Alternatively, you could have the students write the story as if it was a modern-day fairy tale. What would Rapunzel be like if it happened today? Would she be on house arrest instead?
The more specific the parameters, the less time students will spend spinning their wheels and “brainstorming,” and the more time they’ll spend actually writing.
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #3: Brainstorm Choices with Students
Now that students know their assignment, brainstorm with them some stories they can use. When I did this, I was surprised by how many classic fairy tales my students didn’t know. Remember that not every student is raised in the same culture; some stories might be new to them.
If you want, you can also have a quick discussion with students about fairy tales versus fables although I let students choose either for this project.
Fairy Tales and Fables Great for this Project:
- Little Red Riding Hood
- The Princess and the Frog
- The Princess and the Pea
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
- Jack and the Beanstalk
- Sleeping Beauty
- Hansel and Gretel
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- The Three Little Pigs
- The Tortoise and the Hare
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #4: Let Students Outline
After brainstorming well-known stories with your class, let students choose their stories and get to work!
They’ll need to pick a story to rewrite and then figure out how they’ll change it (based on the parameters you provide).
I proved my students with some worksheets to help scaffold their outlining in my Fairy Tale Retelling Project, but use whatever outlining methods work for you and your students.
I usually circulate during this process seeing what students are coming up with and helping those that are struggling.
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #5: Let Students Write
Once students have an outline, they can begin writing.
You might want to require that students turn in their outlines before they begin (or at least have you look them over and sign off before they move on to the next step). Doing this will help you catch major errors before students get too far in the writing process.
If this is the first time your students have written a story in your class, you might want to include some mini-lessons in your class as they work on their stories. A lesson on writing dialogue or showing, not telling could be particularly helpful lessons for your students.
Again, I usually circulate around the room while students work. It’s a great reminder for students to stay focused, and I’m there if they have questions.
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #6: Peer-feedback
Once students have rewritten their fairy tales, it’s time for them to get feedback.
This is often the most anxiety-inducing part of story writing for students. Sharing their work with a teacher is one thing, but sharing it with their peers can be overwhelming. It might help to have a discussion with students beforehand about how this process can be uncomfortable, but how essential it is to the writing process.
Like every other activity you do in class, make sure there is some structure to your students’ peer-editing. In my Fairy Tale Retelling Project, I provide a peer-editing sheet for students. You may want to do the same.
Have students double-check that their peers have met the requirements, used good grammar, and have a story that makes sense. If you’ve worked on figurative language or other writing skills, you can have students assess these details too.
Rewrite a Fairy Tale Step #7: Final Draft
Once students have received feedback on their stories, they can use these tips to improve their fairy tale retellings.
Give them a little more time to polish up their rough drafts before submitting their final drafts.
Depending on how much time you have in class and how much you want to push your students, you can have them share their final drafts with the class. You could also put them all together into an anthology that you share with the class.
Be sure to keep your favorites as examples for future classes!
The Fairy Tale Retelling Project is the perfect Creative Writing assessment for struggling and advanced students. With built-in scaffolding and lots of room for creativity, your students will have a ton of fun coming up with new ways to tell old stories.
Better than that though, you’ll actually have fun reading them!