Picture Stories and Fairy Tales

Picture stories are powerful.  And, they are complicated.  Children have to recall what they know, then have the words to tell a story in their own way.  Our recent picture stories added even more layers of work; deciding what characters they would be and finally illustrating the stories.


The illustrations were surprisingly detailed.  I think I know why.  In order to fully understand how we ended up with work resembling that of first grade, not preschool, let’s start at the beginning.

Our unit of study was Fairy Tales, a topic that children love.  There was already an element of familiarity, so I started by reading different versions of the stories.  In The Three Little Pigs, some books such as James Marshall’s version were funny, and some such as Paul Galdone’s were serious.  Other versions such as Susan Lowell’s The Three Little Javelinas were quite different.  This encouraged real thinking and prompted plenty of dialogue.  Those ‘W’ questions are the trigger to what I like to call ‘thinking conversations’.


We learned the meaning of Fact and Fiction.  We talked about differences and similarities in each version.  Within the story of The Three Little Pigs we discovered geography, including the southwest, and plenty of science.  Can a wolf climb onto a roof?  How is a house built?  We needed to actually try, so I took the children on a walk to collect sticks and build a structure.  The second pig thought this was easy, but we thought it was hard.

Children spent an equal amount of time, with a similar amount of learning, exploring Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Jack and the Beanstalk.  Goldilocks opened the door (literally and figuratively) for talking about social and emotional behavior, specifically right and wrong.  We assume that children know and understand appropriate behavior, yet being confronted with situations that aren’t directed at the child (reminding them to use manners, for example), but at someone else (Goldilocks) actually makes a bigger impact.  When I stopped and said, “She walked right into the house”, that was all I needed to say in order to start the conversation ball rolling.

By this point we were so immersed in Fairy Tales that children wanted to act out their favorite one.  We took a tally vote, and Jack and the Beanstalk was the winner by a large margin.  We had learned so much about the characters that the children didn’t need costumes.  Props and staging, and of course acting, were all they needed.  The play was such a big success that weeks later children were still talking about it.

Now children were ready to write their own picture stories, the last phase in Fairy Tales.  So much had happened up to this point, so many layers of different learning, that children had both the mental tools and the passion to write and illustrate a story.  Each story is different, and each illustration is surprisingly detailed.  Very impressive, indeed.

These picture stories that are more first grade than preschool could only have happened with scaffolding; the culmination of listening, reading, conversation, questioning, hands-on building, science, and a play performance.  That’s why they’re terrific.


Learning is a process, and Fairy Tales lend themselves to real learning in many areas.  Although Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs were the main focus of study, children also enjoyed The Little Red Hen, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood.  I think the interest and questions will continue for months.  That’s what happens when education is child-centered, interesting, and full of opportunities for learning.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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24 Responses to Picture Stories and Fairy Tales

  1. reocochran says:

    The children’s retelling, illustrations and story reports were precious, Jennie.

  2. This is what literacy is really about, and before the kids start actually reading. Your work is so inspiring.

  3. These are so great! Thank you for taking the time to share!

  4. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  5. spearfruit says:

    Jennie, when I was in 4th grade (almost 50 years ago), I remember my teacher giving us pictures and we having to write a story about the picture. I have a green binder of those stories I wrote back in 4th grade. Some imagination I had back then. Thanks for a great post and also for following my blog. I hope your day is a happy one. 🙂

  6. I’ll bet your students parents just love you to pieces! You are teaching them how to learn and love the process. What a wonderful gift!

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you! I actually started my blog because of the parents, wanting them to understand all that happens with their children in the classroom. I always wrote great newsletters, and that was the foundation for my blog, but I keep writing new material, and I still have a stack of ‘good stuff’ to share. That’s a good thing. Today I introduced Mozart with a record player and a record album. Now, that was terrific! Again, thank you.

  7. Your class must love you to bits. It was my English teacher that encouraged me to write and sowed those first seeds of love for literature in me. That was when I was fourteen years old, over forty years ago, and I still remember her enthusiasm in class.

  8. reocochran says:

    The fairy tale stories you chose, Jack and the Beanstalk, The three little pigs and Gokdiocks and the Three Bears were excellently presented by the students. Wonderful examples of how stories inspire terrific art and reporting, Jennie. 🙂

  9. Absolutely precious! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Léa says:

    You are a treasure. Picture books and fairy tales were not a part of my childhood. Some neighbour children, much older, taught me to read at three. I lived in a house without books and for me the world began at the door to the local library. Léa

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Lea. Here I am, a teacher who makes a difference with reading aloud to children, and I only went to the library as a child one time with my grandmother. My parents were voracious readers and there were many books in my house, but not children’s books. My reading came later in life, and I’m so glad it did. Jennie

      • Léa says:

        Jennie, I am glad for you and all your students that the love of reading/books came into your life. Yes, you do make a difference! Statistically, many of those children would not have had that precious gift you have given them. Léa

  11. Tanya Cliff says:

    “Learning is a process, and Fairy Tales lend themselves to real learning in many areas.”

    Wonderful. That is a huge part of how I have taught my own children. Loved the post.

  12. OMG! What great little artists and storytellers your students are, Jennie! I love the Goldilocks with the little doll – how adorable is that and of course Jack and the Beanstalk!

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