Teaching Writing

ENG 310

Fairy Tale Unit Plan | 8th Grade

Context: I will be teaching this unit in an 8th grade English classroom located in a small town in Northern Michigan. This classroom is in a middle school with about 350 students. 100 of these students are in my class, broken up into four sections of 25 students. The town itself has very little diversity both in race and financial background. Most of the students have been in this same school district since elementary school and know each other fairly well, however there are new students in the class as well.

I would be teaching this unit in the second or third month of the school year. This will allow them to be warmed up to my classroom and each other, but also give them time to further develop the skills they learn in this unit and apply it to the rest of the school year. By high school, I’m hoping they would be able to produce quality writing from the skills they learned throughout this class.

Rational for Unit: This unit will focus on fairy tales. For this unit, students must be able to define common characteristics between works. They will be practicing this seeking out of common characteristics as they discover more about this genre.  Although students must be able to write their own versions of this genre later, I will be teaching many of the tools they need to do so. At the end of the unit, students will be able to effectively write a story, using complete beginnings, middles, endings, as well as conflicts and resolutions. Students will also be working with literary concepts such as metaphors, similes, and personification, and will practice composing a variety of sentences properly with correct punctuation. In addition to this, students will learn to show rather than tell, including rich details in their stories.

Although these students are pretty far removed from fairy tales, I am sure that they will all be familiar with them. This familiarity would help them to better understand the unit. It will take something similar and dissect it so they will be able to understand more complex literary concepts. They will also be challenged to create something similar with their own writing, which is a difficult task to complete.

Students will be given time in class to read stories, write, and edit. Writing will include examples of literary terms, examples of different sentence types, short fairy tale adaptations, and their own original fairy tale. Written examples of literary terms and sentence types will be graded on completion. If students do not complete the required amount of examples, students will be given a lower grade. Fairy tales adaptations will be graded on whether they did them or not, and original fairy tales will be graded on a rubric. Informal activities will include group work and class discussion, such as class editing where students will give suggestions to a student’s paper presented on a projector.

We will begin the unit performing the Western version of Cinderella, introducing students to fairy tales. This version is humorous and will help students to be active and engaged while we are moving into the genre. The rest of the first week will be studying other fairy tales, which right now are Rapunzel and Beauty and the Beast. I will also introduce students to literary terms that are included in fairy tales and by the end of the week, we will have made the connections between literary terms and fairy tales and also have a basic definition of what a fairy tale is. We will then transition to different sentence types to understand how fairy tales are written. We will look at fairy tale variations and practice writing fairy tales by taking a classic fairy tale and altering them. After this, students will map out fairy tales, integrate their social value they want to portray, and begin writing their original fairy tales. We will take a week editing and polishing and the final week before transitioning to another unit, students will present their units.

A lot of the new material, students will be working on in groups and we will then go over it in class. Because they will not rely on their own understanding and rather the class as a whole and myself as their guide, I am hoping that they will be able to understand individual lessons more clearly. Each new thing they learn will also be put into context with fairy tales. When we go over literary terms, we will talk about them within fairy tales. When we go over different sentence types, we will find them in fairy tales. When we learn to show rather than tell, we will dive into editing the students’ paper to reflect the specific details. This pattern of always learning and applying will help students to apply their knowledge to their final fairy tale.

In class, we talked about how grammar will stay in the grammar books if that is how you teach it. Although I do want to focus some days on definitions, mechanics, and grammar, I also want to spend time connecting what we learned to what the topic is. Because students learn by repetition, I am hoping that this constant learn and apply method will teach them to do this later in their education.

I have also learned that doing things as a class rather than independently helps students learn. Although a student may not be a very active learner, by having to participate in group work and collected class work, they may be able to learn and understand more.

For show and not tell, I plan to present students with a sentence that may be very bland such as: She was good. Although this sentence tells students that the character is good, it fails to show them how or why. Students will have to come up with characteristics of someone who people think of as good. What would a good girl look like? How would she act? What would she do? In Lessons to Share on Teaching Grammar in Context, Scott Peterson talks about a similar activity. Students must improve a passage by placing all sensory details within it. This helps readers to put themselves in the story and better understand it.

            In addition to these, I have learned through multiple English classes that students do not always give their classmates helpful feedback. This is why I want to work with students to show them how to give effective criticism. Through this, they will understand what things they should look for to help a fellow student improve their writing.


  • Western Cinderella: Students will perform this Wild West version of Cinderella, written as a play. Because they already know the story of Cinderella, they will be able to see a different side of it when first stepping into the genre. If I were to present the classic version of Cinderella, I feel as though students will be bored by simply reading it and by the fact that they have heard it many times.
  • Rapunzel: To develop our understanding of fairy tales, students will read this to compare it to the overall story of Cinderella. They will compare and contrasts characteristics to broaden or limit their view of the genre.
  • Beauty and the Beast: To continue discovering what fairy tales really are, this third piece will contribute to the class’s final definition of what a fairy tale is.
  • Choice Example: Students will bring in their own example of a fairy tale that was adapted to modern society. They will discover how the societal values represented in fairy tales have changed over time. This will show students how writers of fairy tales take a classic fairy tale and change it so that they can do this themselves as practice before writing their own original fairy tale.

Grade Level Content Expectations  | 8th Grade:


R.WS.08.01 explain and use word structure, sentence structure, and prediction to aid in decoding and understanding the meanings of words encountered in context.

R.WS.08.07 in context, determine the meaning of words and phrases including content area vocabulary and literary terms using strategies including activating prior knowledge, using text features/structures, and authentic content-related resources.

 R.NT.08.04 analyze author’s craft including symbolism, imagery, and consistency to develop credible narrators, rising and falling actions, and minor characters.

R.CM.08.03 analyze global themes, universal truths, and principles within and across texts to create a deeper understanding by drawing conclusions, making inferences, and synthesizing.

R.CS.08.01 evaluate the appropriateness of shared, individual and expert standards based on purpose, context, and audience in order to assess their own writing and the writing of others.

W.GN.08.01 write a cohesive narrative piece such as poetry, historical fiction, science fiction, or realistic fiction that includes appropriate conventions to genre employing literary and plot devices (e.g., narrator credibility, rising and falling actions and/or conflict, imagery and transitional language).

W.PR.08.01 set a purpose, consider audience, and replicate authors’ styles and patterns when writing a narrative or informational piece.

W.PR.08.02 apply a variety of pre-writing strategies for both narrative (e.g., graphic organizers designed to depict rising and falling actions, roles of minor characters, credibility of narrator) and informational writing (e.g., compare/contrast, cause/effect, or sequential text patterns)

W.PR.08.04 revise drafts for coherence and consistency in word choice, structure, and style; and read their own work from another reader’s perspective.

W.PR.08.05 proofread and edit writing using grade-level checklists and other appropriate resources both individually and in groups.

This unit will be covering many dimensions. Not only will students be developing their writing while writing their own fairy tales, but they will be analyzing fairy tales and finding similar components. Above is a list of standard I am aiming to help students reach. We will look into types of sentence structure, various vocabulary words, look at author’s techniques including symbolism and imagery, find social values within fairy tales, and students will evaluate themselves and other according to given standards. When many of these have been completed, they will then be able to set a purpose for their writing and consider their audience, use pre-writing activities, go through revision and proofreading stages, and in the end be able to write a cohesive narrative piece, being their fairy tales.

As I was writing this lesson, I realized that I was going to ask students to look at how fairy tales were written before giving them the necessary tools to do so. Before asking them to find similar mechanical characteristics, I plan to first give a lesson to show them different types of sentences that they will find in fairy tales.

M T W Th F

Read Western Cinderella as a reader’s theatre – discuss characteristics of a fairy tale.


Handout: Literary terms related to fairy tales – students will define them & compose examples


Continued discussion on literary concepts – what do they do to the story (social values)


Read Rapunzel – find what similarities to Cinderella & characteristics of a fairy tale – find examples of literary concepts & find the social value


Read Beauty and the Beast – find similarities between the other fairy tales – examples of literary concepts & find the social value


Review fairy tales – create a definition of fairy tales.


Lesson on sentence types – simple, compound, complex.

What common sentence structures and mechanics do fairy tales share?

Students will practice writing different sentences.


Review of sentence types – we will go over these as a class and cover punctuation.

HW: Students will find at least one adapted version of a fairy tale.


Different versions of fairy tales and discuss how they change and adapt. What are the social values?


Students will choose a fairy tale to make their own version of it. They will have time to write in class and have the rest for homework over the weekend.

HW: Finish adaptations


Students will share what they changed about the fairy tales and why.


Continued discussion on fairy tale variation – lead into students creating their own. Map out fairy tales.


Continued mapping of stories. How will this story also represent a value?


Students will begin to write their fairy tales.


Continued writing – they will complete this over the weekend

HW: Fairy tale drafts


In class, we will go over how to show rather than telling.

HW: Student volunteers, emails me their drafts


Review of show not tell, we will work on editing as a class via student volunteers.


Student peer editing


Time for polishing drafts


Additional time for polishing drafts – continued as homework.


HW: Fairy tale final drafts


Fairy tales are due – students will read them in groups or to the class.


Continued presentations

Day 2: Connecting Literary Terms to Fairy Tales
Materials: literary terms handout, lined paper
Connection Good afternoon! Yesterday we read in class the Western version of Cinderella. We also looked at what made a fairy tale a fairy tale. Today, we’re going to discover some of those things more closely, looking at different types of literary concepts that are used in fairy tales we may not always point out. 0
Teaching Point I am passing out a sheet of paper with a list of literary terms. With the help of a partner, you will be looking these up in the dictionary to discover their meanings. This will not be graded, but instead, it will serve as a guide as we continue learning about these concepts. During this time, I will be passing out the handouts along with dictionaries. They will be allowed to work with whomever they choose. 1
Active Engagement Students will work to complete the handout. 3
Teaching Point Now that you have completed the handout, let’s discuss these terms. I will ask a student volunteer to give me their definition of the term and ask the class if they know of an example. If not, I will explain this to them e.g. Can someone tell me what they have written down for simile? Who can give me an example of a simile? 15
Formative Assessment Now that we have discovered these new terms, you will be writing your own examples of these. I will be passing out a blank sheet of paper, and you will choose five of these terms to make an example for. 30
Reinforcement & Sending We’re out of time! Please turn in what you have for me today. Thanks for your participation today! 50
Day 8: Focus on Sentence Structure
Materials: fairy tales
Connection We have been diving into fairy tales for the past week and looking at their similarities. We have found that they represent society in different ways, they have a good and a bad character, and they typically end happily. What we haven’t done is looked at them structurally – how are fairy tales written?
Teaching Point Yesterday, we looked at different types of sentences. Who can tell me one type of sentence? (Students will give the three examples – simple, compound, complex). Great! Now, I’d like you to take out the sentences that you wrote yesterday with your partners. Please get together with that partner, and we will look at these as a class. 1
Active Engagement Each group will be giving an example of one of your sentences. We will start with a simple sentence – who would like to volunteer? As students say their sentences, I will be writing them on the board. When they finish reading them, I will ask them what punctuation they had written, and if anything is missing, I will ask the class if they know of something else the sentence needs. If not, I will show them they need a ____ here because _____. We will continue this until every pair has given their example to the class. 4
Formative Assessment I will take note of which students seem to be getting the sentences correctly and which ones are struggling.
Teaching Point Great job creating your own sentence. Now we will look at how fairy tales are written. I have all of the fairy tales that we have been looking at. I would like you to come up and choose one that you can look at more closely. Just browse it – you already know what it’s about – but what do you notice? What types of sentences or punctuation is included in the stories? You will break up into groups according to which story you choose to look at to discuss the mechanics in the story. Your group will have ten minutes to find three different structural characteristics. You may want to think about – how is the story told? How are sentences written? Are there different types of sentences? What types of punctuation are used? How does the story flow or not flow? When you are finished, we will discuss these characteristics as a group and see if we can find some similarities that we can apply to all fairy tales. Please come up and grab a fairy tale and find two, three, or four other students to work with. Please no more than five to a group. 24
Active Engagement Now that you have learned about different sentences and looked at how fairy tales are written, let’s see if we can create a common list of structure similarities. Students will give the examples we found, and I will write them on the board. We will end with a “guideline” for writing fairy tales. 34
Reinforcement You all did really well composing your own sentences yesterday and using that to discover what kind of mechanics are used in fairy tales. 48
Sending Thank you all for participating. For tomorrow’s class, please think of an example of a fairy tale that you have come across represented in a different way. This may be a movie, a song, or another book. Think about a way that someone has adapted a fairy tale to society changes. We will be discussing these tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your day! 49
Day 17: Showing and not telling
Materials: projector, student samples for class editing.
Connection Yesterday, we learned that it is more effective to show your readers rather than tell them. This is a very important piece in fairy tales. Does anyone know why this is? I will be looking for the reason that stories are read as entertainment and you want to allow the reader or listener to picture in their mind what is happening in the story.
Teaching Point Last week, you spent time mapping out your stories, integrating a society value in your stories, and putting it all together to write them. Although you spent time over the weekend finishing those up, the best writing comes from multiple drafts and multiple eyes to make improvements. Today we will be looking at a few samples from your class to see how we can make them better. Not only will we will at sentences and punctuation, but we will try to help the writer to show us rather than tell us about the details in the story. 5
Active Engagement I will read the paper aloud by paragraph and we will look at them individually. I will ask questions to guide students to criticize their peer’s writing such as: What does this sentence show you? Can you imagine the setting or what the character looks like? How can we change this sentence to make it better? 8
Formative Assessment I will note which student seem to understand and volunteering to offer suggestions. Students who are not speaking, I will ask them if they have any suggestions and try to get each student to speak at least once. If a student is having trouble, I will explain why it doesn’t need to be changed or ask other students if they can help. Each time a student offers a good suggestion to improve the writing. I will congratulate good suggestions.
Reinforcement You all did really well helping critique these students’ writing. 48
Sending Tomorrow, you will all need to bring in your drafts to peer edit with one partner. Keep in mind what suggestions we gave to the students’ papers we looked at today so you can help your partners tomorrow get the most out of their story.

Fairy Tale Unit | Literary Terms  Name: _____________________________

Date: ____/____/____

Period: _______

Directions | Examples of the following terms can be found in many fairy tales. To better understand fairy tale stories that we read in class and how they are written, you will need to know these terms. With the help of a dictionary, define each of the terms written below:















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3 thoughts on “Fairy Tale Unit Plan | 8th Grade

  1. Looking at your rough draft, I really like what you have decided to do with your unit. When I heard that one group was doing fairy tales, I was not sure that I would ever have been able to create a unit on that. However, from what I see, you have done a great job compiling all the necessary information for the unit. I like how you have a specific context which allows you to make the unit appropriate for the students you will teach. I also think the fact that a few of your daily lesson plans cover grammatical elements is a good idea that will help students to become better writers not only in the genre of fairy tale, but in their overall writing. Again, I know that this is just your rough draft, but I was just wondering if you were going to be using the content standards and putting them in more student friendly language for your final draft? Overall I think that you have done a great start to your unit.

  2. Your unit plan here is really interesting, and I think it would be one that I would be interested in adapting to use in my own classroom. I liked the way you found the wild west version of Cinderella. This would be a great activity to do with students and keep them interested. I also liked how you incorporated grammar activities into your unit. Looking over your unit, I think it was a good idea to have the students first pick a fairy tale that they would like to adapt, and then have them work on their own fairy tales. However, you may want to put the content standards into your own words in order to better impress administrators. Your unit has good ideas and good luck on finishing it up! 🙂

  3. I think it would have been kind of fun to take a fairy tale class in middle school or high school. I agree that developing a grammar lesson would definitely help students become better writer all the while using “fun” content such as fairy tales to keep the students intrigued. Good work.

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