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Focus on the Literature Standards with Amazing Folktales

After focusing on the non-fiction text and the informational text standards, it’s time to switch the focus to the literature standards.  To teach the literature standards, I use folktales.  My favorite author to use is Gerald McDermott.  He has written many Native American folktale stories that are fun to read.  Teachers find them easy to work with while using them in many ways.

Teach the literature standards with folktales

The literature standards for third grade include asking and answering questions (including inferencing), recounting or retelling a story, stating the central message or lesson, describing characters and how their traits influence the story as well, how illustrations enhance the story as, understanding literal and non-literal language.

Folktales are wonderful to teach these standards because they have identifiable lessons or morals and colorful and engaging characters.

Raven, Coyote and Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott

Which Books Do I Use to Teach the Literature Standards?

I start out the unit with three of my favorite Gerald McDermott stories:  Raven, Coyote, and Arrow to the Sun.  Beginning with Raven, I teach the students to identify the setting (time and place), the main character and secondary characters, and the problem and solution.

Before reading the story, I like to explain to my students how folktales probably originated.  Someone in a village was a storyteller.  That storyteller used stories to teach life lessons and to entertain.  So I show them this video example of a storyteller (Shirley Kendall) telling the story of Raven, the trickster from the Northwest.

Complete story map for Raven

We identify the central message once students have a grasp of the story elements.  I found that the best vehicle to teach students about these story elements is a story map.  A story map is a graphic organizer that identifies each of these story elements:  title and author, setting, the main character, problem, and solution.  We make a large anchor chart version that the students also do in their language arts interactive notebook.

Teaching the RACE Strategy with the Literature Standards

But we all know that when taking the online state test, students will not be asked to fill in a story map.  So I also give my students practice in answering questions about the story using the RACE strategy.  RACE stands for:

  • Restating the question
  • Answering the question completely
  • Citing evidence to answer the question
  • Explaining or giving an example of the evidence or your answer

In trimester one, students answer questions about non-fiction passages using the RACE strategy.  With some guidance, students were able to see that the strategy works the same way with literature.

I have developed support pages for the literature standards that are tied to each of the books I’m using. These support pages are tailored to match the standard when using these stories.  With a completed story map or a copy of the story, students can then practice answering questions using RACE.

Practice pages for the literature standards in 3rd grade

Here’s a student example.

Common Core literature standards practice pages

Is Inferring an Actual Literature Standard?

Inferencing is a very important skill that requires direct teaching by modeling and giving lots of examples. But the most important point I make to my students is this:  is your answer reasonable, does it make sense with the story you are reading?  If not, then your inference is probably off.

We practice with the stories with such questions as; Why were the crows no longer having fun? (Coyote) Why did the Sky Chief have the shining light in a box? (Raven).  With the common core, it’s important for students to cite text evidence even when making an inference.

But no, it is not an actual Common Core State Standard, but it is embedded in RL3.1 (logical inferences).

Practice pages for the literature standards in 3rd grade

What’s a Tri-Rama?

A very versatile assessment tool or practice is to have students make a story map using a tri-rama.  A tri-rama is essentially a diorama with three sides instead of four.  You can designate each section and even the backside to contain certain drawn or written information related to the story.

My students made tri-rama story maps with the Coyote folktale.  I asked them to include:  setting, characters, problem, and solution.  The students draw the setting as a background on the front.  Then the characters were made as pop-ups that stand up in the tri-rama.  On the back, the student wrote on one side the problem, and on the other side the solution.

Make a tri-rama to practice the literature standards
Completed tri-rama example

Some tips about using a tri-rama.  Do not have the students glue it down into the tri-rama shape until all the drawing is complete on the background and the required information on the back is complete.  If not, it is too hard to draw, color and write when it has been put together completely.

How Do You Make a Tri-Rama?

Follow these steps to make your own tri-rama.  All you need is a regular sheet of paper.

How to make a tri-rama for the central message
A tri-rama for the literature standards

You can view these Gerald McDermott Companion Packs HERE.  I’ve recently added three more stories (Jabuti, Monkey and Zomo).

Resources for the Common Core literature standards

Here are some of the skills covered in the Companion Packs –

Literature standards skills

Not sure if they’re right for you? Then try out this EXCLUSIVE FREE SAMPLER only offered here on my blog. Just sign up below for my newsletter and receive this SAMPLER for the Gerald McDermott story Coyote!

Finally, consider following my PINTEREST board for Gerald McDermott.  There are lots of great ideas on art, links to videos, read-alouds, etc.


Don’t Go Yet!

How do you teach the Common Core literature standards?

Share your ideas in the comments!

Focus on the Literature Standards with Amazing Folktales
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