Dotty, the Monkeys and the Moon

play by Sue Murray , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning intention:

We are learning to identify different types of stories and understand that the same story can be told in different ways.

Success criteria:

Students understand that folklore stories often have different versions due to details changing with retellings

Students identify some differences between fairytales, folktales and fables

Students categorise the story using textual evidence

Students identify folklore stories they are familiar with and categorise them

Analyse and categorise folklore stories based on their characteristics.

Explain that folklore contains many different aspects of shared culture that is passed down through generations in a variety of ways, including stories. These stories are usually passed down orally, which can lead to details being changed with each retelling. However, this can also be the case even when they are written down, leading to different versions of the same story. Popular examples such as Rapunzel and Tangled, or Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent can be used to help students make connections, and they may offer suggestions based on their own knowledge.

The most well-known types of folklore stories are fables, folktales and fairy tales. The video Folk Tales, Fairy Tales and Fables can engage students in learning the differences.

Write the different types on the board, along with points to differentiate them:

Fable: Folktale: Fairy tale:
Have a moral lesson Vague setting Entertaining stories
Characters have human elements Basic characters Magical elements
Simple plot Mythical characters such as elves, witches, mermaids and princesses
Often has talking animals Include good and evil
Some have moral lessons

Explain to students that experts around the world often disagree about which category different stories fit into, so it’s OK to be unsure!

Read or perform the play with the class, then return to these definitions and ask students to identify which type of folklore they think the story fits best (folktale), using textual evidence.

Examples may include:

Vague setting (Long ago, in a forest near here)

Basic characters (We only know that they are monkeys)

Simple plot (leader thinks the moon has fallen into a well, monkeys try to pull it out but fail)

Talking animals (monkeys)

Repetition (The monkeys repeating everything the others say)

Moral lesson (When the monkeys have a foolish leader, they end up like the monkeys who want to pull the moon from the well)

To further demonstrate the differences in retelling of folklore stories, the videos The Moon in the Pond and Fishing for the Moon in the Well could be viewed to show different versions of the story from the play.

Working in groups, students should collaborate on ideas about other folklore stories they know and if they can think of different versions of any of them. Popular suggestions may include:

Fable: Folktale: Fairy tale:
The Lion and the mouse The Three Little Pigs Little Red Riding Hood
The Boy Who Cried Wolf The Gingerbread Man The Princess and the Pea
The Tortoise and the Hare Chicken Little Sleeping Beauty
Gulliver's Travels Goldilocks and the Three Bears Hansel and Gretel

Students should be encouraged to categorise their examples as best they can using reasoning and textual evidence, where possible. Ideas can be written as lists or tables similar to the one above and shared with the class to compare group ideas.

If available, this learning activity would be greatly supported by texts such as Aesop’s Fables, the works of Hans Christian Andersen, The Brothers Grimm, or any other books or videos in these genres.

Extension activity

Groups can plan and write a retelling of a folklore story they are familiar with.