April 2nd marks a double celebration day: International Children’s Books Day which is held on Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, who was born on this day in 1805.
Hans Christian Anderson wrote plays, novels, poetry and travel journals, but he is best remembered for his fairy tales which have been translated into over 125 languages. His stories, with their message of hope, resilience and integrity, think of The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor’s New Clothes to name but a few, have inspired storytellers and filmmakers since. Just think of the recent Disney success Frozen which is based on Andersen’s Snow Queen.
Take some time with Andersen’s fairy tales this month, you will find that they will put some of your favourite stories in context. One good way to start is with this article in the Time Literary Supplement which explains that modern adaptations of Andersen’s stories often edit out Andersen’s religiosity and they like to give his stories a modernized happy ending. As the article says, it was Andersen, who ‘introduced generations of children to the pleasure of an unhappy ending’. Fairy tales are essential to a child’s emotional development as they help them learn about challenging emotions like love, loss, anger, and fear and the educational and healing power of stories should never be underestimated.
Fairy tales in your teen classes
Go on an adventure this month, and read your favourite fairy tales again, find adaptations of them and compare them with the originals. Reading fairy tales is one of the most convenient and rewarding reading experiences for language learners as they are already familiar with the story in their own language.
If you read a fairy tale and compare it with an adaptation, ask yourself and your students what the adaptations add to the originals. Why do we feel the need to interpret and modernise some of these tales? Ask your students if learning about the original stories changes their interpretation of the adaptation.
Here is a writing project idea:
After reading fairy tales, your students can develop their own adaptations of the story. Use these two resources to get more ideas and download the Plot Expert Cards from our Book Club Starter Kit to help your students understand how plots work.
- Let’s talk about plot twists (and use them in the English class)
- Surprise someone (or yourself) with a story
Reading fairy tales with young learners
If you would like to read tales with young learners, visit the Helbling Young Readers website where you can find a list of classic tales with language development activities and Play Station projects. The Play Station projects are often arts and crafts activities which engage the little ones in the story even more.
Visit our collection of resources for Young Learners on this blog.
Check out our favourite titles: