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The Twelve Months
A Slavic Cinderella Variant

Lesson Plan
Elementary, Intermediate, Junior high

by Jean D. Rusting
Author of The Multicultural Cinderella. Rusting Educational Services
(4523 Elinora Ave., Oakland, CA 94619)


Objectives

Students will Note to teacher: there are more activities below than you will want to use. Review and highlight those most suited to your class.

Materials needed

A copy of "The Twelve Months", available in the Internet edition of Good Stories for Great Holidays, edited by Olcott, Frances Jenkins. (1914). See also the book list at the end of this unit.

Art materials (colored pens, crayons, paint; paper) to create pictures.

Atlas, maps or a globe
Physical science text book used by students
Social studies text book used by students


Pre-reading strategies

Take a moment for a geography/history lesson: This story comes from a Slavic country. What does the word "Slav" mean? From part of the world do the Slavs come from. Name some Slavic countries. What information can you find in your social studies text?

Take a moment to look at your physical science textbook: What can you find out about climate, weather and the seasons of the year?

Role play good manners: In most folk and fairy tales the hero or heroine have good manners. What a good manners? What are some good manners for today? What difference do good manners make? Students in groups demonstrate how good manners make a difference. Students improvise skits based on their own perception of what good manners are (or aren't). Students have three to five minutes to come up with something, and a minute or two to perform.


Read and listen strategies

Read and/or listen to the story. Teacher reads the story out loud to the whole class.

Options


Post-reading strategies

Spelling list:

Students work in small groups to develop a list of 10 or 15 words which group members believe everyone should be able to spell. In whole class students combine their lists and then play spelling games or take written test. The spelling assignment may be combined with the science vocabulary study below.

Science vocabulary study and extension:

Define climate-related vocabulary using scientific terms. Transform those definitions into descriptive phrases. This can be either a group activity or a homework project. A list of climate-related words may be presented to students, or expanded by them.

Mark three columns on a sheet of binder paper. In the middle column write one of the climate-related words. In the left-hand column write the scientific definition used in your class. In the right-hand column write adjectives and phrases which can be used to describe some aspect.

Post-reading poem writing exercises:

In this "The Twelve Months" version, violets come in March, strawberries in June and apples in September. Using the senses of sound, sight, smell, taste and touch, ask students to choose a season of the year and write a stanza for one season. For some students it is helpful to start with a formula, such as the one below which supplies the opening words.

Autumn is a time for ...
It looks like ...
And it sounds like ...
It smells like ...
Sometimes it tastes ...
And I can touch (feel) ...
Autumn, a ( ... ) time of year.
The resulting stanza can be considered the initial brainstorm from which a more polished piece of writing emerges. Students can work in groups of four with each group responsible for creating a four seasons poem and illustrating it. The result may be titled "A poem for all seasons."

Reflection on the Cinderella theme:

In the story "Twelve Months" there is neither a slipper nor a Prince Charming. Never-the-less, this story is considered a version of the Cinderella story. What are the key elements in a Cinderella story? (Key elements: certain necessary characters, a particular kind of conflict, a particular kind of challenge, powerful intercession from an outside source, consequences for prosocial and antisocial behavior.) Use a Venn diagram to compare "Twelve Months" with another Cinderella story. Make a list and decide which or how many elements must be present in order to say, "That sounds like Cinderella."

Graphic response(s):

Create a story-without-words telling of this story. Decide how many pictures and assign the pictures to groups of two to four students. For example: 7 pictures might be

  1. opening scene with Marouckla, Helen and the stepmother
  2. Marouckla out in the snow
  3. the first meeting with January and March
  4. the second meeting with January and June
  5. the third meeting with January and September
  6. Helen's meeting with the Twelve
  7. closing scene
Each group then presents their picture and tells their part of the story to the class.

Library / Research

Research ideas for students:

Look for the story at your local library

The following collections of folk and fairy tales also have a similar versions of "The Twelve Months" which you may want to read and compare:

Two picture book versions

This beautifully-illustrated picture book has an interesting folktale twist in which the month of March marks the beginning of the year, rather than January:

Marshak, Samuel. The Month-Brothers, a Slavik tale. 1983.

Another charming picture book tells the story in a straightforward text combined with multiple pictures with additional text (almost, but not quite, comic-book style) on each page:

de Regniers, Beatrice Schenk. Little Sister and the Month Brothers. 1976, 1994.

Slavic fairy tales and folk tales

Look in the poetry section for weather poems

The Random House book of poetry, a treasury of 572 poems for today's child, selected by Jack Prelutsky (1983) has nice sections on nature and the four seasons. A good source for seasonal poems is The Sky is full of song selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 1983. Look at other poetry anthologies. Student collected weather-poems can be assembled into a nice classroom resource.

Find out more about the history and people of Slavic countries

The geographic borders and names of these countries keep changing. A report on these changes is a good challenge for student researchers.


Copyright © 1996 Jean D. Rusting, Oakland CA (jeanner@acorn.ousd.k12.ca.us)
Teachers are welcome to copy this unit for their classes.
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