Last updated: 11/19/2014


Grade 1 - Trickster Tales: A Story, A Story

  Subject:   English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)
  Grade:   Elementary, 1st Grade
  Unit Title:  

Trickster Tales: A Story, A Story

  Approx. Number of Weeks:  

Unit Summary:

In this unit, students will become familiar with a variety of trickster tales from different cultural traditions.  Listening to these tales, students will begin to identify trickster characters and the role they play in portraying human strengths and weaknesses. They will also be able to identify and describe the setting, trickster character, the trick, and the main events. They will retell the story including key details. 

Next Generation Skills Addressed:
   Collaboration & Communication
   Creativity & Innovation
   Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
   Research & Information Fluency
   Social & Emotional Intelligence

1. What will students know and be able to do?


RL.1.1 - Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

RL.1.2 - Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

RL.1.3 - Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

RL.1.4 - Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

RL.1.5 - Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.

RL.1.6 - Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

RL.1.7 - Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

RL.1.9 - Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.

RL.1.10 - With prompting and support, read prose and poetry of appropriate complexity for grade 1.

Essential Understandings:

Trickster characters are found in traditional stories from cultures all over the world. 


Essential Questions:

Students will know:

  • Trickster stories (folktales) were originally passed down through the oral tradition (mouth to mouth) and were eventually written down.
  • Trickster tales are folktales. They are stories that are considered to be fiction. They are not considered to be fact or history. Many trickster tales use repetitive language and encourage the listener to interact with the storyteller (narrator). Some trickster tales are also stories that explain how things came to be. In contrast, informational (non-fiction) books provide true facts that help readers gain knowledge about many different topics and discover new ideas.
  • Trickster stories help us to understand human nature and human behavior.
  • Characters in trickster tales are usually animals that talk and act like humans but they retain their animal traits.
  • Trickster characters are mischievous, cunning and humorous and sometimes wise:
    • the tricks of these characters usually cause trouble for another character
    • it is usually the smaller/weaker character that outwits someone stronger by being clever and skillful
    • sometimes they are helpful, as well as tricky

Students will be able to:

  • Ask and answer questions to gain meaning from text about the characters, setting and events.
  • Use illustrations and pictures to get meaning from the text.
  • Identify the trickster character and the trick he plays on others.
  • Understand that the story is being told by a narrator/storyteller.
  • Find repetitive language patterns used to provide rhythm and help create the plot.
  • Use descriptive words to describe the trickster character in each story (clever, cunning, lazy, tricky, smart, etc.)
  • Engage in comparative analysis of texts (find similarities and differences).
  • Retell stories using key details to demonstrate understanding of the text.

2. How will we – and they – know?

Authentic Performance Task:

Listen to and watch A Story, A Story on Bookflix. Talk about the story together. Listen to and watch the story a second time. Use words and pictures to retell the story events, name the trickster character, and use one or more words to describe the trickster character on an enlarged paper template. (This is the same template they will work with during the unit.)

Common Benchmark Assessment:

3. What learning activities will students participate in?

Learning Activities:

Sequence of Learning:

Note: Based on your class, let the students choose a couple of stories to retell to another student/adult using their graphic organizer for guidance. You could differentiate the retell task for high or struggling students by assigning more or less complex stories to retell. You can work on retelling with fluency and inflection.

Click below to see sample graphic organizers for Coyote and Jabuti (note that in these two stories, the trickster is tricked.   A teachers note has been added below to clarify how to handle this.)

Trickster ChartCoyote.docx
Trickster ChartJabuti.docx



Day 1:

  • Read and discuss The Monkey and the Crocodile by Paul Galdone, a trickster tale from India, with a focus on the setting, the trickster character (including characteristics), the trick, and the major story events.
  • Model asking and answering questions about the story, such as:
    • Where do you think this story takes place? What details in the story and illustrations make you think this? How would this story be different if it came from another place?
    • Who is the trickster character? Why do you think this? What is the trick?
    •  What is the trickster character like? What words or sentences in the story make you think that? How is the trickster character like a real person?
    • Who is being tricked? Why are they being tricked?
    • What is happening in the story? What are the important events?
    • Who is telling this story? (the narrator/storyteller)
    • Do you hear any repetition in the story? How does it make the story sound different than other stories?
    • How do you think the tricked characters feel? What words in the story make you think that? Do they feel like real people would feel?
    • Did anything surprise you? Did you expect the ending?
    • What do you still wonder?
    • Together with the students, retell the story using a graphic organizer (provided) to record the setting, trickster character and their character traits, the trick, and the main events of the story. You might prepare a partially filled in graphic organizer and have the students help you fill in the missing elements. (The organizer could be on paper or a smartboard.)

Day 2:

  • Repeat the Day One activities with The Sacred Banana Leaf by Nathan Kumar Scott, a trickster tale from Indonesia.
  • Compare this trickster tale with The Monkey and the Crocodile.

Day 3:

  • Repeat Day One activities with Anansi Does the Impossible by Verna Aardema, a trickster tale from Africa.  Compare this book to the two previous read alouds.
  • On Bookflix listen to and watch the non-fiction books Africa (Imagination) and A Spiderling Grows Up (Animals and Nature) .
  • Discuss the major differences between books that tell stories (Anansi) and books that give information (Africa; A Spiderling Grows Up). (See knowledge)

Day 4:

  • Read and discuss Jabuti The Tortoise by Gerald McDermott, a trickster tale from the Amazon Rain Forest.( Jabuti the Tortoise Teacher Note: Jabuti the Tortoise is a trickster character who gets tricked. He plays a sweet song on his flute. But he also tricks creatures of the forest will silly pranks. He is mischievous. Vulture is jealous of Jabuti's song, and wants to eat him. One day Jabuti learns that there is a bird festival in heaven. Jabuti wants to go and play his flute. So Vulture decides to trick Jabuti. He tells Jabuti he will fly him to the festival. But, when they are high in the sky he drops him, and Jabuti falls and breaks his shell into many pieces. God tells the other birds to find Jabuti and put him back together. The birds are rewarded with beautiful colors. But Vulture must keep his plain, dull colors. (So this is a pourquoi story, as well. If the teachers said that Vulture was the trickster in this story, it wouldn't really matter. It just doesn't make as much sense, because Jabuti is on the cover and is the main character.)
  • Compare it to the previous trickster tales.
  • Distribute a blank graphic organizer to student pairs to complete.
  • When students have completed the task, complete the graphic organizer together to make sure students understand the story. Allow them to go back and add details to their graphic organizer.

Day 5:

  • Repeat Day Four activities with Coyote, a trickster tale from the American Southwest, by Gerald McDermott. (Coyote Teaher Note: Coyote is a trickster character. "He had a nose for trouble." "Coyote was always in trouble."Tricksters can be comic characters. Coyote is foolish and vain and a trouble-maker. In this story his vanity gets him into trouble. "If only I could fly, I would be the greatest coyote in all the world." Coyote doesn't play tricks in this story- but his boastfulness and foolishness get him into trouble. The crows have fun with him because he is foolish. Tricksters are very human- they have strengths and weaknesses, just like humans. His foolishness brings him trouble.)
  • Compare this story to the previous trickster tales.

Day 6:

  • Read and discuss Raven, a trickster tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott.
  • Compare to the previous trickster tales.
  • Complete the graphic organizer together, as a class.

Day 7:

Give students an opportunity to retell some of these great stories to each other. They can practice retelling with fluency and inflection.

Day 8:

Complete the authentic performance task. This might take more than one day.


Discipline Specific Considerations:


The Monkey and the Crocodile by Paul Galdone

The Sacred Banana Leaf by Nathan Kumar Scott

Anansi Does the Impossible by Verna Aardema

Jabuti by Gerald McDermott

Coyote by Gerald McDermott

Raven: A Trickster from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott

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