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Fairy Tales: Story Structure and Character in Drama

Context for this Lesson

School or Organization: 

TOPIC: Fairy Tales: Story Structure and Character in Drama

GRADE: 4th Grade


  • What are the key parts of drama?
  • How do we create a linear plot line?
  • How is story structure similar to the structure of a drama?



§110.15. English Language Arts and Reading, Grade 4

  • (5) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Drama. Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about the structure and elements of drama and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. Students are expected to describe the structural elements particular to dramatic literature. 

§117.16. Theatre, Grade 4

  • (b) (4.2) Creative expression/performance. The student interprets characters, using the voice and body expressively, and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to:
    • (A) demonstrate safe use of the voice and body;
    • (B) describe clearly characters, their relationships, and their surroundings;
    • (C) develop characters and assume roles in short improvised scenes, using imagination, personal experiences, heritage, literature, and history; and
    • (D) dramatize literary selections in unison, pairs, and groups and create simple stories collaboratively through imaginative play in improvisations and story dramatizations, describing the characters, their relationships, and their environments and demonstrating a logical connection of events.

Common Core State Standards

Reading Standards for Literature Grade 4

Key Ideas and Details: 

  • (1) Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • (3) Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • (7) Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.


"Let’s practice with the fairy tale of Cinderella. Who can tell me the basic plotline of Cinderella?" Engage in discussion determining what the beginning, middle, and end are. "What are important details to the story that we don’t want to forget?" Talk about the characters, where it takes place, etc.

"In a moment, we are going to create our own interpretation of this story in our bodies. We are going to make a frozen image – a stage picture or tableau. We are going to create a frozen image of the beginning of the story." Repeat back what the group decided was the beginning. "What are the details (including characters) we need to make sure we have in our image?"

"These are great details. Now, let’s talk for a moment about how we create a great stage picture. To create a strong frozen picture, we need to think about the following:"

● SHAPE: What shape is your body making? How are you using your whole body? How can you use your body to show the audience where to focus? What is the shape of the entire image?

● SPACE: How much space does your image take up? Why? How does space define character relationships? How might space define the mood and purpose of the overall image?

● ATTITUDE: What feeling best captures the character? How do you show this feeling in your body? What is the attitude of the entire image? Ask for three volunteers. Counting them in have them create an image of the scene. Pull out similarities between the brainstormed list and the frozen image.

Transition: "Great work. Now we have an understanding of what a frozen picture is. In just a moment I will break you into four groups. Each group will get a fairy tale. There are two fairy tales so two groups will do one and the other two will do the other. Your first job is to talk with your group about what happens in the story and what the beginning, middle and end are. Just like we did together. Next, each group will create a frozen image of the beginning using only your bodies. Remember Team, you can use your body to represent ANYTHING and everything in the scene (characters and the setting (objects/furniture)); whatever you think is important to tell your story."



Divide students into 4 groups. Have groups choose between two fairy tales: Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood.

“Talk with your group about what happens in your fairy tale. What is the beginning of the story? What are the most important details that you want to build with your bodies? Take a moment to brainstorm what details should be apart of your image.”

“Now, I’m going to give everyone in your group a number, and you are going to build each image one person at a time. We are going to do this simultaneously, so each group will build their image at the same time.”

Assign numbers to each student (the same numbers should be in each group) and count the students in (each group does this simultaneously). Remind students as they enter in to look at what the image is, and what is missing. Once the image is built, tell them this is the middle image. Revise the image [invite one # out to serve as the director and make the image stronger based on “what makes a good image.”]

“Remember this beginning image. Now brainstorm with your group what happens next in the story. We are using these images to build the plot of our short play. Let’s go forward in time and create the next image in our drama.” Count them in one at a time again to create pictures. Choose another # to serve as director to revise the image. “This is your middle image. Let’s see you move from the before image to the middle image. Great. Everyone relax. Now let’s go forward again and create the end picture.” Count them in one at a time. Choose another # to revise as director.

Rehearse the three images in order simultaneously.

(10 MINS) Have each group show their sequence to the group. “When I say “blackout” the audience will close their eyes while the actors get into place for image number one. When I say “lights up” the audience will open their eyes. Actors, wait until I say “blackout” to change to your next image. Are there any questions about how this will work?”

Process each group in a different way:

● GROUP #1: Ask the group what image they would like to see again. Full DAR that image and title it. ○ Describe: “What do you see in this image?” ○ Analyze: “Based on what you see, what could be happening in this image?” ○ Relate: “What title would you give this image?”

● GROUP #2: Facilitator picks the image that best lends itself to voices in the head. (“Thought-bubbling”) ○ “What could this character be thinking in this image?”

● GROUP #3: Ask the group what image they would like to see again. Choose a character to “thought-bubble” and bring to life to interview. ○ “What could this character be thinking?” ○ Actor playing this character can think of something they would say or can use a suggestion that they heard from the audience.

● Group #4: Facilitator picks the image that best lends itself to dialogue. Have one character say a line, and then pick the next characters to respond. “What could this character say that makes sense with the plot of this story?”

If possible, scribe a sentence for each B/M/E sequence of each picture. To have as a resources in the creative writing follow up.



1(D): "So DDWT, what did we do in our work together today? Anything else?" (encourage them to name the steps they took to create their stories) "Which details, or context clues in the fairy tale did your group find most useful in creating your image drama?" (In the discussion emphasize how they distilled the B/M/E of the story.)

2(A): "How did the images help us to create plots? Four groups created dramas from two fairy tales. How were they similar? How were they different?" 

3(R): "How might creating these images help us prepare for our drama writing exercise? For your writing center time today, you will get to write one of the dramatic stories that you saw today. You can choose to write a story from the fairy tale that your group had or you can write a story from another tale. As you write, think about how the way the story is told shapes our understanding of what is happening." (make connections to performance of character and setting and related details)