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Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #1: Aesop’s Fables

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will have an introduction to fables.  They will learn what a fable is, characteristics of fables, and make a few notes and sketches so that they can retell the fables.  Many kids have heard of, for example, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but most have not yet understood that the story is part of a special type of literature.  The kids are always eager to work out the moral!  Lots of new understanding seems to happen in this lesson, a wonderful literature tie to the ancient civilization unit.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:


  • To name three characteristics of fables.
  • To capture three traditional Aesop’s fables.
  • To experience folktales from world cultures as part of the ancient civilizations unit.

(AASL 4.1.3: Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.)

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will make a simple sketch to capture the idea of each fable.  Each child will record the moral of each fable.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask who has heard of a person named “Aesop”.  Write “Aesop” on the board.  Guess which ancient civilization Aesop lived in?  (Answer:  Ancient Greece)

Show an image of Aesop.

Aesop wrote a special kind of story called a fable.  A fable:

  • Is very short! Usually just one or two paragraphs.
  • Uses animals or objects as characters.  (Note: You can teach personification, but I usually leave that out when working with early elementary.  It is enough to say that the animals represent people.)
  • Teaches a lesson or moral.

Today we will listen to and capture three of Aesop’s most popular fables.

2. Main:

Read/Teach the fables.    Each student will make a capture sheet to show that they understand the morals of the stories.

Usually I teach:

  • The Tortoise and the Hare (Moral: Slow and Steady Wins the Race.)
  • The Lion and the Mouse (Moral: Little Friends May Prove to be Great Friends.)
  • The Crow and the Pitcher (Moral: Necessity is the Mother of Invention.)

Do not tell the children the morals.  Let them work together to figure it out.

Make sure you emphasize to the children that the sketch part of the exercise is only to capture the idea – this is not an art project!  I usually draw a “5-second tortoise” or a “5-second mouse” to show how a few, simple, no-fuss lines will help you get the idea without worrying about the art!

3. Conclusion:

If you looked at your notes, could you tell the story again?   What is special about this story?  What is the main message of this story?

Give them a challenge to read and share more fables!

additional Resources:
  1. A copy of Aesop’s Fables. I prefer Mice, Morals, and Monkey Business by Christopher Wormell.
  2. Pencils
  3. Clipboards
  4. Copies of Student Handout (see attached)

Many children have heard at least one of the fables before, but most do not know that they are attributed to Aesop or that the stories are over 2,500 years old.  The lesson generally generates a lot of enthusiasm and the desire to learn more fables.

You can find free digital e-book and audio book versions of the fables at:  http://www.loyalbooks.com/book/aesops-fables-volume-1-fables-1-25

Key Words:

Aesop, Fables, Morals, Ancient Greece

  1. Mice, Morals, and Monkey Business by Christopher Wormell.

Student Handout, Aesop’s Fables


Student Work Sample, Aesop’s Fables

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