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Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #2: The Drum, a Folktale from India

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn an ancient Indian folktale.  They also practice story mapping, identify the story pattern, and write their own class folktale.  It’s a fun, engaging, and interesting lesson for the children with a multicultural element.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To map an Indian folktale, “The Drum”.  To experience folktales from world cultures as part of the ancient civilizations unit.

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will successfully map the circular folktake, “The Drum”.  Students will then, working together as a class, craft their own folktale using the same pattern.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Review the three main characteristics of fables from last week’s lesson.

  • Very short
  • Have a moral
  • Use animals or sometimes objects as characters (personification)

Folktales are slightly different.  For folktales:

  • The author is not known. Folktales come from an oral tradition.
  • Folktales are also very old stories handed down from generation to generation.
  • Folktales reflect and pass on the culture and values of the community they come from.

2. Main:

Part 1:  Read/Teach “The Drum”.  Each student will make a capture sheet to show that they understand the circular structure of the story.

Scribe the story map so that the children have a guide for their own maps.  Emphasize that the drawings should be quick and simple sketches, just to capture the idea.  (See photo).

Ask the children the following questions to check for understanding:

  • When the story started, what did the boy want?  Answer:  A drum
  • When the story ended, what did the boy have?  Answer:  A drum
  • Looking at the story map, what is the structure of this story?  Answer:  A circle.   Point out that many stories do have a circular or “chain” structure.
  • What elements of the PYP Learner profile can you see in the boy?  Answer:  Will vary, but definitely Caring.
  • The old man said that the stick might have magic in it.  What do you think?  Was the stick magic?  Answer:  The boy received his wish because he was kind, caring, and giving to others.  The “magic” was his kindness.

Part 2:  As a class, quickly brainstorm a new folktale with a circular structure.  Here is an example of one that one of my classes came up with in about three minutes:

  • There was once a poor girl who wanted a new dress. Her father could not afford one, but on his way back from market he picked up a stone from the side of the road.
  • The girl took the stone and went out to play. Soon she came to a family building a fire pit.  They needed a stone to complete the job.  She gave them her stone, and in return they thanked her by giving her a fish they had caught in the river early that morning.
  • The girl took the fish and continued on her way. Soon she came to a family with a hungry child.  She gave them the fish to feed the child, and in return they gave her a mat they had woven.
  • With the mat, the girl continued on her way. She met a family with a baby.  They needed to lay the baby down for a nap, but they did not want to place the baby on the dirt floor of their home.  The girl happily gave them the mat.  They thanked her by giving her a pair of trousers.
  • Arriving in the next village, the girl noticed a seamstress in a shop working feverishly to make trousers. The girl asked her why she was working so hard to sew trousers. The seamstress said that the men of the village were building a school and that their work clothes were worn.  The girl gave the seamstress the trousers.  To thank her for the trousers, the seamstress gave the girl a new dress from her shop.

Story Circle:  Dress – Stone – Fish – Mat – Hat – Dress

3. Conclusion:

If you looked at your notes, could you tell either of the stories again?   Look for the circle pattern in other stories.

  1. The Drum: A Folktake from India.  Retold by  by Tom Wrenn and Rob Cleveland
  2. Flipchart paper and markers to scribe the story map for the class
  3. Clipboards
  4. Pencils
  5. Blank Paper in a literacy or writer’s notebook

Kids quickly pick up on the pattern of receiving and giving.  They like to guess what is coming next, and they are very proud when they can look back at their story map and retell the story.  This is really an excellent lesson for literature (folktales) with a strong Unit of Inquiry tie.  Many folktales can be story-mapped, but my schools have always had a sizeable population from India, and so I like to use the Indian folktale.

Key Terms:

India, Folktales, Indian Folktales, Kindness, Caring, Drums

  1. The Drum: A Folktake from India.  Retold by  by Tom Wrenn and Rob Cleveland.

Drum Story Map

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