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Ancient Civilizations, Societies Then and Now #3: Anansi Stories

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students are introduced to Anansi stories, trickster tales from Africa.  The children learn quite a bit of new vocabulary as well as something of the colorful patterns common to the culture.  They then use this new knowledge to build a word wall with Anansi-inspired spiders!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Introduce children to Anansi tales.  Have the children make a class “Word Wall” with new vocabulary.

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will listen to two or three Anansi tales and make two or three “spiders” for the Word Wall.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Review characteristics of folktales from the lesson on “The Drum, A Folktale from India”.  They are:

  • The author is not known. Folktakes 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.

Present the vocabulary list for this lesson.  The kids won’t understand the words, yet, but have the words on a flipchart-sized piece of paper or on the board.

2. Main:

Teach Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti.

Begin by reading the foreword and having the class check off words from the vocabulary list as they hear them.   This helps them “tune in” to the vocabulary they will hear throughout the lesson and that they will need to discuss the Anansi stories.

Teach Anansi and the Bag of Wisdom.

Teach Anansi Does the Impossible.

Discuss and check for understanding.

Tell the children that they will make a word wall using some of the vocabulary.  But, their word papers need a colorful, patterned spider!

Teach the children how to draw a cartoon spider.  Be sure to use simple language as shown in the YouTube video (link below).  “Two V’s” for the teeth.  “Number three” for the tongue.  Eight “L shapes” for the legs.

Put up the web and let the kids place their spiders on the web.  The web will be filled in no time!

3. Conclusion:

Let the kids admire their work.  Emphasize how much fun it is to read folktales.  Challenge them to read folktales from other cultures and share their learning with you in the next class.

additional Resources:
  1. Anansi vocabulary word list. (Found below)
  2. Three Anansi tales. (See Recommended Texts below.)
  3. Spider web made from a garbage bag. (Follow the instructions in the link below.)
  4. Word Wall slips of paper prepared for the children. On the front, draw a dark black line below which they will write one of the vocabulary words.  If you want to be sure that all the words are used, lightly pencil in a word on the back of the first set of papers.  Children should rewrite the word on the front, in dark ink, below the line.  That way, each word will be used once.  For their second and third spiders, the kids can choose which words they want to use. (See photo of spiders with their vocabulary words.)
  5. Pencils and colored pencils
  6. Pictures of Ghanan Kente cloth with colorful patterns (optional)

You must learn how to draw a simple spider before this lesson.  I like this one:  How to Draw a Cartoon Spider – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk1Z-mcaRlQ

You also need to make at least one, but preferably two garbage-bag spider webs.  You can make a spider web out of yarn or other materials, I just found the garbage bag webs the fastest.  Find instructions here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVtO1-yRkDQ

Be prepared for a lot of enthusiasm.  Kids love making the spiders!  Try to teach this lesson in the classroom or near a display board.  If the teacher is not in the lesson, the kids will have a fun time covering the wall in spiders as a trick on the teacher.  That works well, because Anansi is a Trickster and his stories are Trickster Tales.

Key Terms:

Anansi, Ghana, Trickster Tales, Spiders, Ashanti, Weavers, Kente Cloth, Patterns

  1. Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti.  Retold by Gerald McDermott.
  2. Anansi and the Bag of Wisdom. Retold by Leslie Sims.
  3. Anansi Does the Impossible. Retold by Verna Aardema.
Vocabulary for Anansi Lesson:
1 story 13 culture
2 folklore 14 adventure
3 oral 15 wisdom
4 Africa 16 weavers
5 spider 17 traditional
6 retold 18 web
7 art 19 Ashanti
8 folktale 20 patterns
9 trouble 21 Ghana
10 symbols 22 trickster
11 Anansi 23 mischief
12 rogue

Anansi Spider Words


Anansi Word Wall

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