Folktales to Learn From

Exchange folktales with a partner class, and explore values and beliefs important to each community.
Ages 8-14 / 45
min Activity
Social Studies


  • Read a folktale and discuss its central lesson, and reflect on the values and beliefs represented in the story
  • Meet with a partner class to exchange popular folktales from both communities, and reflect on similarities and differences between their stories

Supporting Research

When students read folktales from different cultures, experts believe that this experience helps them learn about and appreciate the unique hopes, traditions, and values of people around the world. Educators should reinforce the practice of self-awareness and inclusivity as students share and learn about folktales that are meaningful to them and peers in their partner class. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

Educator Note

Virtual exchanges offer an exciting opportunity for educators to connect their classrooms with other classes around the world. These cross-cultural experiences enable students to share their stories, explore different perspectives, and make new friends in another community. Once you find a partner educator (i.e., through a verified educator network), you can use a platform like Zoom or Google Meet to bring your students together over a live video call. Alternatively, you might consider using an asynchronous platform like Google Drive or Padlet to exchange photos, letters, or videos with each other. Asynchronous exchanges are especially helpful when navigating large time differences or internet connectivity issues.

Virtual exchanges are most successful when educators plan and get to know each other beforehand. To do this, we recommend scheduling a video call to connect with your partner educator, and using this opportunity to share your goals for this experience, exchange helpful information about your students, and discuss how you will lead the exchange together. Our "Get to Know Your Partner Educator" resource provides suggested conversation prompts for your meeting.

For more tips on leading a positive, cross-cultural experience for your students, please watch our “Teacher Tips” video.

Prepare: plan for the virtual exchange.

  1. Introduce folktales to students. You might explain: “A folktale is a special story, one that has been passed down through generations to teach important lessons. Every culture has its own folktales, and they often convey similar messages about values like honesty, kindness, and cleverness, and what it means to be a good member of the community.” 

    Then, read a folktale with your students, such as the ones below: 
    The Stolen Smell (Peru) for students ages 8-9 years old
    The Flying Tortoise (Nigeria) for students ages 9-10 years old
    The Swallow and the Pumpkinseed (Korea) for students ages 10-11 years old
    The Fisherman and His Wife (Germany) for students ages 11-12 years old 
    The Four Dragons (China) for students ages 12-13 years old • The Aged Mother (Japan) for students ages 13-14 years old 
  2. After reading the story, engage students in a Think-Pair-Share exercise. Students should: 
    • Think
    individually about the lesson that they think the story teaches.
    • Pair
    with someone sitting near them and share their ideas with each other, and see whether they had similar or different interpretations. 
    • Share
    their thoughts with the rest of the class.

    Encourage students to also reflect on the culture represented in the story. For example, you might ask the following questions:
    • What cultural values are depicted in this story? How do these values reflect the beliefs and traditions of the culture that the story comes from?
    • Do we have similar beliefs and traditions in our own community? 
  3. Ask students to share examples of folktales that they are familiar with. It can be a story from their family, culture, or community, or even a popular story from books or media. As defined earlier, the folktale should be one that teaches an important lesson to its audience. 

    Make a list of students’ ideas on a physical or digital board visible to everyone, and work together to select the most popular one (e.g., by holding a class vote). 
  4. Then, ask students the following questions:
    • How do you feel about meeting our partner class? What do you think our new friends will be like?
    • Do you know anything about the city or country where our partner class is located? Where can we find more information about their location? (e.g., by using Google Earth to explore their neighborhood, or searching for images of their city online)
    • What do you think it might be like to live there? What do you think our neighborhoods might share in common, and how do you think our neighborhoods might be different?

    Throughout your conversation, nurture positive feelings such as excitement and curiosity. Explain that it’s normal to notice differences between ourselves and others, and that you will practice doing so respectfully. If any misconceptions or stereotypes arise, gently counteract them and explain how to reframe assumptions by asking questions or making "I wonder..." comments. (e.g., "I wonder what folktales are popular with our new friends.") Ensure that students see this experience as an exciting opportunity to learn from their partner class!
  5. Ask students to prepare to share their selected folktale with their partner class. For example, students might describe: 
    • A brief summary of the folktale, highlighting key characters and events 
    • The message or lesson that the folktale teaches 
    • How the folktale reflects the values and traditions of their community 
    • Any personal connections or experiences with the folktale and its lesson 
  6. Help students come up with questions to ask their partner classmates, such as:
    • What is a story that you like that teaches a good lesson?
    • Do you have any special traditions or memories about storytelling? 
    • Do you celebrate any holidays with special stories? What are they?
    • What is your favorite thing about your city? 
    • What do you like to do outside of school?

    Encourage students to write down their reflections and questions on notecards that they can reference during the virtual exchange. 
  7. Establish and share communication norms for the virtual exchange, such as:
    • Keep yourself on “mute” (unless you are talking) to limit background noise, and raise your hand when you want to speak.
    • When it’s your turn to speak, come close to the device, say your comment or question loudly and clearly, and remain at the camera to hear your partner classmate’s response. Start by saying your name (e.g., “Hi, my name is ___. My question is...).
    • Listen attentively to the speaker and use hand signals (e.g., thumbs-up, “me too” signal, etc.) to indicate agreement or similarities.
    • Make sure that others have a chance to speak during the exchange.

    Ask students to share additional ideas for how they will show respect to their new friends, and consider leading a practice session so students can practice these strategies and imagine having a fun, positive interaction with your partner class. 

    For more tips on setting up your classroom for a virtual exchange, please visit this resource.

Interact: meet your partner class over a live virtual exchange.

Facilitate the virtual exchange using the video tool that you previously selected, and follow the suggested exchange structure below:

  1. Start the video call by greeting your partner educator, and express gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to connect with each other. Then, facilitate an introduction between students in both classes. You might have them introduce themselves, and share about their class grade, school, location, and/or a fun fact about their community.
  2. Provide space for both classes to share about their folktales, and encourage students to listen carefully and ask follow-up questions to learn more (e.g., “Who is your favorite character in this story? Why?”) Encourage behaviors that show respect and other strengths, like empathy, thoughtfulness, and humility, such as students sharing something they liked about each other’s stories.
  3. Invite students to take turns asking the questions that they prepared, and responding to each other.
  4. End the exchange by asking students to thank their partner class for sharing a part of their day with them, and for the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Then, students can say “goodbye” and express excitement for meeting again during your next virtual exchange together!

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.