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One Story- Many Cultures: Cinderella in East Asia

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Cynthia Stults
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One Story- Many Cultures: Cinderella in East Asia




1. Rationale for the Unit:

The majority of my fourth grade students have a very Eurocentric (aka Walt Disney) understanding of fairy tales and folktales. While an earlier unit on Greek mythology helped them see where much of our modern terminology comes from, they still have very limited knowledge of East Asian culture. Within our class, we have students from Korea and China who are here for 1-2 years as their parents do work at UCLA or USC. Much of the standard curriculum is not culturally relevant to them and a unit that incorporates aspects of their culture will be beneficial. 

2. Skill and Content Objectives:


·     Students will compare and contrast Cinderella stories from China, Korea, and Vietnam with the traditional European version

·     Students will write a persuasive essay to convince their reader which East Asian Cinderella is their favorite.

·     Students will work in collaborative groups to plan and present a creative retelling of one of the East Asian versions utilizing theater, dance, and/or music. 


Standards Addressed:

 RL4.9: Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.


W4.1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. a. Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose. b. Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details. c. Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition). d. Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.


W4.9:Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. a. Apply grade 4 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “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].”).


4.DA:.Cr2: a. Manipulate or modify choreographic devices to expand movement possibilities and create a variety of movement patterns and structures. Discuss movement choices. b. Develop a dance study that expresses and communicates a main idea. Discuss the reasons and effectiveness of the movement choices.


4.TH.:Cr1: a. Articulate the visual details of imagined worlds and improvised stories that support the given circumstances in a drama/theatre work.b. Imagine how a character might move and speak to support the story and given circumstances in a drama/theatre work.c. Visualize and design technical theatre elements that support the story and given circumstances in a drama/theatre work.


3. Lesson Plans


Day 1: One Story, Multiple Cultures



     Through a group discussion, students will retell the story of Cinderella as they know it. Chances are, these retellings will be very similar to what has been portrayed in the animated and live-action. I will ask students if they know the origins of the original story. I will then explain that the story they are familiar with originated in France in the late 1600s, but it is not the first, nor the only version, but this same story was told 800 years earlier in China, and has versions all over the world. Today, we will read three other versions and see how they compare with the version most of us are familiar with.



 Students will be divided into three heterogeneous groups, which will rotate among 3 centers. Each table will be equipped with copies of their Cinderella story, as well as a graphic organizer to identify similarities and differences between the European version and the Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese version. Students can discuss ideas, but each will be responsible for turning in a completed graphic organizer. Climo, Shirley: The Korean Cinderella. 1993: HarperCollins Publishers: NY, NY. Louie, Ai-Ling: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China.1982: Penguin Books, NY, NY. Quoc, Minh: Tam and Cam: The Ancient Vietnamese Cinderella Story2009: East West Discovery Press, Manhattan Beach, CA.




Students will engage in a full-class discussion about the different versions they read. Some questions will include: What are the common theme(s) throughout these stories? What do you know now about the Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cultures that you didn’t know before? What does each country value as goodness/beauty? What are the possible differences in time, culture, and geography that led to the differences among the stories?


Day 2: Which Cinderella Gets Your Glass Slipper?


During a whole group discussion, students will take turns recounting the major details of the three East Asian Cinderella stories they read on Day 1. After all main ideas and supporting details are charted, students will think-pair-share which of the three East Asian Cinderella versions they feel is the best one, and share their initial reasons for their opinion



Students will review and chart the components of a persuasive essay/argument: claim (____is the best of the three East Asian Cinderella stories), supporting evidence (author’s craft: imagery, poetic devices, character development, illustrations, include quotations from text), addressing counter-arguments (point out perceived weaknesses in the other two stories), restatement of claim.  Now suggest that students add another piece of their supporting evidence- how their Cinderella reflects the culture and values of its country. Students should use their Chromebooks to research the culture and values of the country of origin of their Cinderella.

Students will then be given 10 minutes to discuss their arguments and evidence with others who share their opinion.

After the 10 minute discussion period, students will work on their individual persuasive essays for the remainder of the time.



The following day, students will break into groups of three with all three East Asian stories represented. Students will then engage in an informal debate with their partners. 


Day 3: Bring the Stories to Life



I will show students several film clips from the Walt Disney cartoon Cinderella, the Walt Disney live-action Cinderella, and the made-for-tv movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical theater Cinderella starring the R&B singer, Brandy. Students will engage in a discussion of how these three film adaptations approached retelling this same story (some use music and songs, the type of songs are different, others don’t have singing and strive for a more “realistic” feel.)



Based on their selections from the previous day’s persuasive essay, students will break into smaller groups 4-5 to work on bringing a specific part of their East Asian Cinderella stories to life. Each group will be responsible for the beginning, middle, or end of their story. Groups can choose to make narrated tableaus of major events from their part of the story, musical numbers that move the plot along, interpretive dances that tell their part of the story, or simple scripted scenes with multiple students speaking lines. Groups will be reminded about showing respect to cultures- not trying to use accents, or change the way they look. Groups who are finished creating and practicing could use their Chromebooks to research culturally appropriate costumes for their representative country.



Groups will perform, in chronological order, their retellings of the three East Asian Cinderella. In between each story, students will discuss the strengths and creativity of each group. Students will be reminded that many stories and themes are universal and to look for similarities in cultures that may seem diametrically opposed to our own. 


4. Plan for Assessment:


Day 1: Students will be assessed based on their graphic organizer comparing and contrasting the various versions. Students will receive a 4 (exceeds) if they provide more than 3 similarities and differences, 3 (meets) if they provide 3 similarities and 3 differences, 2 (partial progress)- 2 similarities and differences, or 1 (inconsistent)- 1 similarity or difference. 

Day 2: Students will be assessed on their persuasive arguments based on the following criteria:

·     At least 5-8 sentences

·     Clearly stated claim

·     Includes at least 3 supporting details

·     Includes at least 3 counter-arguments

·     Includes quotes from the texts

·     Contains few grammatical and/or spelling errors


Day 3: Students will be assessed on their participation during the creation and rehearsal process through an observational checklist, and their final performance will be assessed based on the following criteria:

·     Their section of the story contains its own beginning, middle, and end

·     All group members have a part to participate in

·     Their depiction remains true to the spirit and events of the original story

·     Their performance is respectful of the story’s culture of origin.