A Unit Study Using Aesop's Fables

Aesop’s Fables are timeless classics that teach morals.  In fact it led to several cartoon series whose stories always ended “and the moral of the story is…”.  These stories are still useful today in illustrating cause and effect in the real world, but they are kind enough to use with even the very young.  These stories, because of their imaginative structure, also lend themselves quite easily to the unit study and across-the-curriculum approach.

Aesop, the author of a collection of stories called fables, was a 6th century BC Greek slave.  Though some of the stories in his collection may have more ancient origins, he is the one who made them popular.  Aesop’s stories were retold orally for over 200 years before some collected about two hundred of them and wrote them down.  Each fable teaches a lesson on human virtue or human frailty.  There are several versions of each of Aesop’s fables, some for adults and some for children.  When teaching this unit, it would be a good idea to read several versions of the same fable.


This site has a collection of over 600 of Aesop’s fables: http://www.pacificnet.net/~johnr/aesop/
Aesop Quotes: http://www.chesco.com/~artman/aesop.html
Biography of Aesop: http://www.wendy.com/children/aesop.html


Go to this site and key in AESOP in the “search this site” box and you’ll return with many different options that are really helpful, some geared toward the older student: http://7-12educators.about.com/education/7-12educators/cs/lessonplans/index.htm


For use with The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse:
1. Writing/Journaling:  Imagine your home.  Pretend that you are a very hungry mouse somewhere in your home.  Write about your food-finding adventures, including the secret place where you hide your food and where you would live.
2. Correspondence:  Send a letter to either the country mouse or the city mouse telling him what you think of his decision to live where he does.  Include all the proper parts of a letter, including properly address an envelope.
3. Arts & Crafts:  make paper plate puppets and re-enact the fable with your puppets.  You can use paper towel rolls or popsicle sticks for puppet handles.
4. Geography:  According to popular belief, mice love cheese.  In the USA, most of the cheese produced comes from the state of Wisconsin.  Find Wisconsin on a map.  Find Wisconsin on a globe.  What else can you learn about Wisconsin.  (Note:  if you do not live in the USA, what area of your country produces the most cheese?  Find that place on a map and study it.)
5. Social Studies:  What makes a city?  Design a city.  This city can be one from the past, one that does or might exist today, or you can design a city of the future.  What makes the city different from the country?  Where would you prefer to live and why?

For use with The Tortoise and the Hare:
1. Writing:  If the moral of the story was “Winning isn’t everything” how would the story be different?  Write the new ending to the story and share it with others.
2. Phys Ed:  Participate in some relay races.  They can be serious or silly.  Relay races don’t necessarily rely on speed, some rely more on dexterity.  Some examples of silly relay races are:  rolling a hard-boiled egg across the floor with your nose; carry a cotton ball in a spoon while holding the spoon handle between your teeth from one point to another; put an orange or softball under your chin and then pass it to a neighbor who has to put it under their chin without using your hands or your feet.
3. Drawing:  Draw a detailed map of the places and events in the story.
4. Science/Biology:  Is a tortoise the same thing as a turtle?  Are there different varieties of tortoise?
5. Science/Biology:  What do you think that a rabbit has to be fast?  What animals are rabbits’ natural preditor?  How does a rabbit use its speed to survive in the wild?

For use with The Bear and the Bees:
1. Math:  Use this brainteaser – How many bees attacked the bear?  Read the clues to find the answer.  It is an even number between 120 and 130.  All of its digits are different numbers.  From left to right, each digit doubles the one before it.  The sum of its digits is 7.  Answer:  124 bees.
2. Conflict Resolution:  Discuss the bear’s actions.  Think of some alternatives to the bear’s angry reaction.  Write and letter to the bear suggesting how it could behave next time.
3. Science/Biology:  Learn about bears.  Where do they live?  What do they eat?  Find out what a nuisance bear is.  (A nuisance bear is a bear that has learn to NOT be afraid of humans and who frequents garbage dumps and camp grounds on more than two occasions.  While a nuisance bear may be relocated, they often return to where they came from.  If they continue to be a nuisance, they most often have to be destroyed.)
4. Science/Biology:  Learn about how bees make honey.
5. Home Ec:  Try replacing other sweeteners with honey when cooking.  Or, make honey taffy – gradually heat honey over medium low heat until it is reduced in liquid by about one-third to one-half, while stirring regularly to prevent sticking and scorching.  After it has reduced, dribble this onto a buttered (or non-stick sprayed) platter or pan.  Allow the taffy to cool sufficiently before picking it up.  You can then eat it like it is or use buttered hands to pull it until it has a golden, glossy sheen.  Beware, this is an all natural candy, but it will still pull your fillings out of your teeth if you are not careful.


There are several internet resources that have many of Aesop’s fables on-line.  I also recommend checking your local library and bookstore for copies of various translations of Aesop’s fables.  The illustrations in some of these books are as rich and textured as the stories themselves.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Dog and Its Reflection
The Monkey and the Camel
The Crow and the Pitcher
The Bear and the Bees
The Big Fish and the Little Fish
The Lion and the Elephant
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Frog and the Ox
The Grasshopper and the Ants
The Lion and the Mouse

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