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TeachNet Grant: Animating Aesop's Fables
Nancy M. Costa

PS 131
4305 Ft. Hamilton Pkwy
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11219

Grade & Subject Areas: Elementary + ELA / Instructional Technology
About the Grant:

Materials: Computers with Internet access, copies of Aesop's fables. 

Suggested Reference Paperbacks:
Aesop's Fables
Retold by Ann McGovern
Published by Scholastic  Copyright  2001, ISBN: 0-590-43880-8;
The Aesop for Children With Pictures by Milo Winter
Published by Scholastic 1994, ISBN: 0-590-47977-6;  

Aesop's Fables Online

  • Various websites - links provided below.
  • Scratch  Software  -  (Open Source) - free download from scratch.mit.edu website;   Project Storyboard pages 1 & 2
  • Scratch Getting Started Guide
  • Scratch Reference Guide
  • Project Storyboard rubric
  • Scratch Animation Project rubric

Project Description:
The learning objectives for this project are two-fold. Using a variety of print and online resources, students will study the "fable" genre, with specific focus on Aesop's Fables.  They will learn that a fable is a short story that teaches a lesson or moral.  The second goal of this project is for students to develop technology skills in graphic programming which they will use to produce simple animations of their fables.

As part of a study of Aesop's Fables, the students will create animations of their favorite fable.  Collaborating with a partner, each team will read and create a script for their fable using a storyboard.  Once their storyboard is completed, the students will transform their scripts into interactive, animated  stories, using Scratch, a free (open-source) graphic programming  software created at the MIT Media Lab.  Incorporating graphics, selected background scenes, recorded sound and/or music clips, and student-created animation blocks, the students will bring their fables to life.

How it Works:
The students are first introduced to the fable genre.  Initial class lessons focus on the characteristics of this short story genre and how these features are the same and/or different from other genres studied, such as fairy tales or tall tales.  Students are assigned several of Aesop's fables to read and analyze.  They share their fable with their classmates and the students will guess what the moral or lesson of the fable is.

Students are divided into teams of two members each.  Each team will select a fable that they will animate using the Scratch programming software.  Lessons on how to use the Scratch software will follow.  Suggested activities are provided on the MIT support webpage located at http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Support.  A Reference Guide and Getting Started Guide are provided for download free of charge.

Following these lessons on Scratch, each team will develop a storyboard plan for animating their fable.  Included in their storyboard script, they will decide what images, backgrounds, dialog, music, and props are needed to create a realistic animation of their fable.  They will also plan which animation blocks they need to create in order to make their stories come to life.

Two assessment rubrics have been included in this lesson plan to assist teachers and students  in assessing the preparation work they have completed on the storyboard  as well as completion of the final animation product.

How This Grant was Adapted:

Overall Value:
Today's students must master important learning skills in order to be prepared for the 21st Century. These learning skills are critical for their future success. According to the Scratch software developers, 21st Century students ".must learn to think creatively, communicate clearly, analyze systemically, use technology fluently, collaborate effectively, design interactively, and learn continuously."  By integrating the use of a programming software like Scratch into a typical genre study of fables, teachers will be taking the student's learning to a higher level - a level in which these critical 21st Century skills are addressed.

Tips for the Teacher:

As a result of the video game explosion of recent years, children as young as kindergartners are using technology on a regular basis.  Thus, today's students naturally gravitate to the use of technology in the classroom.  By introducing them to Scratch animation, you will be tapping into a talent and interest many of them already have.  Having your students participate in this program will encourage them to think critically and creatively, and they will also learn to collaborate with others to create a final product.  Your students will be engaged in their learning and have fun at the same time!

The most interesting and possibly challenging piece of implementing this project will be teaching the students how to use the Scratch software. The Scratch website Support Webpage offers excellent reference material and 12 "practice" Scratch activity cards. I strongly recommend that the teacher introduce each of these activity cards to the students first, with each activity saved by the students upon completion. This will give them a clear understanding of how to create Scratch "code" by putting together various animation blocks. They will then be able to transfer these learned skills to their own design and creation. 

Following the publishing of the student projects to the MIT Media Lab server, the projects may be shared with other students and classes around the school.  This adds another valuable resource available to teachers teaching their students the "fable" genre.

Project URL

After each team created their fable animation (final product),  I uploaded the students' work to my Scratch account on the MIT server.   (Anyone age 13 and older may create a free account on the MIT Scratch server ).  Click on this link to view  the project  in the "Animating Aesop's Fables Gallery"  that I set up on the MIT server.   The individual student projects can be downloaded by others in order to examine the code created to animate the fable.

Project URL:  http://scratch.mit.edu/galleries/view/37347

Special Note:  Participating teachers who wish to add their student's work to my gallery may contact me at  ncosta2@schools.nyc.gov   and request permission to upload their projects to the "Animating Aesop's Fables Gallery".  This would be an excellent way to foster communication, collaboration, and learning between teachers and students from different schools. 


Objective 1: Students will identify the important features and elements that are characteristic of the fable genre.

Objective 2:
Students will identify and explain the moral or lesson associated with a particular fable and how it relates to human behavior.

Objective 3:
Students will analyze, interpret, and create a personal script depicting a selected fable and its lesson or moral.

Objective 4:
Students will collaborate effectively with another teammate to produce a storyboard plan and an animated interactive version of a selected fable of their choice.

Objective 5:  Students will read aloud expressively to convey a clear interpretation of the work.

Objective 6:
Using the Scratch software, the students will create simple Scratch animations by snapping together graphic blocks and creating  a script for animation.

Objective 7:
Students will create their own animated interactive version of a selected fable, including graphics, background images, recorded sound/music clips, and animated graphic blocks.

Websites Used

Link 1: http://scratch.mit.edu
Click on this link to download the (Open Source) Scratch programming software (free of charge) from this MIT Media Lab website.
Link 2: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Support
This onsite support page supplies the teacher and students all they need to learn how to use the Scratch software, including Intro videos, a Getting Started Guide, A Reference Guide, and 12 Scratch  Cards.   The Scratch cards provide a quick way to learn new Scratch code. The front of the card shows what you can do; the back shows how to do it.

Link 3: http://mags.acm.org/interactions/20080304/?pg=52
Excellent online reference article for teachers:  "Empowering Kids to Create and Share Programmable Media".
Link 4: http://umass.edu/aesop/index.php
This University of Massachusetts (at Amherst) website is an excellent resource site for student-friendly retold versions of Aesop's Fables.

Link 5: http://tinyurl.com/baldwinproject
The Baldwin Project -  Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children -  This website provides an excellent collection of updated versions of Aesop'e Fables.           

Link 6: http://aesopfables.com/
This website hosta an online collection of Aesop's Fables, including a total of 655+ Fables, indexed in table format, with morals listed.
Link 7: http://mcwdn.org/fables/aesop.html
This literacy site introduces students to some of Aesop's fables with vocabulary review, quizzes, thought questions and activities.
Link 8: http://mcwdn.org/fables/fabplay.html
This links to an online fable script form the student teams may use to plan out their fable script.

Standards Addressed:

Standard 1:  ELA
Identify literary elements, such as setting, plot, and character, of different genres.
Elementary - Grade 5
Listening and Reading

Standard 2:  ELA
Present information clearly in a variety of oral and written forms such as summaries, paraphrases, brief reports, stories, posters, and charts
Elementary - Grade 5
Speaking and Writing

Standard 3:  ELA
Recognize some features that distinguish the genres and use those features to aid comprehension.
Elementary - Grade 5
Listening and Reading

Standard 4:   ELA
Use inference and deduction to understand the text
Elementary - Grade 5
Listening and Reading

Standard 5:  ELA
Monitor and adjust their own oral and written presentations to meet criteria for competent performance
Speaking and Writing

Standard 6:  ELA
Identify essential details for notetaking
Grade: Elementary - Grade 5
Reading and Writing

Standard 7:  Math-Science-Technology
Control computerized devices and systems through programming
Computer Technology

Standard 8:   Math-Science-Technology
Participate in small group projects and in structured group tasks requiring planning, financing, production, quality control, and follow-up.
Management of Technology

Standard 9: Math-Science-Technology
Model and simulate the design of a complex environment by giving direct commands
Computer Technology

Standard 10: Math-Science-Technology
Use the computer as a tool for generating and drawing ideas
Computer Technology

Lesson 1:

Special Note:

This is the link to the online project:  http://scratch.mit.edu/galleries/view/37347

If anyone should need further assistance or suggestions on how best to implement this project, please do not hesitate to contact me at the email address provided above.

Nancy Costa has been an elementary school teacher for the NYC Dept. of Education for 32 years.  She currently serves as P.S. 131's Instructional Technology teacher.  Having spent 25 years as a classroom teacher,  Ms. Costa has many years of experience In curriculum development in all subject areas for Grades K-6.  As a strong advocate for the integration of technology into the classroom curriculum, she has provided instruction and training in the use of technology for P.S. 131's  students, teachers, and parents.  She has also taught several technology courses for the DOE's After School Professional Development Program and served as a staff developer for the Office of Instructional Technology (Brooklyn North Division).  Ms. Costa believes that the use of technology in the classroom not only serves to better engage today's students, but also fosters their all important critical and creative thinking skills.

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