Little Red Riding Hood is one of the best known of the Perrault and Grimms fairy tales. In it, a little girl carries a basket of sustaining food and drink to her sick grandmother. She has been warned by her mother not to stray from the path, but she is tempted by flowers. Sure enough, she is in the woods late enough to encounter a wolf.
The wolf pretends to be kind. Little Red Riding Hood artlessly tells him where she’s going, and he runs on ahead to her granny’s house, where he eats the grandmother, puts on her clothes, and jumps into her bed. When Little Red Riding Hood arrives at grandmother’s cottage, she finds the wolf in the bed pretending to be her grandmother.
“What big ears you have, Grandmother!” says the suspicious child.
“The better to hear you with, my dear,” says the wolf. If you read this aloud, you have to say this in the voice of a wolf pretending to be a grandmother.
“What big eyes you have, Grandmother!” she continues.
“The better to see you with, my dear,” ripostes the wolf.
“What big teeth you have, Grandmother!” says the suspicious child.
“The better to eat you with,” growls the wolf, giving up his grandmotherly pretense and leaping upon Little Red Riding Hood.
A passing woodcutter rushes in at this point, kills the wolf, and rescues Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.
With any fairy tale, we like to begin by reading or telling the story.
- Here is the classic story to read.
- Here is an easier retelling.
- Here is an online story book version with cool retro illustrations. Readers must click to “turn” the 9 pages, so it is a good choice for your computer center, if you have little ones practicing their basic navigation skills.
If your students are old enough to know the story thoroughly, have them retell it. This can be done by having one student come up to the board to serve as scribe while the others tell him or her what to write. Another approach is to divide the story into episodes and the class into small groups and assign each group one episode of the story. Give students time to prepare a retelling, and then have each group present its episode to the class, in order. With any retelling method, take some time to go back over the story and add any details the students might have missed.
Once the basic story is established, give the class an opportunity to dramatize it.
For young students, it’s good to read the story again on the second day of the unit, allowing them to use toys or pictures to act out the story on their desks or in their spots in the story circle. The British Council has a set of flashcards of the characters in the story that will work well for this purpose. There are in fact lots of nice resources there, though you have to download them to your computer to use them. Give each student a set.
For older classes, or for younger ones on the third day, a chance to act out the story as a group is very good. We like to use masks or puppets for this purpose. Masks can easily be made from paper plates, and puppets from paper lunch sacks. DLTK has a pattern for a paper bag wolf puppet, if you would like to provide step-by-step instructions for practice in following directions, or to inspire students to go on and design their own puppets for the other characters. There are also ready-made finger puppets available, and hand puppets as well.
You can choose to have your class write out their lines for the play (I like to use a Pocket Chart and for this), or let the class improvise.
We like to present different versions of the story for comparison. Here are some:
- Ed Young did a great picture book of the Chinese counterpart to “Little Red Rising Hood,” Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. The dangerous animal in this story is a tiger, not a wolf.
- Here you will find, embedded in a satiric lesson on technical writing, a high-tech rewrite of “Little Red Riding Hood” beginning with this sentence: “At a previous but undetermined timeframe, a single-family domestic domicile was inhabited by a young girl, known as Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH), and her Maternal Parent (MP).” Older students will enjoy this take on the fairy tale, and it can provide a fertile ground for discussion of writing style, register, and appropriateness.
- A “politically correct” version of the story is another great discussion starter. Older students might enjoy identifying the various morals expressed in it and comparing them with the moral of the original story.
- It is worth noting that the original moral of Perrault’s story was “The sweetest tongue conceals the sharpest tooth” in a clear statement to pretty girls to watch out for sweet-talking guys. Later, the moral was identified as “Obey your parents.” Nowadays, it is more often understood to be “Don’t talk to strangers.” This could make a very interesting writing prompt.
- A “Stranger Danger” lesson plan uses the full scariness of the story to make important points for young children.
With the story thoroughly read and understood, it’s time to move on to cross-curricular connections.
This is a great time to learn about wolves.
- PBS has a lesson on “The Wolves of Yellowstone.”
- Discovery has a lesson plan comparing human and wolf social groups.
- National Geographic has a sophisticated look at wolves in myths and folk tales.
- From the same source, a timeline of gray wolves and their relationship with human beings. Add the dates to your classroom timeline.
- If you’re reading Lon Po Po, you can study tigers and wolves, predators from two different families, and compare them. Try our Tiger Lesson Plans.
- Another science connection for younger students might be parts of the body (“What big ears you have!”).
- A natural math connection for Little Red Riding Hood is the business about the wolf running ahead of Little Red Riding Hood on the path without her seeing him. When you ask students to figure out how he could have done that (using your character cut outs or other manipulatives), many math issues will arise. Did he just travel faster than Little Red Riding Hood, since she was dawdling, or did he take a straight path while she wound around? Does it matter what shape the path was? Would staying on the path really have been a safer choice for Little Red Riding Hood? Was the length of time she spent in the woods the problem? Discuss these matters with the class and ask them to come up with word problems that get to the heart of these math questions. If you can convince your fellow teachers to do the same, it would be fun to swap problems and have the students work the problems devised by the neighboring classroom.
- Check out a high-tech reinterpretation of the story with lots of added data. This could make a good starting point for a number of technology discussions.
- WolfQuest has lots of wolf lessons designed to support an educational video game. There are free and paid versions of the game to download.
- Here is a collection of illustrations for the story. Analyze the differences in style and interpretation, and invite students to do their own illustrations.
- Drawing a wolf step by step takes kids from basic shapes to a wolf drawing.
- Explore stereotypes of wolves through a photo essay.
- Finish a wolf face in a lesson plan with downloads.