Series of Lessons with The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen BooksOne of my favorite series of lessons which I taught at the former Juniper Park School in Westfield, Massachusetts, involved the folktale The Little Red Hen. I used three versions of this folktale; one retold by Paul Galdone, one by Margot Zemach and the third by Alan Garner.

The use of these books supports the following CCSS standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

THE PROCEDURE (may be modified to meet your student needs):


  1. Discuss the characteristics of a folktale.
  2. Read The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone to the students.
  3. Map out the story with student participation using the SGM® icons. Below are two options to use depending on your students.

Complete Episode Sample 1

(At left) Mapped out as a Complete Episode (This is how we mapped it out in Grade 1, but this may be used at all three grade levels.)

(Below) Mapped out highlighting the Critical Thinking Triangle. Note how the response (lack of it!) of the other Characters created a new Kick-Off for the hen and this was mapped to make her thinking visible for the students. The Thought Bubble further reinforces the thinking of the hen in response to the other Characters.

Complete Episode Sample 2Critical Thinking Triangle, Sample 2


  1. Model retelling the Galdone story using the SGM® marker and previous day’s map.
  2. Pair students and have them use the SGM® student markers to retell the story to one another. This activity gives you an opportunity to circulate and listen to the students.
  3. Recap some of the highlights you heard students use as they retold the story.
  4. Ask for a student volunteer to retell the story to the group and have the rest of the students follow along icon by icon as the student volunteer retells the story. This is an excellent opportunity to reinforce listening and pragmatic skills.


  1. Tell the students you have a story to read and it is a folktale. Have the students Turn and Talk with a partner to share characteristics of a folktale.
  2. Show the cover of The Little Red Hen by Zemach and ask the students if this is a familiar folktale! ☺
  3. Read the story to the students.
  4. I created replicas of the Characters to post on the magnetic white board (as shown below) using the Character icon. Discuss the Characters from each version. (Keep this visual for the next day.)

Character Representations Character Representations on Board

  1. Compare/Contrast MapsWith whole group or with student partners, depending on your students, fill out the Compare/Contrast Map (shown at right, drawing version on left, writing version on right) related to the hen and share with one another. Below is a completed version of this filled out on the board with student participation.

Compare/Contrast on Board

  1. In your small groups, fill out the Character Map, with student participation, using either the Galdone or Zemach book. The Galdone version is pictured below. Note the use of the terms wattle, patient, and clever. Use terminology to suit your students’ needs.


  1. Tell the students that you are excited to share yet another folktale and show the cover of The Little Red Hen told by Alan Garner! I must say that every year this series of lessons was done, the students reacted the same: they loved the three versions! After these lessons, our librarian could not keep up with requests for different versions of folktales!
  2. Read the selection to the students. It is a totally different version than the other two but does have two of the same characters.
  3. Model a retelling of the Garner version using the SGM® Teacher Marker.
  4. Invite students to talk about the Characters in the last version read and add the Character pictures to the previous day’s lesson as shown.

Table of Character

  1. Have the students Turn and Talk to one another and share other differences between the Galdone and Zemach books and the Garner version. Share responses.

Little Red Hen ActivityFor the last activity, ask the students to choose their favorite version and to write why they chose it. Invite students to share what they have written!

These lessons were so much fun! I would gladly return to the classroom in order to share The Little Red Hen again!

Sheila Zagula
Sheila Zagula


Sheila Zagula works with MindWing Concepts in product development, drawing on her expertise and talents as well as many years of implementing the Story Grammar Marker® and related materials. Her teaching career spans thirty-eight years, most recently as literacy coach in the Westfield Massachusetts Public School System. Sheila has experience as an early childhood educator, a teacher of children with special needs, and a collaborative instructor within an inclusion framework serving children in grades K-5.

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