International Association
of School Librarianship

Trickster Tales! – the GiggleIT Project

The GiggleCritters invite your students to read, experience, and explore Trickster Tales from many cultures, looking for commonalities and differences.

Trickster Tales Spotlight Projects include:

Take this opportunity to introduce your students to Trickster Tales from places near and far. The Trickster Tales Resources section below includes several collections of Trickster Tales to read online, plus booklists and videos.

Feel free to copy and share the Instructions to Students shown for each Project or put them into your own words.

  • GiggleIT encourages students to write in small groups, but they may also write individually or as an entire class.
  • Original illustrations by class members can also be included with any GiggleIT writing.
  • Please be sure that students only use their initials to sign their individual or small group work, for Internet safety!

If culture-specific words are included, students should provide a glossary so that all readers will understand their writing better.

Experiencing Trickster Tales

Trickster Tales are folktales with a specific story arc and set of characters - a cunning Trickster, someone who is easily fooled, something the Trickster wants to possess, the Trickster being ultimately tricked, and so on. Check out the Analysis & Information sites in the Resources below to learn more about these traditional tales.

Students should choose three Trickster Tales from different areas of the world to read. Check your library's collection (print and eBooks) and online selections (see Resources below). Strive for a wide variety of Trickster Tales within your group, rather than having all read the same few books.

Perhaps a local storyteller can bring a Trickster Tale to your students! Or try an online video (some choices in Resources below) to introduce Trickster Tales.

After reading each Trickster Tale once, ask students (individually or in pairs, if needed) to go through their three Tales, noting things the stories have in common (there is a tricky character and an easily-fooled character, etc.) and unique elements (place, food, plants) on a graphic organizer (see Resources below).  Remind them to use nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

Instructions for Students - Experiencing Trickster Tales

Story traditions in many lands include Trickster Tales, where a sneaky trickster tries to outwit someone who is easily fooled - but usually the trickster gets caught!

With your teacher/librarian's help, choose 3 Trickster Tales (books, eBooks, online sources) from different parts of the world.

Read and enjoy your Trickster Tales! Then go back through each story to find ideas and character types that are the same in each Trickster Tale and things that are different - use the graphic organizer to take your notes.

What is the same about each Trickster? What unusual plants, foods, or animals did you encounter? Can you locate each Trickster Tale's origin country on the world map?

Wonderful Word Clouds – Spotlight Project

Have students look over their graphic organizer and choose 5-6 descriptive words from each tale. They can circle the words or write them on small pieces of paper/sticky notes.

You will have 10-20 words from each individual or pair of students, giving your group a great  vocabulary resource for creating your Wonderful Word Cloud (see Word Cloud Generators in the Resources list).

 List all the selected words, even when repeated, since the more times that a word is repeated, the larger it appears in the Word Cloud.

 This example uses all the words on the GiggleIT Trickster Tales Spotlight Projects webpage, created with ABCYa, then cropped to show just the word cloud. The word used most often on that webpage is 'students' so it is the largest in the word cloud.

You can try different Word Cloud Generators from the Resources listed below. Be sure to type in all the words that students selected. So, if 5 individuals/pairs chose "sneaky" as a descriptive word, then "sneaky sneaky sneaky sneaky sneaky" (without quotation marks) would be part of the text entered for the Word Cloud.

Remember to save each version of your Wonderful Word Cloud and download it before trying a new shape or color scheme!

Your students should make a Glossary of words that might be unfamiliar to readers in other parts of the world, especially foods, plants, or Trickster names, giving explanations that other kids will understand.

Instructions for Students - Wonderful Word Clouds

Choose 5-6 descriptive words from each of your Trickster Tales and write them on paper or circle them on your graphic organizer, as your teacher/librarian instructs.

The more times that a word appears in the whole group's collected list, the bigger that word will be in the Wonderful Word Cloud that reflects what you found while reading your Trickster Tales!

Be sure to provide an explanation or definition of any unusual word that you wrote on your list. Your teacher/librarian will include it in the Glossary that will appear with your Wonderful Word Cloud.

Trickster Limericks – Spotlight Project

With their catchy rhythm and predictable AABBA rhyme, limericks can be a fun way for students to retell a Trickster Tale.

The selected online Limericks for Kids resources noted below will help you show students how to create limericks and provide kid-friendly examples (that aren't rude or embarrassing).

After your students have read 3 Trickster Tales from various parts of the world and completed their graphic organizer about similarities and differences while Experiencing Trickster Tales, they will be more prepared to retell a Trickster Tale in poetic format.

This is a good time to discuss the similarities that students have found: what characteristics do all the Tricksters share? Is there a moral at the end of each Tale?

Students (individually or in pairs/groups) will write a limerick about a Trickster. They can use a Trickster character from a tale they read or can create one, but must make sure that the Trickster behaves in the ways that the class discovered through their reading and discussion.

You should coach students if their limerick's rhyme scheme and rhythm pattern need help - often clapping will help them get the rhythms right. Have a rhyming dictionary on hand, too.

Remind students to sign their Trickster Limericks with just their initials (for internet safety) and to add Glossary entries at the end to explain unusual words or ideas in a way that kids their age would understand.

How will you publish your students’ limericks?

Instructions for Students - Trickster Limericks

After you have read and enjoyed your Trickster Tales, look at your graphic organizer. What is the same about each Trickster? What unusual plants, foods, or animals did you encounter?

Now that you have discovered what makes a story into a Trickster Tale and some different settings for Trickster Tales, you can retell one that you have read or make up a new Trickster Tale - with poetry!

Your teacher/librarian will help you learn the AABBA rhyme pattern of the limerick, as well as its distinctive rhythms.

Look at this example, written by the GiggleIT Project Team:

There was an old fox named Reynard
Whose life seemed terribly hard,
Brer Rabbit from the south
Would not jump in his mouth,
Which upset that old fox named Reynard!
- by KMM **

When you read that aloud, can you feel the special Limerick rhythm pattern?

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

Does it use the Limerick rhyme pattern?

rhyme A - Reynard
rhyme A - hard
rhyme B - south  
rhyme B - mouth
rhyme A - Reynard

The example poem uses the right rhyme pattern and is close to the Limerick rhythm pattern, so it is indeed a limerick!

You can write your limerick about one of the Tricksters that you met in your readings or can make up your own Trickster - just make sure that your new Trickster behaves like a real Trickster would!

It is fine to write your limerick with a friend or by yourself.  Sign it using the initials of your first name and last name, so it can be safely published anywhere. And remember to add Glossary entries for words or phrases that readers may not understand.

Trickster Tales Resources 

(links open in new tab; all current as of 1 September 2020)

Trickster Tales – to read online Sandy Schlosser retells some Brer Fox, Brer Rabbit and other trickster tales from the eastern USA. Jamaican artist and storyteller Michael Auld gathers several traditional Anansi stories from West African folklore on his site. Trickster tales about Coyote, Rabbit, and Raccoon from several Native American and First Peoples tribes.  Aaron Shep provides free Readers' Theater scripts based on books of fables, including The Adventures of Mouse Deer (Tales of Indonesia and Malaysia), How Frog Went to Heaven: A Tale of Angola, and The Wicked Girl: A Tale of Turkey. Myths and Legends website specifically for children and youth. Can be sorted by location, date, or language; a Myth Map for visual reference; Create Your Own story creating option.  Trickster tales here include "The Legend of the Three Sisters" from Blue Mountains, Australia, and "How the Troll Was Tricked" from Norway. Classic Trickster Tale of "Brer Rabbit and Tarbaby," as retold by Dolores Henderson of Morgan City, Louisiana USA.

Trickster Tales – analysis & information Lesson plans for guiding students to discover commonalities of trickster tales, links to online tales. From National Endowment for the Humanities, USA. online slides & 2 games to reinforce differences between folktales and other fiction, to define Tricksters. From US textbook publisher Macmillan-McGrawHill. Analytical essay on “The Trickster in African American Literature” by Trudier Harris, University of North Carolina (USA), includes history of the genre and how to guide student discussion of “trickster” versus “con artist.” From National Humanities Center, USA.

Book lists of Trickster Tales  2014 article with links to other lists of Trickster Tales.  A baker's dozen of Trickster Tale books from many cultures, from WETA (educational television station, Washington DC, USA) An excerpt from Open Books: Literature in the Curriculum by Carol Otis Hurst, includes list of books about fools and tricksters for younger readers (many older copyright dates). scroll down for list of Recommended books about Tricksters in Native American mythology. Coyote, Rabbit, and Beaver star in noted Trickster tale booklist with brief summaries, from WETA (educational television station, Washington DC, USA). Entire site is available in English and Spanish.  2009 list of outstanding Trickster Tale books from several cultures with brief story synopses.

Videos online – storytellers Cherokee storyteller Gregg Howard recounts the Trickster Tale “Why Rabbit Has a Short Tail” in this video. Story Cove by August House shares 5 animated Anansi tales.

Graphic Organizers  Try the Cluster/Word Web or Spider Map graphic organizers here for gathering descriptive words from Trickster Tales.  The '10 Most Important Words' graphic organizer on this site is great for collecting Trickster Tale words. - Over a dozen character and story graphic organizers to print out.

Word Cloud Generators Designed for kids in grades 2-5, the ABCya word cloud generator includes a moderate number of options for colors and fonts, limited arrangement choices. Users can save their word cloud to local computer or print out directly. (requires free Microsoft Silverlight plugin) Public word cloud generator with large number of fonts and color choices, Tagxedo features many interesting shapes for word clouds. Image can be saved in choice of several resolutions as .png or .jpg format or as an .imgur file, printed directly, or shared on the web. A public word cloud generator with moderate options for fonts and colors, in traditional round word cloud arrangement only. Site asks for an e-mail address only to verify that the word cloud’s creator is “human” before word cloud can be downloaded and saved. This public word cloud generator offers many options for colors and fonts. Users can tweak word alignment in traditional oval word cloud shape. Must save to public gallery to keep and deletion is impossible, so using Print may be safer option. Be warned: if you select ‘Randomize’ then using the back arrow won’t retrieve the last arrangement you saw.

Limericks for Kids reprint of Bruce Lansky’s clear explanation of how limericks are constructed including rhythm patterns and rhyme schemes. Kenn Nesbitt notes rhyme scheme and rhythm in his advice to kids on writing limericks Short explanation of limerick syllable & rhyme pattern with some original limericks as examples, as well as links to famous Edwin Lear limericks. Graham Lester’s original limericks for kids, plus anonymous ones. Sample pages from Dover Publications’ book of Edwin Lear limericks with his original illustrations.

**KMM poem by GiggleIT Project team member Katy Manck, MLS.

  • © International Association of School Librarianship

Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike Creative Commons License 2020

Data Protection Policy

© International Association of School Librarianship
Data Protection Policy 

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software