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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Telling Tales: Pakistani Students Share Their Culture's Lore Online

Students create a collaborative, international network of fables and folktales that celebrates and shares cultural heritage.
By Saleem Ibrahim
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Credit: Saleem Ibrahim

Ayesah, a seven-year-old student in Karachi, Pakistan, clicks a link with her computer mouse and enters her username and password to open a page. She clicks Projects, then Language Arts, then Folk Tale, and finally the discussion window: Folk Tales from Pakistan. On the screen appear short folktales posted by Ayesah and her fellow students, who look on. Their faces brighten as they read responses to the folktale they posted the day before. From the other side of the globe, a student has sent a note of appreciation for their writing and shared her views on the story. In many schools in many countries, similar scenes play out.

These Pakistani students and their teachers are participating in the online collaborative project called Folk Tales, organized by iEARN (the International Education and Resource Network), a nonprofit organization of 25,000 schools and youth organizations and 1 million students in more than 120 countries. The group helps teachers and young people work together online using the Internet and other communication technologies.

One-hundred-fifty iEARN projects, designed and facilitated by teachers and students to fit their curriculum and classroom needs, create an extraordinary international network. To join, participants select an online project and look at how they can integrate it into their schools. Teachers and students enter online forum spaces to meet one another and get involved in ongoing projects with classrooms around the world.

The Folk Tales project is an exchange of the lore and fables that are a part of every culture, a sharing of the storytelling that is a centuries-old tradition in many societies. In a sense, the idea is a digital re-creation of the way stories were passed along by caravans and travelers taking goods to and from India and Central Asia along the old Silk Road. (In the real, analog world, in Peshawar, Pakistan, a city on the Afghan border, there still exists a place called Qisa Khawani Bazaar, a name that means "market of storytelling.")

Reviving Riches

In a modern childhood world, populated by Barbie and Harry Potter (not together, of course), schoolkids often know very little about the folktales of their own country and almost nothing about those from other parts of the world. And yet these old stories remain a rich source of learning about life's problems, customs, traditions, and beliefs. The iEARN Folk Tales project creates a new market of storytelling to revive not only the stories but also the shared experiences and learning they offer.

Osama, a student in Ayesah's class, talks about a crucial by-product of the project. "I like listening to the tales and then rewriting them," Osama says. "I also share them with my mother. Before this, I'd never written these kinds of stories."

Credit: Saleem Ibrahim

Active involvement in the project offers a chance for real communication with a real audience that results in better understanding of other cultures, respect for others' ideas, tolerance, awareness of global issues, and improvement in language proficiency. Resources for teachers, including lesson plans, are provided on the project's online forum. Teachers can use these resources, share their experiences with other teachers, and discuss related issues.

The iEARN Folk Tales project enables students to go global using the Internet, sharing their ideas with students from around the world. Just as important, it gives opportunities for reflection on the lessons and morals of local and national folktales, stories told down through the generations as a way to pass along lessons that still have much to teach students today.

Saleem Ibrahim is senior program officer for iEARN-Pakistan, in Karachi.

As the World Learns > Room to Read

Comments (35)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Saima Afzal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Salim,

I went through the story. Its start, middle, climax and ending was all written in quiet befitting manners.


Saima Afzal

Gulrukh Razi's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Saleem sahib,
What a great piece of work. Knowing you and working with Iearn has made a lot of difference in my life. I know you and all connected with the orgnization are capable of great things. This being one of it. I wish you and the Iearn family (of which i will always be a part of) loads of success.

Continue shinning.

Ovidiu Bocsa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

School "I.P.Reteganul",Reteag,BN,Romania

phone/fax: 40 0263 344 072

The Fancy`s Fairy Tale

(from M.Sadoveanu ,The Wonderful Grove; Fifty Stories, 1984
Selected text from :"Cincizeci de povestiri",ed.Minerva,Bucuresti 1984,pp.405
Dumbrava minunata,cap.VII,Povestea cu zana inchipuirii,pp.268-270 )

Prof. Bocsa Ovidiu `s proposal: Novelty version for English class
Approaching Fairy Tales(1)

The Fancy`s Fairy Tale

That time, the villages were just a few and fortresses here and there.And the buffaloes walked through the forests and on the rivers ,there were big birds,that now went away at the frozen seas. And in the villages, there lived good people who believed in our wonder realm.And in the fortresses,there lived like nowadays,big scientists who didn`t believed.
This way,in this beautiful and old grove,rumours that a there could be a fairy as never had been;thin an slender and white,blue eyes and golden hair , long ,long and touching the soil;and her beauty was so great that the old bears and the wildboars were coming from the mountains to kneel in front of her beauty ;and when she was coming out from the groves`s darkness,the sunshine was coming around and the springs were murmuring lovely.
And at the festivals in the villages,the young men and the girls were speaking about her under the wonder of wonders terms.They found about her ,from the forests ` murmure,from the wind and waters because ,actually,they haven`t seen her,yet.
And the fame of that golden hair fairy went far away,crossed nine seas and nine countries.The news about her arrived in the fortresses,too.And there were the emperors` and kings`sons, that took their weapons and horses and came with solders to encompass the forests and find the fairy.At their arrival,the roes run,the birds arose in the sky; but vainly they looked for the fairy and ;the didn`t find neither the fairy ,nor the palace.
But words and stories ,rumors in the world went on. And there was a Prince Charming from a far fortress; he hearing of the fairy and her beauty, determined came with his courtiers and army.
But he believed in that fairy. And one evening, as he entered the groves, and begun to play a bone whistle tenderly, the fairy came near the springs, smiled and told him:
"Prince Charming, you believed in me and had me in your soul, that`s why,when you called me, I came. And from this moment, my love would warm your life and your troubles would be rescued and I would bring you the caress`s flowers at the time of your death."
Prince Charming was listening her excitedly. Her voice was perceiving and sounded as a golden string. When he stepped toward her, raising a finger she stopped him .
"Come again, tomorrow in the evening." She said and smiled.
And he came many times when the sunset fills the secret groves. And he was happy as nobody has been on the earth.
And his courtiers and wizards, as they followed him in their desire to meet the golden hair fairy ,haven't seen anybody near spring, but Prince Charming alone. And they didn't believed in the wonder realm and begun to talk that there wasn`t any fairy in the grove. And the prince heard and wondered at their words.
"Prince Charming! We also, want to know the truth .Ask the fairy to give you her ring and show us that as a proof about her existence." An old scientist or wizard said.
And that evening, near the spring, Prince Charming asked the fairy the
"This is a commonplace, in vain thing.". I don't carry such trinket: jewels, ornaments ...I don't need them. My love is much more than the mortals `bunkum." She answered with a smile.
Bringing this answer, Prince Charming got a pair of scissors from the wizards ;and they asked him to rape, to cut a lock from her golden hair.
And in other evening, at a moment he thought properly to such a gesture, he cut a golden lock and hid it in his bosom, near his heart. Then, after he came back to his courtiers and scientists and wizards, when he wanted to show them the proof, he found nothing near his heart.
Gathering many scientists and wizard there, around Prince Charming, they opened books, stretched parchments ,read them ,kept long speeches and proved it thoroughly, concluded there wasn't any fairy in our grove ;and all wasn't but a sick fancy.
Then, Prince Charming believed them, and mounted his horse and went back with great pomp in his kingdom. But he was and his heart was sad and many times afterward , in pensive mood when he stood something for ever lost he thought at ;but the wonder image that once enlighten and offered him comfort, never appeared. And he died with dry and old soul as all ordinary people. And in the moment of his death nobody brought him comfort , the caress's flower.
But only fools and poor people who rested in our regions, hold the dream on and believed on the golden hair fairy. Now and then, they saw her near the springs, in the twilight.

Prof. Bocsa Ovidiu `s proposal: Novelty version for English class
Approaching Fairy Tales(1)

The Fancy`s Fairy Tale

Type of lesson: Discuss, free communication,sharing from own experience regarding "national" fairy tales
Aim: Enjoying fairy tales and making an attempt to understand them...looking for possible keys of interpretation
Time:It is at the teacher estimation and choice to observe the interest in statu nascendi ,proficiency ,motivation ,purpose to cover one-two or more hours
The best way to find the pupils` interest is to find a real channel of communication from soul to soul if possible or to have other variants of lesson at hand,thus a shift character in the Korzybski`s sense.
Attempt:Creative didactics
Skills :integrated reading/speaking/writing or at his best story telling
Method: Introduction/Explanation/Demonstration means of approaching the text/Direct work with the text or background for free discussion/analysis/interpretation of the text
Direction: to use the virtues of Rhetoric and reflective attitude
Preparation: Looking for sources on Fairy Tales
Possible training in story telling
Possible special sound as background,to create the magic atmosphere while reading the text:
"Dorul" =Longing/love desire(author of the song and singer : Florin Bogardo)
"I believe in story tales" -old song sung by Cornel Constantiniu
"I have a dream"-ABBA
"Passacaglia" by Anton Webern
Possible individual task :essay or group/team :subject of discussion:
(c)After reading this spontaneous translation of a known Romanian story, write an essay or speak about possible similar stories w .w. and especially from British literature.
(c)Try to catch the meaning of the story.
Tips Questions:
(c)Why only a certain character could see the Fancy`s Fairy?
(c)What were his first "magic" power (imagination/vision)? Comment.
(c)Why did he lost his power of imagination/faith?
(c)How could one group the characters (e.g. real-imagery)
(c)Who still believes and loves this kind of stories and why?
(c)Find the paragraph in which is described the world that was "one upon a time"
(c)What do you know about the Prince Charming?
(c)Make cards with the Propp`s functions and characters and try to find if his theory works
(c)Try to find and use a personal key of reading/understanding the text
(c)With the help of the card-functions made by the teacher with the help of the pupils or the Propp`s functions and character as they are put down on the board and explained by teacher,try to re-built the tale,especially its end .
(c)Why the author didn`t choose a happy-end?

Best regards and wishes for anybody who have taken with the fairy tales and... this awkward 1st attempt of communication with you, friends ww.
Copyright (c)2006 Ovidiu Bocsa
Possible contact

More or less novelty Introduction: On Fairy Tales

An important study on How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives, was made by Jonathan Young, who concluded we all needed of Fairy Tales...
As a basic information we have at hand internet:
where a fairy tale is defined as "a story featuring folkloric characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and others". We find also that The fairy tale is a sub-class of the folktale.
Also,we know how in different folk cultures (including ours),sometimes demons and witches are perceived as real,and that explains fairy tales may merge into legendary narratives.Sometimes, case the context is perceived as having historical actuality we assumes miths and legends,too.They take part in our life ,
as imagery`s archetypes -those events and experiences our ancestors might have taken part in,once.

A difference is clearly pointed out (by Mircea Eliade and other famous name in the field of magic and religious thought and experience):unlike legends and epics the fairy tales usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, persons, and events although these allusions are often critical in understanding the origins of these fanciful stories.The case of different fables , talking animals and the presence of magic seem to be more common to the fairy tale than fairies themselves upon the opinion of Stith Thompson or Angela Carter (Introduction to the Virago Book of Fairy Tales).

An other possible characteristic of the fairy tale is that it belongs mainly to the oral tradition; tales belonging to folk culture were narrated orally,(sometimes put down like the case of Brothers Grimm or made up/re-invented novelty case Hans Christian Andersen's tales and oher famous names in the world), generally handed down from generation to generation.

The fairy tale have ancient roots,ones having common patterns with ancient miths or magical tales,or religious miracles.The best known in the world have reitered such framework (for instance Contes of Charles Perrault, are variants of some possible older forms of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella).
The name of Andrew Lang is linked by collection of European fairy tales published under the name of "coloured books".

Some authors seek to recreate a sense of the fantastic in a contemporary discourse or retell them from a multitude of other points of view .Different means,methods and techniques of storytelling cover special effects or new keys of reading and interpretation.(e.g.Such key can be used too in classifying literature as doric , ionic and corinthic with some general features in the proposal of N.Manolescu)
Specialists ,but not only these ones could look for patterns and features in modern literature (begining or assuming a certain myth or traces from an older story or legend ).It appears that the fairy tale was born as a fall from its ritual sacre world in the ordinary world as well as some objects were ritual and cultural once,became toys in the children`s world.

Any analysis of fairy tales quickly discovers that many fairy tales have features in common with each other.
Two of the most influential classifications are those of Antti Aarne, as revised by Stith Thompson, into the Aarne-Thompson classification system, and Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale.

Aarne-Thompson`s system groups fairy and folk tales according to their overall plot. Common, identifying features are picked out to decided which tales are grouped together. Much, therefore, depends on what features are regarded as decisive. Cinderella, is the case of the persecuted heroine getting a magic help,theme that may be found in many other stories.

Vladimir Propp establishes a link between the ancient child who lived the rites of initiation and the child of ourdays that is fascinated by the the fairy tale and its storytelling .It is a connection with the collective unconscious.
By breaking down a large number of Russian folk tales into their smallest narrative units - narratemes - Propp was able to arrive at a typology of narrative structures.He observes that:
1.The functions of the characters are constant the same
2.There are 31 such functions and eight character types
3.All these functions have the same order (e.g. the "donor" who gives the hero magical assistance, often after testing him, and this function can be independent of any appearance of the donor).
One may observe some analogies with the case of analysis of myths into the Hero's journey.

Here is a kind of classification of Vladimir Popp`s functions (as he described them and may be found on Internet at Wikipedia:

The tale takes the following sequence (after a certain initial situation):
1. The hero leaves home (the hero is introduced);
2. There is to be observed a kind of interdiction/taboo or solicitation (generally or specifically it is addressed to the hero (to do or not to do a certain action);
3. The hero makes the mistake not following the given direction/ interdiction (somebody leading to ;bad intention of an other character that opposes to the hero,respectively deceives or betrays him; villain enters the tale);
4. The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (either villain tries to find the children/jewels etc; or intended victim questions the villain);
5. The villain gains information about the victim;
6. The villain attempts to deceive the victim to take possession of victim or victim's belongings (trickery; villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim);
7. Victim taken in by deception, unwittingly helping the enemy;
8. Villain causes harm/injury to family member (by abduction, theft of magical agent, spoiling crops, plunders in other forms, causes a disappearance, expels someone, casts spell on someone, substitutes child etc, comits murder, imprisons/detains someone, threatens forced marriage, provides nightly torments); Alternatively, a member of family lacks something or desires something (magical potion etc);
9. Misfortune or lack is made known, (hero is dispatched, hears call for help etc/ alternative is that victimised hero is sent away, freed from imprisonment);
10. Seeker agrees to, or decides upon counter-action;
11. Hero leaves home;
12. Hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc, preparing the way for his/her receiving magical agent or helper (donor);
13. Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants, performs service, uses adversary's powers against them);
14. Hero acquires use of a magical agent (directly transferred, located, purchased, prepared, spontaneously appears, eaten/drunk, help offered by other characters);
15. Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts of an object of the search;
16. Hero and villain join in direct combat;
17. Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf);
18. Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in contest, killed while asleep, banished);
19. Initial misfortune or lack is resolved (object of search distributed, spell broken, slain person revivied, captive freed);
20. Hero returns;
21. Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine the hero);
22. Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer, hero hides or is hidden, hero transforms unrecognisably, hero saved from attempt on his/her life);
23. Hero unrecognised, arrives home or in another country;
24. False hero presents unfounded claims;
25. Difficult task proposed to the hero (trial by ordeal, riddles, test of strength/endurance, other tasks);
26. Task is resolved;
27. Hero is recognised (by mark, brand, or thing given to him/her);
28. False hero or villain is exposed;
29. Hero is given a new appearance (is made whole, handsome, new garments etc);
30. Villain is punished;
31. Hero marries and ascends the throne (is rewarded/promoted).

Possible handouts/cards with Functions:
1 = absentation/estranging;2 = interdiction/taboo;3 =infraction/violation;4 =investigation/ reconnaissance; 5 = delivery, deletion ;6 = trickery, trap; 7 = complicity;8 = villainy/lack;9 = mediation;10 =agreeing,11 = departure of the hero,beginning counteraction!,12 = first function of the donor (testing or interrogation);13 = the hero's reaction;14 = provision or receipt of a magical agent;15 = moving from his place, spatial transference between two kingdoms, guidance
16 = struggle;17 = branding, marking (of the hero);18. = victory;19 = initial villainy or lack liquidated (a pair with 8=lack);20=hero's return/come back;21 = pursuit, chase/persecution;
22 = rescue (of the hero from pursuit);23 = unrecognized arrival, incognito home
24 = unfounded claims of the false hero;25 = difficult task;26 = solution, fulfill the task
27 = recognition of hero;28 = exposure false hero;29 = transfiguration;30 = punishment;
31 = wedding.
The mentioned functions could take part in building the frame of any story,including movies . One can try applying these to Star Wars or episodes of "LOST" or "X-Files "or "Star Trek" etc.
It can be interesting to see how powerful are the narrative structures of folk mythology, and how they are continually reinserted into contemporary popular culture as well in literature .
Mihail Sadoveanu ,Cincizeci de povestiri",ed.Minerva,Bucuresti 1984,pp.405
Dumbrava minunata,cap.VII,Povestea cu zana inchipuirii,pp.268-270(,The Wonderful Grove; Fifty Stories, 1984/ Translation of the selected text "The Fancy`s Fairy" was made by Bocsa Ovidiu,copyright 2006)

Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale. 1927. Trans., Laurence Scott. 2nd ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968.
An other concise attempt to cover the functions described by Propp belongs to Jerry Everard
Internet Wikipedia
P.S. We enjoy ww stories (both anonymouus folk and written by more or less authors).Thanks for your beautiful storytelling "club" as well as for the opportunity to share from our experience.Our children (9-15) from "I.P.Reteganul" Secondary School (Scoala V-VIII from Reteag,BN,Romania) are happy to meet you in wonderful stories.Best regards and wishes ,teacher:Ovidiu Bocsa

Ovidiu Bocsa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We are very happy to hear your stories and hope our children can tell you interesting stories,too.
Friendly,teacher:Ovidiu Bocsa
Scoala "I.P.Reteganul"-Reteag,BN,Romania
phone,fax:+40 263 344072

Saleem Ibrahim's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear all,

I am thankful to you all for your kind words and appreciation. I am glad that you liked the article and posted your very encouraging comments.

I take this opportunity to invite you to participate in this fabulous project Folk Tales.

Warmest regards,

Saleem Ibrahim

Lamia Allani's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We are the Emirati students from Al Maali Model school. We read your story: The fancy's Fairy Tale. We want to thank you for your effort. It is a wonderful story we liked it very much.
Regards, Lamia and students.

usman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

dear salim hope i am really thankful to you for providing us a kids liberary in sujawal WISES school bt now we have need educational assistance kindly support us thanks usman

anano baghdavadze's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am very happy for participating in this project as it showed my students very imaginative and capable in many things. It appeared that they can paint, sing, invent and have great desire to integrate with the world . Let;s make friends and know more about the cultures of each- other.

Cn you send us the kind of tales where your culture and traditions are represented.
Thank you in advance
Friends from Georgia
Anano and her pupils
Grade 7

Shukufa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

hello to best partner of IEARN hello Mr. Saleem your work is fabulous. thank you for your dedication. wish you success in your work.
I feel myself so happy that my students and me participated in this project.
best regards
Shukufa Najafova
Ismailli, Azerbaijan

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