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 comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Al beriki's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

dear friends

IEARN projects are so fantastic and this is just one pearl of a treasure fulled with mmany other beautiful innovative ideas.. keep the good work my friends.. you are the best

thanks Saleem

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear all!I admire your work and your presistance in teaching your students their traditions at the same time writing skills.

Alshaimaa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

There lived a wise man man called GOHA he was so kind and very of his neighbours came to him asking him for money,he gave hime all he needs .then when he returns the money GOHA told him put the money in a certain place.
After 2 weeks the neighbour came asking GOHA for money, he told him to take it from the place he put the money in.But he never gave the money back
After 1 week the neighbour came asking for money GOHA told him go inside and take the money from the place that you have put the money in last time !!! the neighbour didnt find any money...
GOHA said "if you returned the money you would have found it"
this is one of many of GOHAs tales that EGYPT is famous of
Thanks alot

Sheikh's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear all

Telling folktales is an art. There are people who have been offered this gift from God (a story teller). Others are gifted in producing a written folktale. What attract me in the story are its elements: Chracterization,plot and especially when there's a happy ending of the story.

Whatever folktales are,told or written they remain enjoyable...

Teacher of English

Lillian Liu's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Alshaimaa:

It is a great story. That is the power of folktales, simple or short but inspirational. Thank you for sharing with us the Egptian story.

Muhammad Shaheen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Saleen! It is really a fantastic idea to introduce folk tales among the participants. My students would really like to share their thoughts on the story.
With best regards
Muhammad Shaheen

Mohammed I El Asri's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Here is a falktale from Morocco that I would love to share with you. Please, Enjoy!

The Sherif and the saint: once there was a cocksure young Sherif who happened to be the ruler of all Marrakesh. While conversing with a friend--the saint Sidi Ali ben Hamdusa--he boasted of his endurance; then he wagered 1000 gold pieces that the saint could not sit out atop a tower all through one ice-cold winter night, without ever warming himself by a fire. This Sidi Ali did, wrestling with Jnun and bitter, evil winds, and when dawn came he prostrated himself in prayer before the eastern sun and said the Tzalat-l'Fajr (the morning office). Later in the day, the rash Sherif went to see him, saying, "Well, old wise one, did you do as you said?"

"Yes, Bism'ullah," said the saint mildly.

"Without a stove you sat out? Without a blanket, a hot stone wrapped in cloth, a coat?"

"Indeed not."

"No extra djellabas, no rugs to kneel on, nothing?"

"May God silence me forever if I lie! I had nothing, save my faith in Him."

"Ah," said the Sherif, "and stayed there all night long, till you saw the sun come up?"

"Yes, indeed, and said the morning office as a good man should, the moment I saw the sun rise."

"Aha!" the Sherif crowed, calling his friends to hear his triumph, "then you forfeit the wager, and I keep my thousand gold pieces--for since you saw the sun, you had its fire to warm you in your vigil."

Now the old saint went away saddened, and meditated for several days. At last, he shrugged his shoulders, and gave a private feast for the young Sherif and all his friends. Along they came, with the Sherif in their midst very full of wit and jokes, and at the hour of noon they were received at the Sidi's house and invited to sit on his finest rugs and richest silken pillows. The saint settled them down and went off the check the meal. An hour passed. The guests, a little perturbed, made polite conversation; meanwhile their host hurried in and out with apologies, trays of fruit and sweetmeats (just enough to whet the appetite) and more apologies--and more apologies yet! Another hour. The guests sang songs and told tales to while away the time. Their host muttered excuses for his half-witted servants, and said the kitchen must be infested with Jnun. At last the Sherif leaped to his feet. "What ails your kitchen," he exclaimed, "that the slaves cannot even cook couscous? Let us go and see for ourselves."

So the entire company, headed by the Sherif and Sidi Ali, rose and trooped into the kitchen. There they found a curious sight! There was the couscous, there was the meat, there was the chicken and succulent fish and a pie of spinach and sharp cheese . . . all raw, in the cooking-pots, sitting in the hot sun. "What trick is this!" cried the Sherif. "Are you trying to starve us to death?"

But the old saint shook with laughter. "Remember your wager, O Lord Sherif?" he inquired. "How you said my old bones were warmed by the fire of the sun? Well, you are wiser than I, and so here is your dinner. For six hours now, it has been cooking in the fire of the sun." And while the young Sherif squirmed with embarrassment (and all his friends hid their smiles) Sidi Ali picked up a dish and held it out. "Eat!" he said mildly.

The Sherif hid his shame behind his hands. "God be praised for your wisdom, O my father Sidi Ali ben Hamdusa," he said. "Subhan Allah I have learned my lesson. Tomorrow the wager will be paid twice over."

"You begin to learn," said Sidi Ali, bowing. He drew back a curtain, and disclosed an array of dishes filled with the most exquisite foods, perfectly prepared and steaming hot. "And now, barak'alluhu fik ajarak allah, here is our true dinner. Enjoy it, enjoy it, my guest!"

(Adapted from a story in 'The Voice of Atlas', by Philip Thornton. This version copyright by Sylvia Volk, 2000.)

Kindest regards

Mohammed I El Asri


Hussian Haider's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a student of 2nd year in Army Public College For boys, westridge campus , Rawalpindi..
MY fellows we Pakistani,s are facing many problems now a days and terrirism is one of the biggest amongs them.
i am personally an eye vitness of a suicide attack but thanks to God i was at safe distance.
its becomming difficult day by day for us to move freely in our country...
And youth is directly being effected by terrirism.
our future is on threat and even terrirists are also exploiting the emosional young one,s for their dirty cause.
and the only way to ovoid this exploitation is to arrange and participate in healthy activities...
for this me and my fellows have also formed a society, and are trieng to bring awareness through our performances.......
my request to all of you is to come forward and serve your self on your own instead of waiting to be served.......

Aniqa sajwani's picture

Dear saleem sir,
Congratulations! Your article is an entire amazing glance at IEARN and Folk tales. It opens up each and every detail IEARN viewer's need.
Thumbs up!
Best regards:

Aniqa sajwani's picture

Dear saleem sir,
Congratulations! Your article is an entire amazing glance at IEARN and Folk tales. It opens up each and every detail IEARN viewer's need.
Thumbs up!
Best regards:

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