Fairy Tale – Moral Debate

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students consider the ethics of characters in three fairy tales.

  • In “Puss in Boots,” a clever cat engineers a succession of hoaxes and lies for the benefit of its master. As a result, the master eventually marries the king’s daughter and appoints Puss in Boots prime minister, and all parties live happily ever after. Among the debatable questions inspired by this fairy tale are
    1. Was Puss in Boots wrong to lie to the king and deceive him?,
    2. Was the cat wrong to trick the ogre and then kill him?, and
    3. Is trickery ever justified?
    4. Challenge students to support their positions with at least three cogent arguments.
  • In “Jack and the Beanstalk,” young Jack, whose impoverished mother is left with nothing but the family cow, is sent to market to trade the cow for as much money as he can. Jack trades the cow for a handful of beans and, in despair, his mother throws the beans out the window. Jack narrowly escapes from the giant with two stolen treasures that will secure the future for himself and his mother. Among the debatable questions posed by this story are
    1. Since the giant wanted to eat Jack, was it OK that Jack stole the giant’s goose and harp?
    2. An older version of this familiar tale offers up some unique twists that will add to the debate: Since the giant had stolen everything from Jack’s father, do you think it was OK for Jack to take it back?
  • Create a two-column graphic organizer for the first two fairy tales above. Print one of the ethical questions raised by the tale at the top of the graphic organizer. Print “Yes” at the top of the first column and “No” at the top of the other. As students share their responses to the questions, write the responses in the appropriate columns.For a printable comparison chart, see Comparison Chart.
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