When Global Playground Board Member Becca Rollo read “The Lion and the Son-in-Law” – crafted by Teaching Fellow Ryann Tanap’s students in Mae La Noi, Thailand, to her fifth grade class in Freehold Township, New Jersey, her students noticed how similar it was to the American fable “The Lion and the Mouse.”
Rollo shared the fables crafted by Tanap’s students as a lesson in cross-cultural dialogue lesson, discussing the Thai fables in comparison to American fables.
|Students in Rollo's fifth grade class read both fables.|
“We discussed the oral tradition of storytelling and how that is key to how both folktales and fables exist in the world today. I also told them that, fascinatingly enough, there are similar fables and folktales that occur throughout the world,” Rollo said. “I explained that today I would be sharing with them a Thai student’s rendition of a fable with similar characters. There was a definite twist in the Thai version.”
Rollo was able to access Tanap’s fables virtually and share them with her class.
“The kids were floored by the artwork. They also quickly wanted to jump in and correct the grammatical mistakes. This opened the door for a very meaningful conversation about what it is like to do something like this in another language,” Rollo said.
Rollo’s students are currently learning Spanish, but they are not at the level where they can read or write in Spanish independently.
“Students see things from their own points of view, and it takes coaxing for them to see something from a different point of view. If they were the ones assigned this task, they would have been overwhelmed by the difficulty and here they were instantly quick to criticize,” Rollo said. “The broadening of their understanding and the development of that humility when entering into cross-cultural dialogue like this takes time to foster and is well worth the time it takes to develop.”
Tanap taught the fable lesson to her twelfth grade English 204: English for Speaking and Listening course at Mae La Noi Daroonsik School. She taught her students the different parts of a fable, explained vocabulary in the fables before reading them aloud, read them aloud to the class and then asked comprehension questions afterwards.
After her students understood the structure of a fable and listened to the American version, they were able to select their own fables from Thai, hill tribe or religious origins to turn them into storybooks.
“Because Global Playground is dedicated to cross-cultural dialogue, I knew that a fable assignment that incorporated the student’s knowledge of storytelling would really be something worth exploring,” Tanap said. “I loved having the students practice reading the fables aloud as well as coming up with the content for their fables.”
Rollo hopes to continue to communicate with Tanap’s students in Thailand. Thai students are on summer break from mid-March to mid-May, but Rollo plans to send a response to Tanap’s students in May when they are back in session.
“We will be working to record something to send to her in the meantime to further this literacy connection,” Rollo said. “We will spend the coming months using stockpiled videos on [Global Playground’s] YouTube channel to foster other cross-cultural dialogue projects that wouldn’t occur in real-time, but would allow us to prepare responses to send by the time students are back in school in Thailand in mid-May.”