Greed, pride and ambition are the themes encapsulated in Rumpelstiltskin, a German tale that the Brothers Grimm collected on their travels. It is the story of a greedy miller who boasts his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king locks the girl in a room and warns her that if she doesn’t fulfill the task she will die. Rumpelstiltskin helps her and she gives him some jewelry twice. The third time she has nothing left to give and promise to give him her child. When she has a child the queen is so upset that he provides her with a get out clause agreeing that if she discovers his name then she can keep her child. With the help of a messenger she discovers his name and is able to keep her child. How can this be used in literacy in the primary classroom?
Depending upon the age and ability of the children this story can be read by the teacher as a whole class activity with the children joining in with words they know. The children can then read individual texts, words from the book or even simply describe the illustrations and explain what is happening in the story.
*Speaking and Listening
Once a version of the story has been read, the children can then form their own opinion about the tale. With a talking partner this can be discussed then shared with the rest of the class. The teacher can ask questions about the characters or the events in the story. To help the children understand the various characters’ viewpoints different pupils can take on the role of a character and be interviewed by the rest of the class or a partner, asking questions e.g. “Why did you help the miller’s daughter?” or “Why did you pretend your daughter could spin straw into gold?”
Having had the opportunity to share ideas, there is plenty of scope for writing activities based on this story. Character pictures can be drawn or created on the computer and labelled. Adjectives can be used to describe the person such as “mean” or “greedy” More able children could write sentences about their favourite character. Speech bubbles could be used either whole class or as an independent task to think about the kinds of things each person would say. The story could be retold either orally or written down. Fairy tale reviews can be written and collected or displayed around the classroom and compared with other Brothers Grimm tales or other fairy tales in general. The children can research information about Brothers Grimm and any other stories they collected or wrote.
In conclusion Rumpelstiltskin is an unusual story about a strange man with magical powers to change straw into gold. Whilst it may not be as popular as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Hansel and Gretel it is still one that has survived for over two centuries and has plenty of potential in the classroom for not only literacy but other subjects as well.