Teaching Values with Aesop's Fables
by Ron Kurtus (revised 21 April 2012)
One problem in education is finding a way to teach values to children without getting into any specific religion. Re-telling classic stories with a modern twist is a way to help solve that problem. Using Aesop's Fables is one good example.
Questions you may have include:
- Is there a need for such material?
- Why use classic tales?
- What is the teaching philosophy?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Need for values
Besides providing education in academic subjects, it is also important to teach values, so that the students will become good citizens. Teaching values is especially important for younger students. This has been seen in the movement toward character-based education that is seen both in parochial schools, as well as public schools.
Modern Aesop stories
Interpretations of the classic Aesop's Fables can be used to provide lessons in character and values. These stories can be told or even acted out. Then the lessons from the fables can be discussed.
Author Barbara Hailey provides a good case study of using Aesop's Fables to teach values to young people:
My background is in theatre—performing and later producing stage productions. For a number of years I had a children's theatre, directing and producing plays by and for young people, with the objective of helping children understand themselves and preparing them for life.
Many former students from my children's theatre are now teachers. A number of them said they were looking for good literature that would teach values without getting into any religious beliefs.
Since I have always loved the Aesop stories, I started writing them from a more updated viewpoint. I added interactive questions, to get the children thinking and allow them to start applying the values to their own lives.
Examples of stories in this book, along with their message are "Sarah, the Girl Who Cried Wolf" (Liars are never believed, even when they tell the truth) and "Tyler Turtle and Jack Rabbit" (Never give up your goals and dreams).
Throughout the stories, there are pauses from the action where personal, thought-provoking questions are asked, concerning the story and values. This is similar to the technique a teacher would use in the classroom, reading a story and pausing to ask questions from the students.
My philosophy of teaching is to get the children involved with the story and thinking, "How can this work in my own life-actions?" It is like theatre in a sense.
I believe that it is no good to say, "Tell the truth" unless the children can see the value of honest, positive actions in their own lives.
Others have similar experiences.
Using classic stories like Aesop's fables, putting them in a form that relates to modern children, and getting them to think about the values expressed in the story is a way to teach those values.
Create healthy minds
Resources and references
Aesop and You by Barbara Hailey, The Magic Unicorn Press, P.O. Box 345, Hunt, TX 78024, (803) 238-4357, $24.95 (Includes an audio tape of the book)
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