Generosity of Spirit
Myths and Folktales
Folktale Lessons (Grades 9-12)
There are many valuable lessons to be learned from these wise tales. Using the Generosity of Spirit stories, these 9-12 lesson plans have been created to help learners explore the origins of tales from around the world and to assist learners in connecting the themes of giving and philanthropy. Teach all twenty lessons as a unit, or select a lesson by topic.
Lessons written by Learning to Give lesson editor and writer, Evelyn Nash.
1. Understanding Folktales and Their Philanthropic Connections
Learners will investigate the type of folklore known as folktales. They will understand their origins and purposes, and describe different types of folktales. Because many folktales reveal a character making some sort of a sacrifice on behalf of others, learners will find that such selflessness is a form of philanthropy. They will look at motivations of givers and make connections between folktales and "giving."
2. Australian Folktales
Through a reading of the Australian Aboriginal folktale, The Secret of Dreaming, learners will describe what this creation tale reveals about the culture of the Aboriginals and will explain mankind’s permanent responsibility as caretaker of the land. How the Kangaroo Got Its Pouch will demonstrate how one individual’s actions are sometimes used to characterize an entire group as generous or selfish. The theme of generosity vs. selfishness is also explored in How the Selfish Goannas Lost Their Wives.
3. Reluctant Givers
Learners will read the story "The Collared Crow" and identify whether motivation, symbolism and extreme emergency alter an act of philanthropy. They will determine if the cultures and geography of South Africa are represented in this folktale. Learners will read "A Story and a Song" and "The Story-Bag" and decide whether stories and songs are meant to be shared or kept for one’s self. Through an analysis of "A Couple of Misers," learners will recognize what is important in life versus the accumulation of wealth even within a miserly existence.
4. Gifts of All Sizes
Even the smallest things, when shared, can be examples of philanthropy. In the folktale, "A Drum," a poor boy gives away his meager possessions when the need arises and receives a great gift in the end. The question of one’s being naturally generous is discussed. In the Palestinian folktale, "Ma’Ruf the Shoemaker," a shoemaker is so generous that he gives away everything, including that which does not belong to him. Through that story learners will analyze the limits of generosity. Three stories, "The Brave Little Parrott," "The Luck of a Child," and "Sedge Hats for Jizo" point out the importance of those with little to give being generous. "The Silk Brocade" and "The Tatema" are folktales with very opposite main characters, both of whom are generous but in different ways. Learners will analyze how everyone can be generous, regardless of their natures.
5. Chinese Folktales
Sometimes you have to give up what you truly love to get what you really want. That can be a hard lesson when you have almost nothing. This lesson looks at who has the responsibility to be generous and what changes can come about because of one’s generosity. Through a second story one learns that it is not enough to be generous. Others must be taught to be generous as well.
6. Inuit Folktales
When life is at its most difficult and grief is great, a generous sacrifice can move the spirit toward life again. In these folktales, two Inuits face death with a truly generous spirit.
7. Buddhist Folktales
Learners will read and analyze Buddhist folktales and determine their relevance to everyday life. There are times when the easiest thing one can do is leave and let others deal with a stressful situation. When one stays and works through the tough times, it can be a gift, not only for those who are also there, but for the one who makes the decision to stay. The Buddhist folktale "The Steadfast Parrot" teaches that lesson. "The Banyan Deer" uses Buddha himself to show rulers how selflessness and sacrifice should guide their dealings with their subjects. The Blossom Tree emphasizes the importance of choosing persons wisely who will have great responsibility. The folktale, Great Joy the Ox, focuses on trust and proper respect toward those with whom we live and work. Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf cautions us against pride.
8. Reactions of the Masters
Learners will analyze what causes someone to make the mistake of fatally misjudging the character of another, even one that is well-known. Such a mistake turns a heroic sacrifice into an unnecessary tragic loss in the folktale "Beth Gellert." In the folktale "Evil Allures, But Good Endures," learners will understand that an evil act does not require a person to return evil with evil.
9. Gifts Disrespected
There are times when a person learns that it is better not to give a generous gift at all if it will be disrespected by the receiver. There are also times a person may realize too late that there is a cost for bad behavior. These occur in an Indian tale, "A Flowering Tree" and an Inuit folktale, "The Magic Bear."
10. Jewish Folktales
When times are hard, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the things that count are not always material, and the people who make a difference in our lives are the ones we often take for granted. The parable of "The Three Laughs" exemplifies these ideas. We may never know the reasons behind the giving of others. Sometimes it may seem stingy and at other times generous. Perhaps all that may be needed to untie the purse strings may be "Loosening the Stopper." "The Clotheslines," "Defending His Property" and "A Special Gift" reveal gifts of generosity in everyday events of life.
11. African Folktales
Sometimes it is wise to follow the advice of others and at other times it will only bring disaster. To know when to obey can be the problem. This lesson will focus on stories from South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria and character traits valued in those cultures.
12. Native American Folktales
Native Americans are located geographically across the entire continent of North America. Their culture varies as much as their locations as they each have their own traditions. This lesson focuses on seven Native American groups and their folktales as they relate to generosity of the spirit.
All cultures have rules regarding hospitality. In many folktales travelers and those without shelter and food place demands on others for assistance. They sometimes test the limits of hospitality. Learners will define hospitality and discuss its requirements.
The learners will read several folktales related to forgiveness, investigate how compassion is interrelated with forgiveness, and describe challenges to real forgiveness.
15. Environmental Stewardship
Using folktales, learners will explain why humankind has an important role as "caretakers of creation" and will analyze the role of civil society in environmental stewardship.
16. Sufi Folktales
Through the three Suni folktales, "Mullah in the Turkish Bath," "Mullah’s Miracle" and "Three Fridays," learners analyze the power of folktales in teaching a lesson in generosity and proper behavior.
17. Folktales from the Americas
Using folktales from various American cultures, learners will determine which character traits are valued. They will also debate the advantages of "paying a debt forward" rather than "paying it back." Learners will also determine how stories move from one continent to another based on historical realities and they will describe how stories provide information to assist farmers to grow better crops.
18. Asian Folktales
Through a study of various Asian folktales, learners will investigate everyday qualities and characteristics that influence society. They will study examples of wealth other than money, qualities needed by ancient leaders compared to modern leaders, competitive giving, frugality and thriftiness as vices, stubbornness as a weakness, and problems that occur when greed and envy replace neighborliness.
19. Tales of Wisdom and Discernment
Through four folktales from different parts of the world and wisdom traditions, learners will look at situations where characters were placed in difficult situations and had to make decisions which would extricate them from their problems. Learners will use decision-making to determine advice which others can use when faced with their own difficulties. They will also define discernment and wisdom and give examples of each in real life situations.
20. European Folktales
Learners will analyze literary characters in five European folktales, focusing particularly on strong female characters. They will analyze what small acts of kindness contribute to both the giver and receiver and determine a path of personal giving through random acts of kindness.