Kate Crackernuts

My skeleton

(The tale was collected in Orkney by Andrew Lang – source: English Fairy Tales, Joseph Jacobs)

King’s daughter – Anne (prettier) // Queen’s daughter – Kate
queen jealous of Anne, but Kate loves half-sister
henwife (witch) tells queen to send Anne to her, but Anne mustn’t eat

  • 1st morning, Anne finds bread in kitchen
  • 2nd morning, farmer gives Anne peas (Erbsen) [this, and Staab below are the only two words given in German]
  • 3rd morning, queen goes with her – Anne lifts lid of pot – sheep’s head jumps onto her shoulders

Kate wraps cloth around Anne’s head – they go to seek fortune
Come to castle – a king with two sons – one very sick – anyone who stays to watch him at night vanishes
Kate asks for shelter for herself and “sick” sister – offers to watch prince

  • 1st night – midnight, prince gets up, rides through wood – Kate sits behind, picks nuts – green hill opens – prince must dance all night – rides home exhausted – sleeps all day while Kate cracks nuts
  • 2nd night – Kate sees fairy baby with wand (Staab) – “three strokes would cure Anne’s head” – Kate rolls nuts – gets wand from baby – cures Ann
  • 3rd night – baby playing with bird – “three bites would cure prince”

Back at castle, Kate roasts bird – prince smells bird – wants to eat – cured
Kate wraps cloth around Anne’s head – they go to seek fortune
Back at castle, Kate roasts bird – prince smells bird – wants to eat – cured
Falls in love with Kate
Brother falls in love with Anne

The skeleton above is a worksheet I used in my German secondary school for a written test in the 8th class where I had been the English teacher for a year and a half. The students were 12- to 14-year-olds, so this was their fourth year of English.

We had been working on bringing a wide range of grammar and vocabulary into free writing. Working with the Language Checklist, the class has often practised similar exercises.

For the test, each student received a printout of the skeleton below.
I told them the story and they began to write. They knew there was no need to write the complete story (although one girl did). There was only about 25 minutes time for writing and checking their work, but that was enough for almost all to write between 200 and 300 words – i.e. enough to show what they could do with a wide range of language – as the example below the skeleton proves.

The next lesson I asked the class whether they would have preferred to tell less of the story (my telling took all of 15 minutes), leaving them with more time to write. There were different opinions, but the majority felt it helped more to have the full tale told as it immersed them into more language before they started to write.

The following lesson we discussed what language items they felt they had successfully included in the test. I then told the tale again, and the students wrote a further page or so of their story. These texts will be used for more detailed language analysis in next week’s lessons.


Below is the transcript of an uncorrected test by Jan Reitz, which he kindly wrote out for this page and is presented here with his permission.
In the text I have indicated the elements which I consider good. (As part of his correction, Jan will also divide the text into paragraphs!)

English test
Ones upon a time there were a king, who was wise and powerful, and his queen. They had been married with other people before so they already had two daughters. The daughters lived in peace and never had been squabbling before, but on this day, they wanted to know who of them was more beautiful than the other one. But squabbling in front of the queen was dangerous, and the queen looked dangerously. She wanted her own daughter to be more beautiful and so she went to the old henwife who was a wich. She said: “I want to get my own back! Help me. If you don`t help me, I`ll order killing you.”And she told the oldest and most intelligent of all the many whichs in the land about her problems. The henwife with so much magic power said: “I`m going to help you. If I fale, the reason is that you give her to eat before sending her to me, so don`t feed her!” The queen answered: “Annoying me is dangerous, so keep being carfully! She`ll be sent to you at the very next morning – without any breakfast.” But when the girl came on the next morning and opened the bottle (while the henwife was eating and drinking as much as she could) like she had been told by the henwife but nothing happened. The magic didn`t change her and the reason was that she had found some bread in the kitchen. The shock was so gigantic for the henwife that she nearly had a nervous breakdown. Screaming with pain she ran to the queen to tell her. She shouldn`t have given her to eat.

© Jan Reitz (aged 12)

Marking criteria
The text was written in about 25 minutes and with only the test sheet shown above. Naturally there are lexical and grammatical mistakes (although not so many or so serious that understanding is impeded). These were marked and shown as a mistake index: number of mistakes x 100, divided by number of words.
But at this stage of language teaching my emphasis is on the positive features of the text and the student’s ability to integrate these into free writing rather than grammar exercises. Jan has included a wide range of tenses, conditional sentences, adjectives, gerund constructions (the most recent grammar topic in the text book). He has also clearly been learning a lot of vocabulary over the last year, and profited from the Language Checklist which the class has been working with.
Above all, Jan’s text is coherent and persuasive.

Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling gives more information on how I used storytelling in my normal classroom teaching.

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Permission to tell outlines my views on copyright

For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling