4th Grade - Compare And Contrast Tales From Different Cultures

Stories and Literature
Compare and contrast tales from different cultures
Compare and contrast tales from different cultures by tracing the exploits of one character type and develop theories to account for similar tales in diverse cultures (e.g., trickster tales).
The ability to compare similarities and contrast differences of tales from various cultures using the main character as a connecting thread. Then to make generalizations about the patterns noted across the similar tales.

Sample Problems


What do you compare? (similarities between two or more things)


What do you contrast? (differences between two or more things)


What is the difference between comparing and contrasting? (to note what is the same and what is different)


What is culture? (civilization, society, customs, etc.)


What are trickster tales? (stories centered around bad or mischievous characters that cause or get into trouble)

Learning Tips


This is a great opportunity and reason to investigate, or learn about, foreign places and diverse cultures. Before or after reading a story, research the setting in the story, or the place the story originated. Find out what the place looks like, what customs the people practice (e.g., religious ceremonies, food preparation, clothing and dress, etc.), and where it is located in the world. You can look at online maps, globes, encyclopedias, etc. to find fast facts or delve into picture books for more detailed information.


Do a jigsaw reading with a partner – a friend, peer, or family member. It is called jigsaw because you break up the task and then discuss to fit the puzzle pieces together. Each of you picks a tale from a different culture, reads the story, and then have a discussion about the key details in the stories, noting the similarities and differences.


Choose a famous character from a tale (e.g., Cinderella, Aesop’s fables, Spider Woman (Native American Indian) vs. Anansi (African) vs. Spiderman, other comic book characters, superheroes, etc.) and see how many similar or equivalent characters you can find in other cultures. If you can make a trip to the library, you should be able to find a Cinderella tale from almost any culture you can think of – Persian, Korean, Egyptian, Native American Indian (“The Rough-Faced Girl”), etc. Online, in addition to or besides the name of the character, use keywords such as “multicultural tales,” “multicultural characters,” etc. in reliable search engines.


If possible, get a “taste” of culture through real-world experiences. After finishing stories, try to actually do some part of the story. For example, after reading a tale from Mexico, eat at a taco stand; after reading an Asian fairytale, make origami, sushi, etc. After reading Native American folklore, create a necklace from beads, draw a headdress, etc. These can be rewards for completing a story or for simple good times!


While there are differences between genders, ethnicities, cultures, etc. we need to teach tolerance, or open-mindedness, to children so that they not only recognize those differences, but respect them. Each individual has such an amazing history and background to share – if only we would listen. Segregation, the separation of races, occurs most often when there is a lack of understanding and regard for others. The more we contrast ourselves, the further the divide, which is a recipe for bad societal connections. Discuss equality and fairness in relations with others.

Extra Help Problems


Can you contrast without comparing? (yes)


Can you compare without contrasting? (yes)


What is the role of a character in a story? (they have a role or play some part of the plot in the story)


What are some character types? (tricksters, villains, heroes, heroines, supporting, main, protagonist, antagonist, etc.)


What are exploits? (deeds, acts, activities, etc.)


What does diverse mean? (different, many, unlike, varied, etc.)


What is a theory? (a general belief based on research and study)


What is the opposite kind of character than a trickster? (a hero(ine) or protagonist)


Can tricksters be main characters? (yes)


What kinds of exploits would a trickster character do? (bad, evil)


What kinds of exploits would a hero(ine) character do? (good, peaceful)


How were tales kept “alive” before there was writing and books? (oral accounts – passed down from generation to generation)


Where do tales come from? (old stories from all over the world)


Is there only one version of many of the common fables, fairytales, and folktales we know? (no! there are many versions)


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