Fairy Tale Problem-Solvers

Author(s): Tim Taylor

Theme: Fairy Tales

Main Curriculum Focus
Personal, social and emotional development; Communication, language and literacy; Problem solving, reasoning; Knowledge and understanding of the world; Creative Development

Inquiry Question
"What does this tale tell us about the structure of traditional/fairy tales and their cultural/social purpose?"

Expert Team: Problem-Solvers

Client(s): A range of different clients from fairy tales, traditional tales and other stories

To solve a range of different problems for different characters and to help resolve different points of view.


Fairy tales and traditional stories follow a familiar narrative arc (see pic.1 in appendix). There is a character (essentially good), that has a problem (often with an evil character), which they manage to solve (after a bit of a struggle) and (as a consequence) become happier, for example, Red Riding Hood, Rupunzel, or The Three Little Pigs.

The Problem-Solvers are a team of experts who solve problems, none too big or too small, through careful listening, thorough planning, and creative thinking. Each fairy tale or traditional story introduces a new client (for example, Red Riding Hood) and a new commission (getting her safely through the woods). Sometimes it might introduce more than one client/commission (a hungry wolf who hasn’t eaten in days).

The Problem-Solvers take on each new client/commission as they come, helping each new client in any way they can that doesn’t injure, hurt or upset others. Sometimes this can be a difficult business as different characters often see things in different ways, for example Cinderella and her ugly sisters. When this happens the Problem-Solvers have to work hard to understand their different points of view and strive to resolve their differences in ways that will satisfy both parties.

Note: This context is designed for young children EY, Reception. It allows for short inquiries within an ongoing narrative. It works well, both as a one-off lesson, and, as a series of connected lessons. It is important to mention that the problems encountered by the team don’t have to be exclusively from fairy tales or traditional stories but can involve a problem from any appropriate story or social context (see the hungry caterpillar scenario below).

In a sense, problem-solving is the genesis of all mantle of the expert inquiries, since in using the approach the students are always operating, within the imaginary context, as a responsible team engaged in solving one problem or another.

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