Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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On School #17 Cinderella – Tell It Like It Is

Disclaimer: The names in this musing are changed to protect the “infamous.”

Retelling means to tell a story again in a new, different, and fresh way. No retelling will ever be exactly alike. Each reteller brings his or her own experience to the story, but the story should resemble the original tale. Sounds easy, huh? Well try explaining that to six- and seven-year-old first grade students.

My high reading group has already surpassed the goals required of readers for the first grade, so I have to dream up challenges for them. I want to combine their reading and writing abilities with being able to communicate the meaning of a story. Essentially I want them to be able to read a passage, an article, a book and tell about it in their own words. I gave five students a green “Retelling Notebook” and explained what I wanted them to do.

Two days later, I was excited when I opened the first “Retelling Notebook.” I smiled as I glanced at the pages and pages that Allen had written. Kat’s book was overflowing too. How prolific! Yeah! I thought – they are really getting this. But as my eyes moved down the page, I marveled at their sophisticated vocabulary, their correct spelling, and their proper use of quotation marks. (I hadn’t even taught that yet. “So smart!” I thought.) As I continued to read, it dawned. My brow furrowed and the smile eased from my lips. Uh Oh! Now I have to teach about plagiarism.

I again explained to the children that a retelling is telling something in your own words. I told them that the author had already worked really hard to drag the words from her head. Now they had to drag words from their brains and tell their version of the story.

All right so we had a false start. So I had to reteach. Reteach means to teach the same thing, but in a new, different, and fresh way.

I decided to use the story of Cinderella. Everyone knows that story. So it was the perfect fairytale to demonstrate the skill of retelling. With just the six children sitting around my table, I began the tale. I, of course, played Cinderella. As Cinderella, I introduced my nasty step-mother and mean step-sisters. But being the nice person that Cinderella is, I did not tell my audience that my steps were nasty and mean. I simply said that they were my step-mother and my step-sisters and that they were going to the ball – AND they refused to allow me to go. I repeat – I never said they were mean and nasty.

After the step-mother and step-sisters left for the ball, Cinderella began to weep uncontrollably. She was sad beyond hope that she was not able to go to the ball. But, just then her fairy godmother swept in. (I played the part of  the fairy godmother, too. Actually, I played most of the parts.) What is the matter?” the fairy godmother asked Cinderella. Between sobs, Cinderella said that she was too ugly to go to the ball. Cinderella’s fairy godmother told her to stop crying. She patted her hand. She told Cinderella that she would go to the ball. That’s when I jumped from my seat and turned into a real, live Cinderella.

The rest of the class quickly gathered around the table holding in their giggles. They did not want to be left out of watching their teacher morph into Cinderella.

“Look,” I cried as I held my dress out for my fairy godmother to see. “I am a mess. My dress is dirty. It is ripped. And my hair! Just look at my hair!” I dragged my fingers through my straggly locks pulling them out to each side. “How can I go to the ball like this?” I wailed. “My step-sisters are right! I am a mess!” I repeated. My fairy godmother, “Tsked-tsked. “No worries, my dear,” she said with a laugh. I looked at her as though she had lost her mind. Then she waved her wand over my tattered dress. Blue and lace and satin flowed from my shoulders. I twirled and the dress swirled around me. Glass slippers as dainty as crystal vases encased my feet. I pinched myself and yelped. This was not a dream. Then my fairy godmother pointed her wand at the pumpkin (Linney) growing by the door. That pumpkin swelled and ballooned until it was a beautiful coach. The mouse (Jute) hiding in the garden turned into a footman and the rats (Charlie, Kat, Halia, and Allen) into four beautiful, white horses.

I was ready! My fairy godmother warned me to return home by the strike of twelve. I promised and then I climbed into my coach and was off behind my horses. The horses, the coach, and I went galloping around the classroom. When we arrived at the ball, I saw the prince. He was as handsome as my step-sisters had proclaimed. I took his hand (Andy’s) and we waltzed around the room swirling and dipping as I held my pretend gown. (Andy went right into character and played the prince well – hamming it up for his audience of fellow classmates.) Oh the night was magical. We danced under the shining moon, but it was to end too soon. With no warning, the clock began to chime . . . one, two, three. I stared at its hands. Six, seven, eight, I  dropped the prince’s hand and ran. Eleven … twelve o’clock struck! Panic! I dashed down the stairs – not even noticing that my glass slipper fell from my foot. (I kicked my own shoe off and the kids hooted as I hobbled across the room with one shoe missing.)

As I wended my way back home, the prince, (Andy) picked up my shoe. Soon he knocked on my door. I held my breath. He tried the shoe on the fat toes of my step-mother. No fit! He tried the shoe on the smelly feet of my step-sisters. No fit! He tried the shoe on my dainty foot. The shoe fit! You can guess the ending.

That summer the prince and I were married and we lived happily ever after.

With fresh ideas and a new outlook on retelling a story, the kids set off to rewrite. Rewrite means to rework the same words, but in a new, different, and fresh way.

When I next read their work I was re-excited. Re-exicited means … well it really means nothing. It’s not even a word … but you know what I mean. This time their retellings were remarkable.

(Clip Art compliments of


May 19, 2010 - Posted by | Anything Writing, On School | , , ,


  1. I really like your blog and I think I will start my own blog today.

    Comment by Eshaan | October 3, 2010 | Reply

    • Dear Eshaan,

      I am glad you are reading my blog. There are some fun stories there. I hope you have fun reading them. I am really excited to know that you are going to start your own blog. I can’t wait to read your stories. I know you have a lot of them.

      Ms. Donna

      Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | October 3, 2010 | Reply

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