Creating Stories Based on Oral Traditions

After listening to an Ojibwe storyteller, students will write original stories using the stages of the writing process. Through this process, students will recognize the effects of stereotyping American Indian cultures and histories through oral tradition.

Proceed with caution when using traditional stories in your classroom. There are mixed opinions on this practice. For further information look at The January 2007 issue of Language Arts, published by the National Council of Teachers of English. Storytelling is culturally appropriate for the winter months only in the Great Lakes Ojibwe culture. As always, please connect with local elders and culturalists to ensure your curriculum choices and classroom materials are appropriate for your region and community.

Painting: "Sky Woman with Great Turtle" by Carl Cowboy.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Students will listen and interact with a local Ojibwe storyteller. We will read several stories together as a class and discuss their morals, cultural contexts, as well as the relationships as shared by the storyteller.

We also discuss the use of certain words that are often used when talking about stories. i.e. fables, legends, myths. What do these words connote to us? We talk about the way language can promote stereotypes and misunderstandings. We decide as a class that the words, "fables," "myths," and "legends" seem to connote that stories are not true, and also tend to trivialize the importance and tradition of oral histories in our community.

Lastly, we will talk about the process of learning about stories and then follow the model of a story framework in order to practice creative writing in class. We will not be writing stories as if they are oral traditions, but instead learning about stories in our community and building on that knowledge.


Review the elements of a story: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, and moral.

Review the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, and proofreading.

Work with students to develop a checklist or chart outlining the elements of a story and the outcomes desired when writing a story.


Using the stages of the writing process, have students write an original story that teaches a moral or lesson.

  1. Ask students to study a piece of artwork that illustrates a story from a chosen culture or region.
  2. Choose one or two of the animals/people/objects/images pictured in the art. Describe what human quality (or qualities) the animal or chosen object seem to have.
  3. Students then write a story about the animal they have picked. As a prewriting activity, students list the important events in their stories and write the moral.
  4. After the story is written, each student's work should be reviewed by a partner. Each student should comment on his/her partner's choice of details, and on the events and moral.
  5. Taking their partners comments into consideration, students should make appropriate revisions.


Place students in small groups have them read their stories aloud, and explain their meaning to their classmates similar to the storyteller that visited the class earlier. Have students do the same procedure regarding the stories or interpretations of the artwork that they analyzed.


Evaluate students on their original drafts, their improvements after editing, and on the completion of their original story.

Evaluate students on their participation in the groups and their ability to explain the morals of their stories and to depict that moral within their writing.

Vocabulary Words


The students loved hearing stories from our guest elder. They were able to relate his stories to their family traditions. We had good discussions about the paintings as well as good discussions and interpretations within the small groups on the meanings and connotations of stories in various communities, cultures and traditions.

Grade Levels


Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts

Social Studies