• Gelede Helmet Mask

    Artist Unknown, Yoruba peoples, Gelede helmet mask, 20th century. Wood and polychrome, 15 5/8 x 16 x 14 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

African Folklore

English Language Arts


5: The Great Big World

3-4 30-45-minute lessons

narrative writing

How do we use literature and informational texts to learn about the world?

I can retell details about an African folktale.
I can describe details about a work of art.
I can use Kidspiration to brainstorm a story.
I can work with a partner to write a story.
I can create my own African helmet.

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Days 1-3: Read Aloud

Direct Instruction

Read a variety of African folktales listed above.

Short video clips can also be found by searching on You Tube, like this one done by Sesame Street.

Have the students become familiar with a number of different African folktales.

Day 4: Interactive Writing

Direct Instruction

Discuss the various folktales that the class has been reading:

  • Ask what they all have in common.
  • Discuss characters and setting.

As a class, write a new folktale. Divide large chart paper into 4-6 sections. Point to each and decide as a class what is going to be written. Construct the story, sharing the pen with the students. Reread, revise, and proofread.

Guided Practice/Application

Have students return to their seats and draw a favorite character, or part of the setting, to then attach to the chart paper.

Day 5: Brainstorm with artwork

Direct Instruction

Display reproduction photos of Gelede Helmet Mask, 20th century, Yoruba Peoples.

Discuss artwork using open-ended questions:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

Then ask the students to consider the African folktales that the class has read and discussed. How could this object be used in a folktale?

  • Is it something a character finds?
  • Is it something a character makes?
  • Could it come to life?
  • Was it lost and found?
  • Does it have special powers? Brainstorm as a class.

Then explain that students will work with a partner to write their own folktale. This object will need to be a part of the story. Students may make some imaginary changes to object to make it fit into the story. For example, each of the figures could be doing something different or holding different objects.

Guided Practice /Application

Students work with partners on a graphic organizer that is divided into 6 sections to organize their folktale. They could also go to the computer lab and do their brainstorming using a program like Kidspiration.

This work may continue for several days.

Final product will be published using a word processor and then shared with the class.

Day 6: Optional Extension

Have students work with partners to create their own helmet similar to Gelede Helmet Mask. This could be the object they envisioned as part of their folktale.

Possible materials: use kid’s construction hats, old toddler bike helmets, fireman hats, Halloween costume masks. They can collect old action figures or Happy Meal figures that adults will help to attach with hot glue. They may be able to attach some using chenille sticks.

Students could then share these objects with the class and retell their stories using them as props.

Differentiation and Modifications:

Beyond Grade Level: Story can be multiple pages with character development. Descriptive language should be used for characters, setting and plot.

At Grade Level: Graphic organizer has at 6 sections so that partners can extend the middle section of their story. Each page/section should have 2-3 sentences. Descriptive language is expected.

Below Grade Level: Use graphic organizer with only three sections for beginning, middle, and end. Write one sentence for each section. Illustrate three page story can be published.



  • Student did not participate in discussion about books and art.
  • Student drew pictures for story.
  • Student did not write complete sentences.


  • Student added factual details to discussion with prompting.
  • Student drew pictures and wrote a sentence for each page of story.


  • Student was active participant in discussion, observing and describing details.
  • Student drew and wrote several sentences for each page of story that included details about characters and setting.
  • Story had beginning, middle, and end. Reflect knowledge of folktale.


  • Student enthusiastically participated by adding insightful contributions to discussion.
  • Student used descriptive language in writing story.
  • Imaginative use of art objects in story that had distinctive plot reflecting knowledge of folktales.

Materials Needed

recycled materials: toy helmets, toy figures, etc.


Africa, folktale, helmet, carved, wooden carving

Artwork in this Lesson

  • Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
    • Yoruba Peoples | Gelede Helmet Mask

Texts in this Lesson

  • Aardema: Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears
  • Kimmel: Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock
  • Haley: A Story, A Story
  • Mandela: Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales