What greater way to spark a spirited classroom debate on ethics than by discovering the intricate messages generally observed in fairy tales?

Small children take pleasure in a cozy familiarity with fairy tales. By basing a discussion of ethics on fairy tales, you are launching from popular ground. Small children aged eight and older ordinarily are ready for meatier moral ideas, ideas that skirt into grey regions of lesser evils or relative priorities.

Adhering to are a couple recommendations drawn from the land of fairy tales to get your students’ thought wheels spinning.


In the typical French fairy tale “Puss in boots,” a clever cat engineers a succession of hoaxes and lies for the reward of his learn. As a result, his learn at some point marries the king’s daughter and appoints Puss in Boots primary minister. All functions are living happily ever just after.

You can print a textual content model of Puss in Boots from the World-wide-web. A effectively-illustrated model of the tale is also readily available in The Golden E book of Fairy Tales, by Marie Ponsot (Golden Guides).

The tale begins with the introduction of a youthful guy whose very poor father has died and left him with nothing but a cat named Puss in Boots. The cat proves tireless in his devotion to his learn and begins by delivering a sequence of presents (rabbits, pheasants, and other activity) to the king and queen. Each individual time, Puss in Boots announces that the presents are from “the Marquis of Carabas.” The natural way, the king arrives to believe the Marquis of Carabas is a particular person of excellent consequence.

Listed here, you could inquire youthful visitors, “Was Puss in Boots incorrect to lie to the king and to deceive him?” The complete high quality of honesty can be leveled against the persuasive urges of loyalty and friendship.

Just after several clever tricks, Puss in Boots potential customers the king and his pretty youthful daughter to a castle belonging to an ogre. Running forward of the team, the frisky feline dares the ogre to change himself into a mouse. When the ogre efficiently transforms himself, Puss in Boots promptly pounces on the hapless creature and devours him. That allows his youthful learn, who arrives times afterwards with the king and his entourage, to assert that the castle is his very own. In so undertaking, the youthful guy clinches his nuptial prospective buyers with the king’s daughter.

Listed here, you can further more obstacle your learners: “Was the cat incorrect to trick the ogre and then destroy him?” Children who argued earlier that the king was in no way destroyed by the verbal deceptions and exaggerations of Puss in Boots will have to reckon with an act main to an premature demise.

Finally, pose this query: “Is trickery ever justified?” Problem learners to guidance their positions, whichever they might be, with cogent arguments.


This typical tale delivers a twist on the theme of honesty. We all know the tale of youthful Jack, whose impoverished mom is left with nothing but the family members cow. Jack is despatched to current market to trade the cow for as a lot money as he can. Jack is tricked into trading the cow for a handful of beans. In despair, his mom throws the worthless beans out the window.

Overnight, a big beanstalk grows into the sky. When Jack climbs to the top of the beanstalk, he finds the home of a indicate big. Narrowly escaping from the big with his everyday living, Jack scampers down the beanstalk with two treasures stolen from the big – a goose that lays golden eggs, and a magic harp. Consequently, Jack happily secures the long run for himself and his mom.

You could start by reiterating that Jack faced imminent risk in the giant’s household (“Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!”). Talk to: “Considering that the big preferred to take in Jack, was it Okay that Jack stole the giant’s goose and harp?”

Hear carefully to the arguments elevated, professional and con. You could comply with up with this remark: “Jack was an intruder in the giant’s household. Considering that Jack selected to enter the giant’s household, does that transform your belief?”

This exercise is also proposed: “Faux you are the big. Explain what occurs when Jack arrives in your household and how you truly feel about it.”

In a 19th-century model of Jack and the Beanstalk, a fairy is launched when Jack is climbing up the beanstalk. The fairy informs Jack that Jack’s father applied to be a wealthy and affluent landowner but a indicate big killed the father, stole anything his father owned, and diminished Jack’s mom and her toddler son to poverty. That big, according to the fairy, is the one who life at the top of the beanstalk. By destroying the big, Jack will restore his family members prosperity.

This model of the fairy tale opens a further line of questioning: “In the tale where by the big experienced stolen anything from Jack’s father, do you imagine it was Okay for Jack to consider it back again?” Most kids will heartily concur.

Observe up with this query: “What if it experienced been the giant’s father who experienced stolen anything from Jack’s father would it however be Okay for Jack to consider the treasures?” Then inquire: “What if it experienced been the giant’s grandfather who experienced stolen anything from Jack’s grandfather?” And then inquire: “What if it experienced been a hundred several years just before that the giant’s ancestor experienced stolen anything? Do you imagine it would however be Okay for Jack to consider the treasures?” Attempt to find the amount of elapsed time required, according to learners, to justify Jack’s having the treasures. Problem them to defend their issue of look at.


There’s a folktale from Tibet, “From the Elephant Pit,” that raises the query of whether or not compassion is generally a great notion.

The tale tells the tale of a hunter who dug pits to catch and entice wild elephants. Just one day, he arrives to the pit and discovers that trapped inside the elephant pit ended up a guy, a lion, a mouse, a snake, and a falcon. The lion warns the hunter not to rescue the human. Suggests the lion: “I and the other animals will demonstrate grateful to you and will assistance you for your kindness to us, so rescue them. But be sure to go away the guy in the pit, for I alert you, he will forget your kindness and do you damage.” Nevertheless, the hunter rescues all the animals and the guy.

The other animals, in fact, afterwards repay the kindness to the hunter. As the lion experienced foretold, the guy betrays him. At the finish of the tale, the betrayal of the guy is unveiled, the hunter is appointed chief hunter to the king, and all finishes effectively.

Small children are asked this query: “Do you imagine the hunter was greater off mainly because he rescued the guy from the pit? If you imagine yes, why? If you imagine no, why not?”

Adhering to is a sampling of responses from kids who responded:

  • “Certainly, you should really generally help save anyone in need to have.” — Vance, age 10
  • “No, mainly because if he would have left him he wouldn’t have absent by way of all that issues.” — Tara, age 11
  • “No, mainly because the guy tricked the hunter and ruined his everyday living.” — Newt, age 9
  • “Certainly, mainly because he did some thing really sort, which is the greatest reward anybody could get.” — Laura, age 10
  • “Certainly, mainly because he obtained to be the king’s top guy.” –Shawn, age seven

Guidelines FOR Handling A CLASSROOM Discussion ON ETHICS

  • Ahead of you start a lesson that will direct to a debate about moral challenges, enable young children know that you are heading to read a tale and then you will be inquiring some issues about the tale.
  • At the finish of the tale, permit young children time to consider their particular responses to your issues, and inquire each kid to compose down her or his reaction.
  • Split the class into small teams for discussion. Then maintain a standard discussion. You could want to listing the arguments cited, professional and con, on unique sides of your chalkboard or whiteboard.
  • Carry on to appear for prospects in stories to raise issues for moral debate. Your greatest supply materials will be stories that young children currently take pleasure in, this kind of as fairytales and people tales. Nevertheless, fashionable stories and well-known television displays and videos also present prospects for ethics duscussions.
  • Here is a closing rule of thumb: If the young children take pleasure in a tale, consider it a applicant for an ethics debate! More than time, as very long as you retain individuals discussions alive, the potential for kids to realize the complexities of moral challenges will improve.

Resource by Elaine L Lindy