What is Folklore?

This resource will help you and your class take time to think about how and why folklore is woven into our lives.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Folklore is so much a part of our everyday life that we don't always stop to think about it. Family traditions, holidays, special sayings, and foods, all these are part of folklore.

Today, folklore is often defined as knowledge or forms of expression (folk arts) that are passed on from one person to the next by word of mouth or the oral tradition. These different kinds of expressions include songs, rhymes, folktales, myths, jokes, and proverbs. Folklore is passed on folkore_explor_picture1.gifamong many different kinds of groups; such as family members, friends, classmates, or people you work and play with.

In this activity, you will be able to share some of your own folklore; whether it is games, recipes, proverbs, songs or stories.

Kinds of Folklore

Folklorists recognize different areas, or categories of folk expressions. Here are some of the categories, to help you think about folklore you might see in your school, family or community:

folkore_explor_picture2.gif

oral_lg.gifOral:
These are songs, lullabies and dance games, poetry, jokes, folktales, riddles, proverbs, myths, and special sayings.

materials_lg.gifMaterial:
These are objects such as special kinds of jewelry, home decorations, puppets, quilts, clothing, or musical instruments. Material culture may also include foods and special family recipes.

behavior_lg.gifBehavioral/Cogitative:
These are special customs and rituals such as throwing rice at a wedding for "Good luck." It includes family and local (community) customs and celebrations. It also includes the way you might use folklore in your own thoughts. For example, once when I was nine years old, I saw a best friend being teased by a school "bully." At first, I was afraid to interfere, but then I remembered the saying "a friend in need is a friend indeed." The proverb helped me to organize my feelings and take an action. Do you ever hear or remember proverbs in this way? Then you are using "behavioral folklore!"

  • Subjects:
    Writing Process
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