I Hate to Complain, but Your Cheese Stinks!
A fun writing exercise and study of fractured fairy tales
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will write a letter of complaint as a response to the fractured fairy tale, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Lane Smith.
- Compare and contrast the classic fairy tale with the fractured story.
- Understand author’s intent to amuse.
- Write an opinionated letter stating a minimum of two reasons for their complaint.
- Publish their completed responses.
- Collection of fractured fairy tales
- The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales or another similar tale that features a different ending
- Samples of letters to serve as models
- Paper and pencils
- Coloring materials such as crayons, colored pencils, and markers for publishing
- Computer and printer
Set Up and Prepare
- Gather a large number of fractured fairy tales for students to explore. Use books from your own collection along with those from the school and/or public library. Keep these books out during the unit for students to read independently and for them to refer to as models during the writing lessons. To generate the greatest interest among your students, provide a variety of fractured classic tales, including versions of Cinderella, The Three Bears, The Three Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood.
- If you have not done so already, preview the Online Activity: Fractured Fairy Tales & Fables. Author Jon Scieszka will take you on a tour of some of his favorite fractured fairy tales to help you build your background and get your creativity flowing before the lesson begins.
- Gather a collection of letters you can show to the student for examples of letter writing conventions.
- Have paper, pencils and art materials available for use.
Step 1: Begin the lesson by asking students to recall the names of some of their favorite fairy tales. After generating a brief list, ask students what all fairy tales have in common.
Step 2: Ask students to summarize one of the classic fairy tales, The Gingerbread Boy. Afterwards tell students to keep that story in mind as you read what happened after the happily ever after in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.
Step 3: Following the story of The Stinky Cheese Man, discuss with the class. Compare and contrast it with the classic tale. Tell students that a humorous version of a well-known story is called a parody. Explain that the humor can be satirical, or ironical. Talk about the main difference in this particular tale: characters and plot twists can be different than you would expect.
Step 4: Discuss reasons why no one chased after the Stinky Cheese Man. Brainstorm a list of ideas on the board of how the ancillary characters were feeling as the Stinky Cheese Man came running by. Generate a list of adjectives and similes on the board that would describe how the Cheese Man might have smelled.
Step 5: Tell students they will be putting themselves right into the middle of the putrid story and they are very tired of that stinky Cheese Man running all over town stinking up the place. As concerned citizens, they will be writing a letter of complaint to the little old woman and the little old man to state their concerns.
Step 6: Before starting, teach a mini lesson on writing conventions used in letters. Model how to properly include a heading, inside address, greeting, body, closing and signature. Distribute a sheet of paper to each student. Ask them to draft a letter to the Little Old Woman and the Little Old Man.
Step 7: After completing their draft, students work in pairs or small groups to revise and edit their letters. Meet with students to look over their letters before publishing them. Letters may be published on lined paper, stationary, or by using a word processing program.
Supporting All Learners
Students with limited English proficiency, along with less mature readers, may not understand the concept of satire or irony that is often present in fractured fairy tales. Take the time to explain the author’s purpose and the meaning that is intended.
- Discuss the author’s use of homophones throughout the story
- Have students write a step-by step recipe for how to make a stinky cheese man
- Hold a quiz-type game show based on the entire book with questions that can be used to test the student’s ability to remember silly tales
- Write a fractured fairy tale newspaper that details the strange goings on in this once upon a time neighborhood
Inform your parents in a note or through your class newsletter whenever you begin a new unit in language arts. If you like ask parents to help either in the classroom or at home to help proofread student papers before publishing.
- Write a letter of complaint regarding the smell coming from the neighbor’s boy
Did you have a wide enough variety of fairy tales? Are they any titles you would like to add to your collection for next year? Did you provide adequate time for each step? Did you brainstorm enough ideas together? Did you model enough for students to complete the assignment independently? Were all students able to complete this lesson successfully? What would you do differently next time to improve this lesson?
- Were the students able to understand the author’s intent?
- Were the students able to clearly state reasons for their complaint?
- Did students use all parts of a letter properly?
- Were the steps of the writing process followed?
- How well did students work together on revising and editing? Were they offering constructive suggestions?
- Was the finished product quality work?