The Little Red Hen is a folktale told in many parts of the world, from Russia, to England, to Mexico, to the United States. Folktales are tales or stories that are by told by “folk,” which means “people like us.” As they are passed on from person to person, each storyteller changes the story in some way. Throughout time, cultures all over the world have told stories as a way of passing on their beliefs, traditions, and history. Stories often tell of our customs, our geography and even of the foods we eat. Stories can help us to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and see things from a different point of view. This encourages tolerance and a better understanding of people and cultures whose values, way of life, religion, and language may be different from one’s own.
In most of the English versions, the Little Red Hen finds a seed of wheat and bakes bread. In this version from Mexico, La Gallinita Roja (The Little Red Hen) finds a kernel of corn and makes corn tortillas. Corn was first grown and cultivated in Mexico and then shared, like folktales, around the world. Maize, or corn, is cooked with “cal,” or lime, and then traditionally ground on a metate, a volcanic stone grindstone. Like in most versions of this story, the farm animals are unwilling to help. However, in this version, La Gallinita Roja does get help from her little chicks–and many of the story listeners!
This story is told in both Spanish and English with opportunities to join in the fun in both languages. By using rhythm and repetition, and visual and audio “cues,” storyteller Carrie Sue Ayvar invites us to participate in the story by repeating phrases in both Spanish and English. Even the animals “speak” in Spanish and English. For example, while most English speaking chicks say, ”Peep, peep, peep," in Spanish they say, ”Pio, pio, pio.”
Carrie Sue Ayvar grew up in the United States listening to her parents and grandparents and teachers telling stories. As a teenager, she moved to Mexico where she learned Spanish, studied Mexican culture and customs, and discovered many folktales. Carrie Sue Ayvar is dedicated to advancing the traditional art of storytelling and connecting people, their languages and cultures through stories in Spanish and English.
In some versions of the story, those that do not help do not get to eat. Do you think that is fair?
In this version, they must wait until all the helpers have eaten, while the tortillas are fresh and hot, and then maybe they can eat. Do you think that is fair?
Why do you think the dog, the cat, and the pig didn’t want to help the Gallinita Roja/Little Red Hen? What do you think they were doing while she and her chicks were working? How do you think it made the Gallinita and her pollitos feel?
How do think the dog, the cat, and the pig felt when La Gallinita Roja and her helpers were eating and they had to wait? Do you think they would help the next time they were asked?
Many Spanish words have filtered into our everyday vocabulary. Can you think of any? Some that have come from Mexico include tortillas, canyon, lasso, piñata, taco, rodeo, desperado, stampede, and chili.
Review the story sequentially. What came first? Second? Next? Have the children retell the story in their own words or draw a picture of their favorite part. Choose a character from a story and brainstorm a list of the characters’ qualities as a class activity.
Read another version of The Little Red Hen. Compare and contrast the two stories using a Venn diagram. Draw two overlapping circles. What do the stories have in common? How are they different? Put the characteristics of one story in the left hand circle. Put the characteristics of the other story in the right hand circle. Put the characteristics they have in common the middle intersecting section.
Cooperative Group Activity: Ask a student to move a big heavy box or basket across the room. Have several students try to move the box on their own. It should be difficult. Then ask several students to try it together. The task should now be easily accomplished. Discuss how the first child could have accomplished the task very slowly with a lot of effort. Then point out that the task was finished much faster and easier when his/her friends helped.