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Diamonds and Toads

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By Margaret Nash

This fairy tale is a retelling of the French tale The Fairies first written down by Charles Perrault over 300 years ago. It provides a rich array of vocabulary and story language and offers plenty of opportunities for children to make comparisons to other familiar fairy tales, use inferences and to empathise with the characters.


These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9 July 2008.

Before reading

  • Working in pairs, give the children two minutes to tell each other everything they know about fairy tales.
  • List some of the key features of a fairy tale. Focus on the language patterns and structures often used.
  • List fairy tales the children know.
  • As the children read, and depending on the areas they need to develop, ask them to look out for:
    • new and interesting words and phrases, such as powerful verbs and adjectives (eg, ‘dazzling diamonds spilled out of her mouth, gleaming and glittering’);
    • the use of language to signal time and move the story forward or give the reader insights (eg, ‘One day,’ ‘Now this old woman’);
    • words or phrases that indicate the characters’ relationships or feelings about one another (eg, adored, scarcely stand the sight, made her slave away, girl’s warm heart). Record these on the activity sheet.

Do you know the difference between a fairytale, a fable, a myth and a legend? Find out here, by downloading this helpful poster published in our May 2008 issue

During reading

  • Support children to read individually. If appropriate, support blending through longer words, noticing any suffixes or prefixes or less common pronunciations of graphemes (eg, the /j/ sound in imagine).
  • Encourage the children to use expression, particularly when reading the dialogue of the different characters.


  • In pairs, ask the children to scan the summary of key features drawn up at the start of the session, and identify which are relevant to this text.
  • If you wish to focus on the language, ask each child to write down (eg, on a whiteboard) two examples of new or interesting language. Discuss the impact they feel these had on the reader (eg, lugged, adored, refused, welcomed, punish, hateful, dazzling, slave away, brimming pitcher, alas, prey).

Previous learning

Children working within the expected range for their age should be able to decode this text relatively easily. They are likely to need to use contextual clues to work out some of the more traditional vocabulary. Experience of using hotseating would be useful.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To use drama to explore stories and interpret behaviour from different viewpoints (Y3/4);
  • To present events/characters through dialogue (Y3);
  • To infer characters’ feelings (Y3);
  • To explore the use of descriptive/expressive language (Y3/4);
  • To signal sequence, place and time and use adverbs and conjunctions (Y3/4);
  • To tell stories effectively (Y4).
  • Look at the structure of the story and summarise the key events. Ask the children to refer back to the text and discuss words and phrases that moved the story forward and explain how these relate to the structure of events. Examples are: No sooner, nevertheless, now, when, for the first time.., and so it was).
  • Compare the completed relationship grids from the activity sheet and the evidence the children have chosen to show the characters’ feelings. In pairs, ask the children to use hotseating to explore the mother’s feeling towards her two children. Provide one or two examples of the types of questions that would or would not be appropriate. Ask the person answering to do so in role.

Follow-up to guided reading

  • Use the internet to:
    • find out about Charles Perrault and his book Stories or Tales from the Past with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose;
    • find fairy tales from other cultures;
    • find different versions of the same tales.
  • Use the story structure planning sheet activity sheet to make up a new story based on the original. Act out, draw a plan and write the new story.
  • Encourage the children to retell the story orally, using the same language to move the story forward – eg, no sooner. If they need prompts of story events, why not ask each child in a group to sketch a different scene from the tale, then sequence the drawings to form a storyboard.
  • Role play the story, practising the dialogue for maximum impact.