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Storyteller: The Little Red Hen

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By Pie Corbettauthor, poet and storyteller

Watch, listen and then perform your own oral version of this traditional tale

When it comes to the primary classroom, oral storytelling has a crucial role to play. It gives children opportunities to internalise and play with the patterns and rhythm of language – and helps them to improve their memory and concentration. Through retelling and performance, the building blocks of a story are being provided to children in an accessible and dynamic way, allowing them to approach their own stories and written work with greater confidence and imagination.

Pie Corbett telling a story to a class

The Little Red Hen is a good example of a story that lends itself to classroom performance. It is simple to learn and children will find it easy to adapt and make their own. To accompany the classroom activities on these pages, an exclusive video clip (available to Child Education PLUS subscribers) and story text are available below. These resources have been taken from the new Storyteller series, published by Scholastic.

About the story

The story of The Little Red Hen has a wonderfully simple pattern and is an excellent story to be learned orally. You do have to watch that the children do not chant it so much that the rhythm takes over from the meaning. The story makes a very good first assembly for young children, as everyone can chant it together and there are a few parts to mime for those who feel confident.

Getting to know the story

Read aloud or tell the story to the children (a video clip and printable story are available on our website). Use some of the following activities to help the children get to know the story well.


  • Talk about the different tasks that the little red hen had to do in the story. Ask questions such as: Why did the animals not help little red hen? Would they have helped if they had been asked?
  • Ask: Why did the hen keep the bread at the end? Should the hen have shared out the bread?
  • What do the children think the moral of the story is?


  • Organise a hot seat session with one child taking on the role of the little red hen. The rest of the class can ask questions, such as: Why did you not share the bread? How did you feel when the other animals refused to help?
  • Taking on the role of the narrator, practise a dramatised version of the tale with all the children taking on the part of an animal of their choice.


Sing ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’ and/or learn and act out the circle song, ‘The Farmer’s in his den’.

Writing in role

Ask the children to write simple messages from the other animals to the hen, saying sorry for not helping with the different tasks.


Provide the children with paint and card, and help them to create animal masks to use in a performance of the story.


  • Organise a trip to a farm or research images of farms.
  • A visit to a bakery to watch bread being made would add to the tale. Make bread so that the children experience kneading it.
  • Bring in some wheat and give the children the opportunity to crush a few grains between a couple of stones to see how the grains begin to become flour.

Story behind the story

  • In role as the farmer, retell the story from his viewpoint. In preparation, read Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell.

Retelling the story aloud

  • This is a great story to start oral storytelling because the children will already be familiar with the tale.
  • On the video, you can see children joining in with the story using actions. These can support both the events in the story but also be used to emphasise the connectives such as ‘once upon a time’, ‘early one morning’ and ‘who’.
  • Prepare your class for telling by drawing a story map on the board (see example above), so that the children can see visually what happens.

From telling to writing

  • This makes an ideal story for shared writing. Ask the children to illustrate different parts of the text and create a class Big Book or ‘Wall Story’.
  • To innovate, the children should keep the basic pattern and idea but just swap over the animals. So, Cat might wake up and find the corn; she then asks help from other animals (such as a mouse, a dog, a donkey). Draw a new map with new animals and tell the ‘new’ story.

Interested in purchasing the Storyteller books? Then visit our Scholastic Shop.


  1. Dina
    on 20 September 2012

    Little Red Hen

    Great ideas, I will use them next week and let you know.

    P.S. “Organize” is the American spelling. In the UK and British schools it is “organise” Thank you

  2. Paula @scholastic
    on 24 February 2011

    Subscriber only

    Sorry @c reddin

    We really try and make as much as we can free to visitors but unfortunately our lovely website wouldn’t survive without people subscribing to our magazines (either in print or online – an online sub works out at only .28p a week).

    1out of 5
  3. c reddin
    on 22 February 2011

    little red hen

    Why has Pie’s brilliant oral story become unaccessible?!? I’ve used it many times before. How disappointing that everything, especially quality story telling comes at a cost these days.

  4. enominis
    on 3 November 2010


    I love all pie corbetts poems some sad some good.He is excellent I am a child in year 6.In leeds

  5. Lol
    on 26 September 2010

    Watch Little Red Hen

    Actions to The Little Red Hen story. Perfect, just what I was looking for!

  6. Kirstin McCreadie Assistant Editor
    on 23 September 2010

    RE: Little Red Hen

    Dear 3girls,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Our use of ‘practise’, ‘emphasise’ and ‘organise’ are correct for UK English, and as our site is based in the UK, we will always use UK spellings.

  7. 3 girls
    on 22 September 2010

    Little Red Hen

    This page has spelling errors. My daughter is always bringing home Scholastic homework with spelling errors and ill formed questions. SPELL CHECK and EDIT




  8. kazzied
    on 7 May 2010

    Pie inspires

    If you can, please go and see him. I had the chance last year and have used his format, the children have progressed so much just in three sessions. Thank you Pie

    5out of 5