What is a Fairy Tale?


Genre knowledge is important for reading comprehension as it leads the reader to have particular expectations of the text and supports prediction.


  • Have a collection of fairy tales available to support children
  • Enlarged Bubble Map (A3) enough for one per group of 3-4 children.
  • Copies of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, at least one between two.
  • Download a copy of the Hans Christian Andersen Slideshow and the accompanying sheet of book jackets.


Begin by reviewing what the children know about fairy tales. 

  • Which fairy tales stories do you know? 

Distribute enlarged Bubble Maps to groups of three-four children and ask them to fill them in with the ingredients of a fairy tale. Allow the children to do this independently before discussing.

After completing their Bubble Maps, share and compare maps by inviting groups to move around the classroom, looking at the work of other groups. 

Allow time for the groups to add to their Bubble Map after seeing the others.

  • Did you add anything after seeing what other groups added to their Bubble Maps?  

If the following features haven’t been included, introduce them into the discussion:

  • A hero or heroine.
  • A villain.
  • A happy ending.
  • Begins, Once upon a time…’
  • Magic.
  • Wishes come true.
  • Events happening in threes. 
  • Imaginary characters.
  • Set long ago. 
  • Princes and princesses. 

Final reflection

Introduce the writer Hans Christian Andersen. You might want to use the slideshow.

Slide 1 Portrait

Slide 2 Bronze Statue with the Ugly Duckling

Slide 3 The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbour

Slide 4 Drawn image of Andersen and 6 of his stories

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark in 1805 – that’s over 200 years ago. He wrote 3381 fairy stories which have been translated into 125 languages.


  • Do you know any stories that were written by Hans Christian Andersen?  (The children may not necessarily know that Hans Christian Andersen is the author of some of the most famous fairy stories including Disney favourites.)

Distribute copies of the book jackets to groups of 3 or 4 children. Ask:

  • Which of these stories do you recognise?
  • Can you choose one to tell?

Tell the children that the book you are going to read is called The Steadfast Tin Soldier and was written by Hans Christian Andersen.

Show the title page which says ‘Re-translated by Naomi Lewis’.

  • Does anyone know what a translator does? If not, tell them that they change stories from one language into another?
  • Wh would the Steadfast Tin Soldier need translating. (the children should be able to connect this with the information that you provided about Hans Christian Andersen being a Danish writer.)

Setting The Scene


The style of writing is likely to be unfamiliar to young readers, so hearing the opening read aloud will tune the ear to the rhythm of the text. Reading aloud will build engagement with an unfamiliar style of writing and support understanding of the story.


  • Have available copies of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, at least one between two. 
  • Prepare to read aloud by reading the opening pages, annotating as you go. There are multi-clause sentences which need to be read slowly and changes of tense, which adds to the challenge of the text. 


Distribute copies of the book. Read aloud to the children so they can experience the rhythm of the text. 

Encourage them to follow the text as you read. The illustrations will be beneficial to those children who find it harder to access the meaning purely from the text.

Once you have read to the end of page 6, stop and give the children time to ask questions or make comments. Record these before re-reading.

The following prompts allow you to assess the children’s different levels of understanding (literal, inference, text to world Tennent, 2014).

  • Why does the tin soldier only have one leg?  (This question requires a literal response, taking information directly from the text. The children’s responses will help you ascertain if they can access the surface level of the text.)
  • How do the toys in the story compare to your toys? Which toys do you think you would enjoy playing with and why? (This text to world question invites the children to relate the story to their own experience.)
  • How does the boy feel about being given the tin soldiers?  (This question can be answered by making inferences from the expression on the face of the boy in the illustration and his response when he is given them.)

Re-read page 3 and the paragraph at the top of page 5. The castle is described as enchanting.

  • Have you heard that word before?
  • Do you know, or can you work out what it means (delightful and very attractive)?
  • What is enchanting about the scene with the castle? (Encourage the children to look in the book for the answer. They should be able to retrieve some of the following: you could see into the rooms; the mirror was like a lake surrounded by trees; wax swans seemed to glide across the lake; the ballet dancer was very pretty.

Tell the children that enchanting and enchantment (casting a spell) are words that often appear in fairy tales.

Final reflection

At the end of page 2 the soldier is described as ‘this story’s hero’. 

  • What might happen in this story to make him the hero? 

Echo Reading


Children need plenty of opportunities to practise reading aloud to support their increasing fluency. Prosody, the patterns of stress and intonation, often requires more attention than it is given. The following process provides the opportunity to focus in on placing of pausing when reading longer multi- clause sentences,  which in turn supports a more nuanced reading of the text.  This process is not necessarily about reading faster but reading thoughtfully.


  • Copies of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, at least one between two.


Explain that this story was written almost 200 years ago and that the way it is written is different from the way stories are written today. Tell the children you are going to use Echo Reading to help them read the story independently. 

Read the opening sentence aloud first; then the children echo back the sentence. Continue to read in this way to the end of the first page. Draw attention to any decisions you make as you read aloud, e.g. ‘I paused here because…’, ‘I added expression here to emphasise…’, ‘I read this part slowly because it’s a long sentence with lots of clause’s.’ Invite the children to give their thoughts on tricky parts as well as suggestions to help with the reading. 

Teacher’s note: Extend the length of passages as children become familiar with the technique so that they are reading rather than relying on memory.

Paired reading: Each child reads page 2 with the other child offering support. They should then swap roles. These pairings can be self-selected or chosen by the teacher for pedagogic purposes.

Repeat the process for page 3. This time read the whole page before asking the children to echo back. 

Finally, ask the pairs to read aloud page 5. They should read a sentence each, continuing to support each other with tricky parts. Swap roles and repeat. 

Ask each pair to choose the page they feel most confident to read aloud to another pair.   

Final reflection

  • How has the Echo Reading supported you to read aloud today? 

Introducing the Villain


The double-page spread (pp 7-8) introduces the villain of the story, the goblin. The illustrator uses light and dark and body language to good effect to suggest that he is to be feared. 

This process in this lesson uses visualisation in addition to close reading of the picture. Visualisation requires the reader to combine their background knowledge with the words of the author to create mental images that enhance understanding and bring reading to life.  


  • Copies of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, at least one per pair. 
  • Blank paper for each child to sketch
  • Zone of Relevance organiser, one per pair
  • Atmosphere Words, one per pair
  • Copies of the text from page 8 for Repeated Reading


Write the word villain on the board.

  • Do all stories need a villain?
  • Do you have a favourite villain from a story that you have read or film that you have seen? Share briefly.

Tell the children, today we are going to meet the villain in the tin soldier’s story. I wonder who or what the villain might be.

Without looking at the illustration, read aloud page 7-8. 

Working with a partner, ask the children to describe what they think the goblin will look like. Share ideas with the class and sketch a goblin based on their suggestions. 

Now display the image of the goblin, inviting the children to tell you what they see. The following prompts will support discussion:

  • Where is the goblin on the page? (The position of a character on a page can indicate how powerful or happy they are.) 
  • What does the size of the goblin tell you? 
  • How is the goblin positioned in relation to the tin soldier?
  • How do you feel when you look at the goblin?
  • What do you imagine the tin soldier is feeling?  (When we cannot see a character’s face, we interpret the emotions using our knowledge and experience.)
  • Describe the colours in this scene. Are they warm or cold colours? 
  • What do you notice about the other characters on the page?
    • Where are they looking?
    • Why do you think no one is looking at the goblin?
  • Look at the goblin’s body language. How does he want the tin soldier to feel? 

After sharing responses, ask: 

  • How would you describe the mood of this illustration? 

Distribute copies of the Atmosphere Words and Zone of Relevance organiser and ask pairs:

  • Which words fit best with the mood of this illustration? 

Ask the pairs to arrange the atmosphere words from those which are most relevant to describe the atmosphere at this moment in the story in the inner circle, to those that are least relevant in the outer ring on the Zones of Relevance organiser. Allow time to share responses. 

Make explicit the best-fit word isn’t always the longest or the most unusual.

Repeated Reading

Re-read page 8 the paragraph beginning ‘Now the clock struck…’ to the end of the page. Read the part of the goblin expressively, paying attention to the verb screeched. When you have finished.

  • Did you notice anything about the way that I read that?
  • Which word describes the way that the goblin speaks?
  • Does that word give a clue to his character?

Read again, this time inviting the children to join in with the goblin’s words.

Now distribute the text. Working in pairs, ask the children to practise reading the paragraph to each other. They should take it in turns to be the narrator and the goblin.

Final reflection

Refer back to the techniques used by the illustrator to create a mood in the illustration. 

Choose a mood word which has been placed near the centre of the Zone of Relevance board and ask: 

  • How has P.J. Lynch created a sinister mood? 

Teacher’s Note: This lesson can lead to the Describing the Goblin lesson.