An African Folktale

The Orphan Boy


Author: Jill Beer

Grade Level: Early Elementary


1. Students will be introduced to what a folktale is and be able to illustrate their favorite part of the story The Orphan Boy. They will also write a folk story that explains a natural phenomena.

Materials Needed:

Mollel, T.M.. The Orphan Boy. Clarion Books, 1991.


1. Introduce the lesson by asking if anyone knows what a folktale is or if they know any examples of a folktale. If they need help you can explain that folktales are stories that have been passed down from parents to their children, again and again for hundreds of years. These stories are used for entertainment or they can be used to tell about he culture as it once was. Some examples of folktales the children might be familiar with are Cinderella, Snow White, and Paul Bunyon. the folktale that we will talk about today is an African folktale from the Maasai ethnic group.

2. Give the students a background knowledge of the Maasai ethnic group and the region they are located on the map.

*The Maasai people are one of the ethnic groups living within the vast area of east Africa today. The Maasai are nomadic pastoral people who live in the Great Rift Valley and other pasturelands of Kenya and Tanzania. Even though many of their neighbors indulge in wild game hunting, the Maasai continue their traditional pastoral life. Interestingly enough, the Maasai do not eat any of the animals that coexist with them in the reserve, nor do they slaughter any of the cows they raise. Only in times of famine will the Maasai even consider eating wild game. The Maasai strongly believe that each new day they experience represents a significant change in their lives. Therefore, their entire cultural life revolves around celebrations in which the entire community, as well as individual member, participate. Their celebrations consist of dances with lots of jumping, which can go on for hours.

3. Read the story to the class.

4. After reading, discuss with the students why the Maasai refer to the planet Venus as Kileken, the orphan boy. (On the last page of the book it gives a brief description that can help guide the discussion and learning).

5. Have the students make up a folk story that explains a natural phenomena and then illustrate it. You could give them ideas of natural phenomena like the Great Salt Lake, earthquakes, thunder and lightning, the sun rising, etc.


1. Look at the pictures they have drawn to see if there is a link to the story.

2. Read their natural phenomena stories to see if they have the right idea.


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