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Somali Folktale Project

Sheekooyin Carrureed


Lyndale School S.P.I.R.A.L. Project
Project Mashruuca S.P.I.R.A.L. ee Lyndale

Purpose of this Project

The Somalis have always had a very rich oral tradition, and well known Somali tales have been passed from generation to generation. Many of these stories are intended to teach a lesson. In many cases, the characters take on animal forms that serve to represent individuals with unacceptable behavior or qualities; e.g., greed, theft, lying, cowardliness, etc.

Many of our Somali students have experienced the hardships of war, hunger, and exile. Their contacts with extended families, lands, and cultural roots have been severed. The primary goal of this project is to help retain some of this culture.

We also have a number of important secondary goals:

  • to promote self-esteem among the Somali students.
  • to provide a positive experience for Somali students, enabling them to contribute something of their special heritage to the mainstream classroom.
  • to use familiar Somali folklore to help bridge the communication gap between school and family. The students will be encouraged to retell these familiar stories in both Somali and English to their families.
  • to use bilingual texts to promote literacy in both English and Somali.
  • to develop readings skills and comprehension of basic concepts through bilingual support.
  • to develop academic language by "springboarding" from a first language vocabulary in familiar Somali texts to a new vocabulary in the second language.

It is important to remember that these stories belong to the Somali people. They are their stories and it is our firm belief that they should be used only as intended. No one should reproduce the contents of this collection for any reason other than to help Somali adults and children. With that in mind, feel free to use and adapt these materials in any way for educational purposes. However, the project, as a whole, should not be reproduced without the permission of the Minneapolis Public School District #1.

We believe that these stories should be retold in a way that respects their specific linguistic origin. These were stories told transmitted orally from generation to generation (from grandparents and parents to their grandchildren and children). So, in presenting the story to the class it should be told to the children in Somali first. This way the students take ownership of the stories, and can retell them to their parents. Since the parents already know the stories, they can comment on variations, enriching and enlivening the story with background information. The student retells the story in English back at school, and shares the family response. Then they can do some of the literary activities, possibly a play or puppet show for their peers and teachers, or a story retell in Somali or English. This pattern is designed to promote self-esteem in the Somali children, enabling them to bring positive elements from their cultural heritage to share with their peers. The parents are now in a position to really assist in their childrens’ education and the children are able to teach their teachers and peers, while at the same time becoming literate in both languages.

We hope that these Somali folktales will help you address the needs of your Somali students. We also hope that this project, in some way, may help to preserve these stories, stories whose very survival is threatened by war and geographical displacement. We owe a special debt of thanks to our Somali parents whom, wanting to assist in their childrens’ education, encouraged this project, and provided additional stories and interpretations.

The folktale project also needed to be aligned with the Minneapolis, Minnesota, and National ELL standards. The suggested literary activities were developed with this in mind. These activities provide English language opportunities to increase content-based vocabulary with culturally appropriate themes and background information. The Somali folktales, together with these literary activities, are intended to enhance literacy in both languages.