Problem Statement Fairy Tales

Problem Statement/Fairy Tales
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20-30 minutes

For many instructors, this is the first introduction to the notion of problem statements.
How To:
1. Explain to class that all papers are essentially stories, and all readers on some level want to be told a story. So, even though it seems a little weird, we're going to spend some time talking about classic story-telling patterns. Eventually we'll connect the stories with academic arguments.

2. Ask everyone to write down the plot summary of a fairy tale in four or five sentences. This means they should think of the most important events, and write them down. Everyone should choose a fairy tale that they think other people will be familiar with; make a few suggestions if people are stumped. Give students 5 minutes to write.

3. Go around the room and ask people to tell you which fairy tale they chose.

4. Choose someone who picked a fairy tale you feel will work well and that you are familiar with (scroll down for a little fairy tale review).

5. Ask the student to read his/her version aloud. Edit the fairy tale to fit the four basic parts (again, see below); you may have to ask leading questions to get at all of the parts. Begin by calling the parts "Once upon a time" "Suddenly, the Big Bad Wolf" "So What?" and "Enter Prince Charming [or the Fairy Godmother]"

6. Choose another fairy tale and fit it in.

7. Choose a third and ask students to figure out the four parts in pairs. (And/or ask them to come up with the four parts from the point of view of another character: e.g. the Three Bears, the Big Bad Wolf, the Magic Fish.)

8. Translate the fairy tale language into problem statement language: "We're going to call 'Once upon a time' the status quo; 'Suddenly, the Big Bad Wolf,' the destabilizing moment; 'So what?' the consequences; and 'Enter Prince Charming' the resolution. We'll talk next time about what these look like in academic introductions.

9. Have students pick the parts out of a model/generate the parts within stories before moving on to academic arguments.
Fairy Tale Review

Status Quo: Cinderella's mother and father were alive, and they had a happy life.

Destabilizing Moment: Cinderella's parents died, and she was left to live with her mean step-mother and step-sisters.

Consequences: She cannot go to the ball, and thus cannot escape the grasp of the mean step-sisters.

Resolution: Her fairy godmother shows up, turns a pumpkin into a carriage, gives her a great dress, etc., so that she can meet Prince Charming
Sleeping Beauty

Status Quo: The King and Queen have a beautiful baby girl, and they ask the fairies to come and bless it.

Destabilizing Moment: The one fairy they neglected to invite crashes the party and puts a curse on Sleeping Beauty so that she will prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep when she grows up.
Consequences: Sleeping Beauty does prick her finger and falls asleep (and so does everyone else in the kingdom). She can only be wakened by the kiss of a man with a pure heart.

Resolution: The princes shows up, smooches her, and wakes everyone up.
Three Little Pigs

Status Quo: There are three happy pig brothers who leave their mother's house to live alone.

Destabilizing Moment: Their mother tells them that they need to build houses that will protect them from the Big Bad Wolf.

Consequences: The Big Bad Wolf could eat them.

Resolution: One of the pigs is smart enough to build a brick house, which his brothers take refuge in.
Hansel and Gretel

Status Quo: Hansel and Gretel live happily with their parents on the edge of the forest.

Destabilizing Moment: Their parents grow too poor to look after and feed them, so they lead the children out into the woods.

Consequences: The children can't find their way home and end up instead in the candy house of the witch who wants to fatten them up and eat them.

Resolution: Gretel pretends Hansel won't be able to fit into the stove; the witch sticks her head in and Gretel gives her a push.
Little Red Riding Hood

Status Quo: Little Red Riding Hood is a happy girl with a fabulous outfit.

Destabilizing Moment: Her grandmother gets sick, and Little Red Riding Hood is sent out to bring her cookies.

Consequences: She runs into the Big Bad Wolf, who eats her grandmother and then LRRH herself.

Resolution: A huntsman passes by, hears the wolf snoring, and grows suspicious. He kills the wolf and liberates LRRH and her grandmother from the wolf's stomach.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Status Quo: Goldilocks is taking a lovely stroll through the woods.

Destabilizing Moment: She gets hungry and sleepy.

Consequences: If she doesn't eat or sleep she'll get cranky (and eventually sick).

Resolution: She goes into the three bears' house and eats and sleeps there.
The Fisherman and His Wife

Status Quo: The poor fisherman catches a magic fish, who offers him wishes in exchange for his life.

Destabilizing Moment: The fisherman's wife keeps wishing for extravagant things (to live in a castle, to be king/emperor/pope, to control the sun and moon.

Consequences: The fisherman gets embarrassed; the farmer's wife gets greedy; the fish gets angry.

Resolution: The fish restores them to their meager hovel.
Rumpelstilskin (aka The Miller's Daughter)

Status Quo: The miller has a daughter and they have happy life.

Destabilizing Moment: The miller brags to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold (she can't).

Consequences: The king tells the girl that she must spin a roomful of straw into gold, or he will kill her.

Resolution: She convinces a little man who appears to spin the straw into gold, in exchange for a piece of ribbon, a necklace, a ring, her first-born child.
Status Quo: The king marries the miller's daughter.

Destabilizing Moment: She needs to find the name of the little man.

Consequences: If she doesn't, he will make good on her promise and take her first-born child.

Resolution: She sends messengers out across the land; one of them overhears his name.