Tall Tale Treasury

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TSWBAT read a collection of tall tales establishing the unique characteristics of this genre using details in the text.

Big Idea

Glorious amount of fabulous tall tales destined to entertain and thrill audiences of all ages!

Warm Up

5 minutes

In a casual tone, tell the kids about an incident that could happen at school, but exaggerate details. Make it seem like you're just having a conversation with them.

My example: "Hey kids, I heard a teacher came out of the cafeteria today carrying a sandwich the size of a football!  A ton of angry kids demanded they get the same thing.  She took off outta the cafeteria yelling, 'I bring my own lunch tomorrow, or starve!' "

Some kids will immediately ask if it's true, to which you can say: "Well, I may have exaggerated a few parts..." Exaggeration example

This leads into exactly what exaggeration is.  Retell the story, then ask the kids to write down the parts that sound like exaggerations. Jotting down the exaggerations as I reread After you've established those exaggerations, again tell what happened, but without the embellishment.

"Hey kids, a teacher came out of the cafeteria today with her adult portion lunch. The kids who left the cafeteria at the same time said they wished they had the same amount for their lunch. The teacher said, "I'll bring my own lunch tomorrow, I can't believe I forgot to pack one today."

Once the second version is stated, ask the kids to look at their previous examples of her exaggeration and determine what was really meant.  It's an easy way to use exaggeration as the lead in to reading Tall Tales.




30 minutes

Introduce the lesson by referring to the exaggeration example you gave the class and ask the kids to list types of fiction stories in which exaggeration is an important component.  There's a good chance they've already heard the term "Tall Tales" and will mention it, along with Folk Tales, Myths, and Fairy Tales. One of my kids asked if a limerick would count, which I thought was creative thinking, because they often includes exaggerations, but our focus was on stories.  He countered with "limericks are short stories." There's always one...

I take a moment to discuss their origin: a form of entertainment for the early pioneers settling the country.  Tall Tales were fun to tell around the campfires and easy to remember.  I ask if anyone has heard the tale of Paul Bunyon, as this is one of the most familiar in the genre.  Most have, and I tell them to listen close as I read it (an abridged version) to them.  The teaching of Tall Tales is a great way to expose them to traditional literature, and so often these days kids aren't exposed to the tales of old that a lot of us grew up with.  Using the Common Core Standard of RL.5.3 to compare and contrast different characters of Tall Tales by drawing on specific details in the text is a wonderful way to reinforce the skill.

Our next step is to think of the story and pull out the the parts that are general to a Tall Tale.  Be sure the kids' list includes: exaggerations or hyperboles, the main character is a hero or heroine, he/she completes amazing feats, they solve problems, and it's a like a legend- passed down through the generations.  Although a Tall Tale is most definitely a form of fiction, often the people in the story were real.

Our 5th grade Houghton Mifflin reading book has four Tall Tales included, and I like the way they're written, so it's definitely a resource we use.  A second resource is picture books.  Ask the librarian to pull the Tall Tales books for your class, and tell the kids to look for their own Tall Tales books at home.  The more examples- even of the same tale- the better!

There are numerous charts and graphs available for comparing the Tall Tales to one another and I included tales similar in genre for additional comparisons. Organizing the Tall Tales Any style of comparing/contrasting chart you use will help the kids pull out the similar story components and analyze. These graphic organizers can also be used for the kids to brainstorm about their own Tall Tale writing.

Depending on how you use the graphic organizer, you may want more space.  I use one tall tale for each page, so the kids have plenty of room although columns could be larger.  If you want to put more than one character on a page it's a good idea to use a landscape format. 


15 minutes

I'm a big fan of the graphic organizer, Somebody Wanted But So, (SWBS) which helps the students put their thoughts in order- great preparation for creating a summary.  I often let them choose the version I or version II they'd like to use to differentiate and have included both in resources.   

As their evaluation, they complete this summary of two of the Tall Tales they wrote describing the details learned in each text.  The information they've recorded on the SWBS worksheet will help them recall the significant ideas in each of the stories.

The value of Somebody Wanted But So is greater than it's given credit for. Comparison of the Two Versions What I mean is I'm always surprised when I come across a teacher who hasn't heard of this strategy.  The benefits are many:  1) Students easily express their thoughts in an organized way.  2) The summary of the story is written in a basic form upon completion of the strategy.  3) The students work from the SWBS skeleton to add the details and other components needed for an excellent summary.

Summaries will be evaluated using appropriate traits from the 6 Traits writing rubric.