Parallel Tales

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TSWBAT compare and contrast characters from Tall Tales they've been reading by finding specific details in each story.

Big Idea

With each tale more outlandish than the last, which character will reign as champion in the Tall Tales Tournament?

Warm Up

10 minutes

Write the word tournament on the board and the kids write it in a circle on their paper.

"What things come to mind when you think of the word tournament?"  Call on kids to write their responses on the board around the word tournament, and have them copy their own papers.  This is a great strategy to use when introducing a focus word, such as tournament. Word Web with Tournament The kids like the challenge of coming up with as many words that remind them of the key term- sometimes going a little far (mints sounding like the end of tourna"mint") but not getting in the way of the true goal. With CCS new ways of introducing vocabulary are important.  In the past, it was common to pass out lists and memorize words.  Now we know - memorization is just not the way to create understanding.

Responses may include things like: game, championship, elimination, winner, series of events, runner-up, loser, trophy or medal, excitement, and some surprises. 

Once a healthy list has been created ask them to rank the words/phrases from favorite to least favorite in a list.  Create a Top of the Tournament Words by putting a tally mark next to the number one word on their list.  Once all of the kids have participated, the top two winners of the "Tournament Word Tournament" will be clear.

Now that you've introduced the word tournament, rally on into the lesson!


30 minutes

The students are familiar with many different Tall Tales at this point.  Their next task is to pick our their favorites to participate in the Tall Tales Tournament.

Armed with their numerous graphic organizers and the stash of library books, have them select their favorite Tall Tales characters by rating the different characteristics Tall Tales Tournament Champion. They use details from the story to generate their ratings.

Characteristic List:

Seems larger than life

Is a clever character

Has a sense of humor

Compelling Life Story

Is a kind character

I allow the kids to work together, tournament teams if you'd like, in their table groups to state the case for their Tall Tales Hero or Heroine.  They enjoy discussing the stories they've all read and comparing ideas.  Groups would not be necessary, but when the class can handle it, I enjoy the constructive conversations that occur.  After they complete the Characteristic List, it's time to develop the propaganda poster.  They draw an illustration of their Tall Tales Hero or Heroine depicting their most outrageous characteristic.

They excel in an activity like this because all the components are present.  They have read and enjoyed numerous Tall Tales.  They're familiar with the characters and know which favorites they'll choose for their competition.  The also have the opportunity to give opinions by looking at what makes these characters similar and different.  They are using CCS RL.5.3 of comparing two or more characters without thinking about comparing characters.  They're just doing it naturally, which is great!

One road block- I had a few kids questioned the phrase Compelling Life Story, even after each of the characteristics had been discussed beforehand.  That's frustrating, but par for the course.  I asked both of the kids why a Tall Tale would be written about this individual, and the answers I got were, "Paul Bunyon got huge and people were helped by him," or "John Henry sacrificed himself for his wife."  Things like you've described, I said, are interesting or compelling to readers.  What happened in these folk heros lives made their lives compelling.  

There is always a way to help the students understand...even if it takes awhile.   

Closure (and a Winner)

5 minutes

Place the Characteristic Lists and Propaganda Posters together on a back table, the students' desks, the wall, etc. Each child has a ratings page and will score each Tall Tale character on a scale of 1-5 in each category. Tally the results and declare the winner.  As a final activity, I pass out Post-it notes and the students write a descriptive line about how the winner must feel.  This is done in a clever way, such as the form of a simile, etc. For example: Paul Bunyon is as proud as a peacock!