I ask them to think of a time they did something interesting or amazing. For example, I tell them about a time I'll never forget- the day I purposely jumped on a jellyfish on a Maryland beach because it looked squishy...
Next, they write down the experience, but embellish and exaggerate the details. In my example, I speak of my bravery in confronting a jellyfish rather than my ignorance of not knowing it would sting me.
Although the kids are keeping these short for the Warm Up, they could be developed as their story ideas later, if desired.
"My Cut" student example
"My Experience" student example
Let them share their experience with a partner or small group.
"We've read many a Tall Tale over the last few days. Your time has finally come...you're writing your own Tall Tale!"
To begin, I tell them they need to decide on who their hero or heroine will be (historical person, made up person, YOU?) They are to write a little bit of information about the chosen character, then, as with the Warm Up, exaggerate some things a bit.)
Next, they decide on a storyline. Have them ponder: What interesting thing or things is this character going through? Who else is in this Tall Tale? What problems are taking place?
I also remind them they've done a lot with Figurative Language, so not to forget to throw in some great personification, similes, metaphors and of course, exaggeration.
At the beginning, they should start with the first paragraph as an introduction to the fabulous Tall Tales hero/heroine. Beginning her Tall Tale
The subsequent paragraphs will deal with the conflicts, and excitement of the story, and they're to write with great figurative language.
As a conclusion, all loose ends are tied up, and the reader is told about what happens to the hero/heroine. They often save the day so the ending should be powerful.
Included in the resources is a Tall Tales writing template- a great way to get kids started on a story, or as an alternative for those who need extra assistance. I didn't use it with this particular class, but have in the past.
I collect the rough drafts of my kids' writing and don't allow them to write the next draft until there's been a significant break. With our statewide testing, they only allow us the lunch break in between, but in my classroom, it's always at least a day. It's important for the kids to separate from their writing so when they revisit, it's seen through fresh eyes.
Once they're reunited with their Tall Tale, the first thing they do is reread without the intent of changing a thing. On the second read through, it's time to make adjustments and edits. I help them with the editing process in the beginning of the year as they move toward successful independent editing.
Whether they have a few rough drafts or a rough draft and a final piece, it's a great idea to keep all in order to track the writing process involved. I like to staple the newest draft on top. They feel satisfaction when they can review the entire history from initial work to finished product.
There are few other writing creations as popular as the Tall Tale when it comes to sharing, but there will definitely be kids who would rather, "eat fleas off a dog's back," than read their Tall Tale in front of the class.
I offer the kids three options:
I read the Tall Tale to the class.
The child reads their Tall Tale to the class.
They pass and bring it to me.
Although there are times when the kids will need to present in front of the class, it's not always necessary, and I like them to feel empowered with choice of presenting if possible. Many kids are more at ease when presenting factual reports, such as the state report after Spring Break, while others just love to share their creativity with the world. Presenting Her Tall Tale As written above, they can't always "pass" but I know a few breathe a sigh of relief when they can. I also love creative ideas, such as the slideshow "Slide Show" drawings.
My objective is always for kids to feel comfortable and safe in their classroom - it's a place that can be trusted. As the year progresses, most kids lose their inhibitions about presenting because it's a regular occurrance, and I've promoted a close knit, pleasant classroom.