K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

The students will:

  • increase vocabulary
  • make predictions while reading
  • identify story elements and use a graphic organizer to write summaries
  • appreciate a new genre of literature
  • describe “tall tales” including the characteristics of humor, exaggeration, hardships to overcome, and heroes/heroines
  • compare and contrast tall tales read
  • write a tall tale

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

6 hours


  • Variety of tall tales collected by the teacher from school media center, public library, and textbooks (ex: If You Say So, Claude by Joan Lowery Nixon)
  • Overhead transparency of a story sequence chart (graphic organizer)
  • Student copies of tall tales
  • Student copies of story sequence chart

Technology resources

Computers are not needed for the basic activities of this plan. A word processing program may be used to publish the writing activity.


Students will listen to tall tales and watch videos of tall tales in preparation for in-depth study.


Day 1

  1. Students participate in a teacher-led discussion about tall tales to include the following points:
    • Characteristics: exaggeration, humor, hardships to overcome, and hero/heroine to save the day.
    • Purpose of stories: to entertain and enhance contributions of certain sectors of our culture (examples-Paul Bunyan-loggers, John Henry-railroad workers, Pecos Bill-cowboys).
    • Other names for tall tales: yarns, whoppers, bouncers, and taradiddles.
  2. The teacher reads a tall tale to the class. Display an overhead transparency of a story sequence chart. With students’ help, the teacher models how to write in story elements. Afterward, students make their own sequence charts.
  3. Practice retelling/summarizing the story using the story map. Go through process several times with different students.
  4. The teacher models writing a summary of the story. Students copy the summary.

Day 2

  1. Use preparation and engagement strategies to get ready to read a chosen story. (A good story for this is If You Say So, Claude by Joan Lowery Nixon.)
    • Preview the story by looking at pictures. Have students make predictions. Let students establish a purpose for reading by generating questions they want answered.
    • List vocabulary words critical to the story line on the chalkboard or overhead. Have students use word analysis skills to figure out words.
  2. Students will read a few pages silently, then stop to discuss original predictions and student generated questions. Have students revise predictions and questions as they proceed through the story. Note any additional vocabulary words that cause problems.

Day 3

  1. Review vocabulary.
  2. Use discussion to review the story and go over the characteristics of tall tales.
  3. Students will pair up to reread the chosen story orally.
  4. Display the story sequence chart transparency. Students supply information as the teacher models filling in the story elements. Students will fill in their own charts.
  5. The teacher will use the graphic organizer to model retelling the story. Invite several students to retell the story orally. Emphasize including a closing sentence.

Day 4

  1. Review story sequence charts. Provide time for additional practice in retelling/summarizing the story orally.
  2. The teacher models writing a summary from the graphic organizer.
  3. Students will complete their own summaries. They will work with partners to proofread summaries. (Work on closing sentences.)

Day 5

  1. Review the characteristics of tall tales.
  2. Provide students with a copy of a different tall tale. Use preparation and engagement strategies (see Day 2) to read the story.
  3. When reading is completed have students work with partners to complete story sequence charts.
  4. Allow many opportunities for students to practice retelling stories orally.
  5. Students will write and proof summaries.

Day 6

  1. Spend time brainstorming exaggerations with students to help them start thinking creatively in preparation for writing tall tales. Examples:
    • It was so hot that all the corn in the fields started popping.
    • He ran so fast that…
    • She was so strong that…
  2. Have students write some exaggerations.
  3. Let students begin planning their own tall tales.


  • Students will compare and contrast tall tales they have read by listing five characteristics the stories have in common and five things that are different.
  • Allow enough time for students to plan and write their own tall tales. The tall tales might be published using a word processing program such as Microsoft Works. Kid Pix would allow for some extra creativity.

Supplemental information

This lesson can be linked to the “Similes” lesson plan to teach students how to incorporate similes into their tall tales. Also can be linked to the Kennedy Center lessons on “Exaggeration, Folktales, and Characters”

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 3
          • 3.RL.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
          • 3.RL.9 Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).
        • Grade 4
          • 4.RL.9 Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
      • Speaking & Listening

        • Grade 3
          • 3.SL.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 2: The learner will apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed.
    • Objective 2.01: Use metacognitive strategies to comprehend text (e.g., reread, read ahead, ask for help, adjust reading speed, question, paraphrase, retell).
    • Objective 2.02: Interact with the text before, during, and after reading, listening, or viewing by:
      • setting a purpose.
      • previewing the text.
      • making predictions.
      • asking questions.
      • locating information for specific purposes.
      • making connections.
      • using story structure and text organization to comprehend.
  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.09: Produce work that follows the conventions of particular genres (e.g., personal narrative, short report, friendly letter, directions and instructions).