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

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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  • Connecting folktales and culture in North Carolina and beyond: Students will explore connections to North Carolina culture as they engage in reading and analyzing three folktales of North Carolina Literary Festival author, William Hooks. After comparing these stories to other versions of the traditional tales, students will become authors and storytellers themselves as they rewrite a tale from a new cultural point of view. Opportunities are also included to extend this study to world cultures and folktales.
  • North Carolina American Indian stories: In this lesson students will select and read stories from some of the North Carolina American Indian tribes. They will compare and contrast two stories of their choice and complete a Venn diagram. Students will use the information on the Venn diagram to write three paragraphs. After reading several American Indian tales or legends, students will then create their own legend using the narrative writing process.
  • Quilts: This lesson plan in designed to be one part of a fourth grade social studies unit on the Appalachian Mountains. It is based on the mountain custom of quilt making. This plan uses the book The Quiltmakers Gift by Jeff Brumbeau. It also uses the book internet site and other related sites. Enrichments of this lesson would be to display quilts, have a real quilt maker visit, have the class create their own paper quilt, etc.

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Learning outcomes

  • Students will use research skills to write a brief biography of one storyteller.
  • Students will learn about the importance of oral tradition in Appalachia.
  • Students will compare the culture and ethnic background of the tellers.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

Eight days


  • Computers with internet access and word-processing software — one per group of students
  • Audio or video recordings of the following storytellers (Suggested recordings are listed under each storyteller. You don’t need to use these recordings, but try to have one recording for each teller.):
  • Equipment to play recordings for class (VCR, CD player, DVD player, etc.)


  • Identify some additional Appalachian folktales for students to read. You may find some suggestions on the “Appalachian Folktales in Children’s Literature and Collections for All Ages” website from Ferrum College in Virginia.
  • Review the elements of folklore and the importance of oral tradition in passing on traditions and stories in families.
  • Discuss the region of North Carolina, ethnic background, and historical period of each teller and how those factors might influence the stories they tell.
  • Review web-searching and note-taking skills.


  1. Divide students into groups, and have each group use the internet to find biographical information about a storyteller from North Carolina. (See “Websites” below for suggested sites.
  2. Have each group work to create a paper, poster, or oral presentation about the storyteller, answering the following questions:
    • What is the storyteller’s home town and current residence? (Show them on a map.)
    • What is the storyteller’s ethnic heritage?
    • How might the storyteller’s ethnic heritage have an influence on the kinds of stories he or she chose to tell?
    • What other basic facts can you find about the storyteller?
  3. Play an audio or video recording of at least one story told by each North Carolina storyteller selected.
  4. As a class, compare the dialect and language used by the tellers. This can be done by discussion or a Venn diagram.
  5. Have the students discuss information they gathered from their research that explains how the tellers developed their style.
  6. Have the students read other tales from the Appalachian region of North Carolina. Suggestions can be found on the “Appalachian Folktales in Children’s Literature and Collections for All Ages” website from Ferrum College in Virginia.
  7. Have each student tell one of the tales they have read, OR write a story of their own using the elements of folklore, storytelling, and oral tradition. You may choose to have the students tell their tales to a larger audience than your class.


  1. English Language Arts - Create a rubric that includes:
    • research skills needed to gain information from a variety of formats.
    • criteria for learning or writing an Appalachian tale.
    • criteria for sharing that with a small group.
  2. Social Studies - Grade the written reports/posters and/or oral presentations focusing on how the students included information about the tellers background and how it influenced their tales.


Jackie Torrence
  • An obituary from World Music Central tells the beginning of Jackie’s storytelling career.
  • An interview with Jackie Torrence done by the Bookhive at the Charlotte Mecklenberg Library system. Includes audio of the interview. Requires RealPlayer.
Donald Davis
Visit his official website to find biographical information and a bibliography of his work.
Sheila Kay Adams
Biographical information.
Ray Hicks
Biographical information, memories, and images can be found at the RayHicks.com website.
David Holt
Visit David Holt’s website for biographical information.


I have attended The National Storytelling Festival which is held in Jonesboro, TN each year in October. In the last few years, NC has lost 2 important storytellers (Jackie Torrence and Ray Hicks). Collecting stories from my family and experiences in life are an important part of being proud of my heritage. Learning about how to be a storyteller, by studying some of the best in the region, can further that process.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Speaking & Listening

        • Grade 4
          • 4.SL.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 4

        • 4.C.1 Understand the impact of various cultural groups on North Carolina. 4.C.1.1 Explain how the settlement of people from various cultures affected the development of regions in North Carolina (languages, foods and traditions). 4.C.1.2 Explain how the artistic...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 2: The learner will apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed.
    • Objective 2.03: Read a variety of texts, including:
      • fiction (legends, novels, folklore, science fiction).
      • nonfiction (autobiographies, informational books, diaries, journals).
      • poetry (concrete, haiku).
      • drama (skits, plays).
  • Goal 3: The learner will make connections with text through the use of oral language, written language, and media and technology.
    • Objective 3.06: Conduct research for assigned projects or self-selected projects (with assistance) from a variety of sources through the use of technological and informal tools (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people, libraries, databases, computer networks).

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 4

  • Goal 5: The learner will examine the impact of various cultural groups on North Carolina.
    • Objective 5.01: Explain different celebrated holidays, special days, and cultural traditions in North Carolina communities.