Teaching with Tall Tales in the Upper Grades

Reading teachers cover a wide variety of  genres: realistic fiction, folktales, fairy tales, mysteries, historical fiction, etc. One genre, tall tales, may be considered by most a genre only for lower grades, but there are many wonderful reasons to use tall tales in upper grades as well! Using tall tales to teach reading in upper grades can be fun and beneficial for our students.

My Favorite Tall Tale Books

There are many wonderful tall tale picture books that are perfect for upper grades. These books contain wonderful stories with rich characters that make perfect read-alouds to model many types of reading lessons. Some of my favorite tall tales for upper grades include Swamp Angel, Thunder Rose, John Henry, Dust Devil, and Dona Flor.

Swamp Angel is a tall tale set in the Appalachian Mountains. The main character, Angelica, is larger than life, literally, and encounters many problems. This a fun read-aloud, especially using a Southern accent. Kids love the extreme exaggerations in this story. This book is also great for teaching similes.

Thunder Rose is another favorite! The hero, Thunder Rose, is a wonderful wild-west character that upper grade students will love! The main character faces many challenges in the book, and the story is full of exaggerations and wonderful figurative language. This book also makes an excellent story to chart characterization.

Dona Flor is probably my all time favorite tall tale and one of my favorite picture books. It is a must read whether you are teaching a unit on tall tales or not! So many lessons can be modeled with this fun book such as character, setting, problem/solution, personification, similes, and of course, characteristics of tall tales. The illustrations in this book are simply beautiful! My students have loved this book every year, and it is such a fun book to read aloud! I can't say enough good things about this book. Just try it!

Teaching with Tall Tales

Tall Tales, of course, are known for using hyperbole, an extreme exaggeration used for emphasis. The hyperbole is usually written to create a picture that is both impossible and funny.   Tall tales are  usually filled with other types of figurative language as well. Similes, metaphors, and personification are found in most of these tall tales that I have suggested. This makes these tall tale stories perfect for studying and reviewing figurative language.

Tall tales are also excellent for analyzing characters, studying and identifying character traits, finding and identifying problem and solution,  and discussing the importance of setting in the story. Because tall tale are about characters who lived in a specific time and place, the setting of the story is generally very important to the story. They are perfect to help your students analyze the importance of the setting. There are many reasons to include a unit on tall tales with your upper grade students. Teaching with tall tales is not only fun, but tall tales provide an opportunity to teach many important reading skills. 

Tall Tale Packet

My Tall Tales Packet is a fun companion to any tall tale book and study. This easy to use packed includes tall tale posters, graphic organizers, and writing prompts that are a great extension to your tall tale study. Use the posters to help your students understand the characteristics of tall tales while decorating your room or bulletin board. The graphic organizers will help your students think about and write about a tall tale, and the writing prompts will be a fun addition to writing stations or centers or use them as a whole group activity. Changing characters, cause and effect, making connections, analyzing the setting, and more are covered in this packet! Try it along with a tall tale or two with your class. They will love it!

Have a blessed day!

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