June 28, 2014

Tall Tales

If you have a 9 year old scout (Bear) then this post is for you.  One of the requirements is to learn about tall tales.  I am *learning to love* scouting and thought I'd start with something interesting to me to increase my motivation.  For that same reason we are doing cooking next.  After that, things get trickier.

Back to tall tales.  I decided to throw a mini-unit into our summer homeschool plans to accommodate the tall tale requirement.

First, we went to the library and checked out a gazillion tall tale books.  We read about the people I already knew about--Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill, John Henry.  We also found some tall tales about people of whom I'd never heard--Gib Morgan (our favorite find), Sally Ann Thunder Something Something Crockett (my girls loved her because she was the only female--I just wish her name was easier to remember), and Casey Jones's coal man, Sim.

My kids loved this book (notice the author is Nancy Farmer of The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm fame; if you haven't read that book, repent and do so immediately):

(warning: the devil is very freaky looking in the Sim Webb book and Harriet was greatly disturbed by him the whole time we were reading)

My kids also loved this book:

And this one:

There were many, many others my children liked as well.  Just go to the tall tale section of your library and check out everything.  They are all fun.

After we read a bunch of tall tales, I taught my children the word "hyperbole" and also threw in "character" and "plot" while I was at it.  We don't really do language arts units very often, so I had a bit of fun using LA vocabulary around the house during our two weeks of tall tales.  Since my children understood the concepts, it was no problem to teach them the vocab.  

We did some other really fun things as well.  The scout book has little paragraphs about random people in their tall tale section.  I decided that while I don't consider those people "tall tales," we might as well learn about them.

For Molly Brown we watched "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."  I tried to find a children's book about her without success.  Someone should write one.  My kids loved the movie.  I love the movie too although there is a LOT of yelling.  Holy cow people, inside voices!

For Hiawatha we listened to a short reading on youtube.  At first my children whined (no pictures??!!!), but they were hooked in less than 30 seconds.

For Barbara Freitchie (if you haven't heard of her, don't feel bad, neither had I) we listened to this reading that we all quite liked:

We read through a little about the Lost Dutchman at http://www.lostdutchmandays.org/legend.htm.  My hubby was surprised that I'd never heard about the Lost Dutchman so apparently it is common knowledge among westerners.  Can I blame my ignorance on this matter on being Canadian?

We read about King Kamehameha the Great on this website: http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/hawaii/king-kamehameha/.

Then we spent some time learning about the only Utah tall tale I could find: the Bear Lake Monster.  It's a bit of a stretch, but there is a youtube video about it. I can't find the video the kids and I liked best, but here is this one for all you Utahns out there:

After all that preparation, I thought the little scout quiz in the scout book would be easy for my kids.  Not!  Just a warning, the quiz is based on the info paragraphs in the scout book.  My kids have read about four different Johnny Appleseed books and watched the movie and they (and I) still couldn't figure out the answer for Johnny Appleseed on the quiz.  We finally halted the quiz half-way through, read the info paragraphs in the scout book, and then resumed the quiz.

If you want your kids to take the quiz, you can find it here:
http://pack45.com/pdf/Bear/BA-4.pdf.  Take it without reading anything in the scout book and tell me how you do.

Finally, we wrote our own tall tales.  None of my kids are really independent writers and this was a supplemental bonus unit, so I didn't want to take a lot of time helping kids write tall tales.  Instead I purchased a tall tale outline at teacherspayteachers.com for $1.00 and had the kids fill in the outline.  They kids enjoyed it, the activity took no time at all, and it was a good final project for our mini-unit.  You can buy one too, if you want, here: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Tall-Tale-Story-Pattern-51344.

JUST FOR FUN BONUS: while I was looking for youtube videos about Hiawatha, etc, I stumbled across Johnny Cash reading my dad's favorite poem!  When I was little and one of us would say, "That's weird," my dad would say, "But is it as strange as the night on the barge at Lake Lemarge that I cremated Sam McGee?"  He had a lot of the poem memorized and would recite it randomly.  So you can imagine my excitement at finding Johnny Cash reading the poem.  My kids liked it too.

That's it!  Congrats on wading through this ridiculously long post. Hope you are all having a fun summer!!!


  1. First of all, I would like to say how impressed I am that you are trying to learn to love, and in fact even _learning to love_, Scouts. Commendable. Second of all, I love the idea of a Tall Tales unit and am considering following suit. Third of all, I would like to say, somewhat boastfully, that I memorized the Barbara Fritchie poem AND The Cremation of Sam McGee when I was in elementary school, and I can still recite snatches of them. "Shoot if you must this old grey head, but spare our country's flag, she said." And "He turned to me, and 'cap,' says he, 'I'll cash in this trip I guess. But before I do I'm askin that you won't refuse my last request. Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no, and he says with a sort of moan, It''s this blasted cold, it's got right hold and chilled me clean through to the bone" and so forth. I quite delighted in saying "hell" in that poem, back in my wild and misspent youth. I still randomly recite bits of it too, which makes me and your dad kindred spirits, I suppose, which isn't really as surprising as it might be.
    And I make an end.

  2. P.S. those people in the scout book totally don't count as "tall tales." What are they thinking. (*disapproving frown*)