Elementary school age programs

Colorful Characters

Books To Share

  • Davy Crockett Saves the World by Roz Schanzer.
  • Jackalope by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens.
  • Lapin Plays Possum: Trickster Tales from the Louisiana Bayou by Sharon Doucet.
  • Master Man: A Tall Tale of Nigeria by Aaron Shepard.
  • Mike Fink by Steven Kellogg.
  • Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen.

Books To Show and Booktalk

  • Cut from the Same Cloth: American Women of Myth, Legend and Tall Tale by Robert D. San Souci
  • Here Comes McBroom: Three More Tall Tales by Sid Fleischman.
  • Library Lil by Steven Kellogg.
  • A Million Fish…More or Less by Patricia McKissack.
  • Puss in Cowboy Boots by Jan Huling.
  • Will Rogers: Larger than Life by Debbie Dadey.

Bulletin Board

Place a map of the United States on the bulletin board. Mark the locations where favorite tall tales take place. Use icons or other symbols such as Davy Crockett’s hat, Paul Bunyan’s ax, a postcard of a jackalope, etc.


  • Johnny Appleseed by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet.
  • "True Story" in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Puppet Show

Puppets USA: Texas by Nancy Renfro and Debbie Sullivan provides instructions for a puppet play on Pecos Bill, “Wild and Woolly and Full of Fleas.” The 30-minute program could also be presented as a Reader’s Theater with different children reading each part.


Tell the story, “Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett Meets Mike Fink, Snapping Turtle” in From Sea to Shining Sea compiled by Amy L. Cohn. There never was a woman quite like Sally!

Reader's Theater

Copy the reader's theater script for The Legend of Slappy Hooper by Aaron Shepard at his Web site at www.aaronshep.com/rt/RTE02.html. Slappy is the "bestest" sign painter around; in fact, he's so good that everything he paints comes to life. Let the children read the various parts of the script.

“Polly Ann and John Henry” in Multicultural Folktales: Readers Theater for Elementary Students by Suzanne I. Barchers.


Ballad of Davy Crockett

The lyrics and music to this “tall tale” song are available at www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/davy.htm

John Henry

(Traditional; music and additional lyrics in From Sea to Shining Sea compiled by Amy L. Cohn.)

When John Henry was a little baby boy,

You could hold him in the palm of your hand.

He gave a long and a lonesome cry,

“Gonna be a steel drivin’ man, Lord.

Lord, gonna be a steel drivin’ man.”


Tall Tale Puppets

  • Long paper bottle bags, like those used to wrap wine bottles
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
  • Felt scraps
  • Wiggle eyes
  • Rick rack, and other craft materials
  • Glue sticks

Give each child a bottle paper bag and crayons, colored pencils, or markers. Let each design a tall tale paper bag puppet. Add felt scraps, wiggle eyes, and other embellishments to create facial features and hands. Display copies of tall tale books for inspiration.

Tell-a-Tale Postcards

  • White construction paper
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Assorted stickers
  • Miscellaneous other craft supplies

Give each child a piece of white construction paper, colored pencils, stickers, and other craft items. Let each design a postcard that depicts the location where a tall tale takes place or a scene from a tall tale.

Jumping Frogs

Read “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain available online at www.bartleby.com/310/5/ or in many collections of Twain’s stories. Make origami frogs and hold your own jumping contest. Instructions are available in many origami books or online at www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/origami/frog. Show the children photographs from books or the Internet of brightly colored frogs and encourage them to make their origami frogs from colorful paper.

Games and Activities

Colorful Characters Word Search

Make copies for each child of the Colorful Characters Word Search game (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). See how many characters from tall tales they can locate.

Tall Tale Competition

Host a Tall Tale competition. Divide into teams of three to four children. Begin with an ordinary situation and start exaggerating it. For example, "I was driving to work today when I noticed an elephant walking down the freeway." From this beginning, the children spin a yarn to explain why the elephant was walking down the freeway.

After the children have refined their stories, let them practice telling them. They have to keep a straight face throughout the story! Once they have practiced, put on a tall tale contest. Ask teachers, other library staff, and local storytellers to be the judges.

Guest Speakers

Invite a storyteller to spin some fantastic stories. Many areas have local storytelling guilds or cowboy poet groups that will visit the library free or for a very reasonable fee.

Invite someone from the fire department to visit the library and read New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne. Ask the firefighter to talk about the differences and similarities between Mose Humphreys and modern firefighters. If possible, ask the firefighter to bring some of the equipment used to protect us.


Tell the story of Paul Bunyan and “The Flap Jack Frenzy,” available at www.animatedtalltales.com/en/paulb/story while children enjoy popcorn. The story involves Paul’s use of popcorn to turn his flapjacks over in the pan. Serve “tall” food, such as breadsticks, celery stalks, or licorice sticks.

Audio Recordings

  • American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne.
  • “Old Dan Tucker” on Children’s Record by Fred Koch.


  • American Legends. (58 minutes)
  • John Henry. (30 minutes)
  • Pecos Bill. (11 minutes)
  • Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales and Legends: Davy Crockett. (49 minutes)

Web Sites

American Folklore

Animated Tall Tales

Roadside America

Professional Resources

  • American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne.
  • Ten Tall Tales: Origins, Activities, and More by Phyllis J. Perry.
  • Whoppers: Tall Tales and Other Lies by Alvin Schwartz.


Texas Reading Club 2004 Programming Manual / Color Your World...Read!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011