Together When Apart: Week 3 Extension Activities for Middle School Learners


During this week’s inquiry, students examined how people created tall tales to celebrate their heroes. You can always dig deeper into this topic, challenging students to ask questions and make inferences. Try the extensions below!


Source: Select from the resources below to have students read tall tales online.

Task: Ask students: Does the character in the tall tale…

  • Have a heroic trait or talent?

  • Do impossible things?

  • Seem exaggerated and larger than life?

  • Rise to a challenge?

  • Reflect the time and place?


Source: Articles about real American Folk heroes


Task: Ask students:

  • Who was this person in real life?

  • What made them special?

  • Why do you think people told stories and tall tales about this person?

  • What differences did you notice between the real life story of this person and their tall tale or exaggerated stories?

Source: The Story of John Henry has inspired many musicians and a well-known song. Share these resources with students so they can listen.

Task: Challenge students to develop a creative response to the music.

  • Suggestion: Create a dance or drum a beat to the rhythm of the railroad.

  • Suggestion: Create a drawing to represent the sounds of the railroad and the beat of the song


Source: Share these resources for students to discover more information about the story of John Henry.


Task: Challenge students to use the source you assign as inspiration for writing their own tall tale about John Henry.

Source: Select images from the tall-tale postcard collection on the “Smithsonian American Art Museum” website.


Task: Challenge students to analyze the images to identify the impossible elements.

  • Note: The hunting photos show dead animals.

Task: Challenge students to make their own tall-tale postcard by drawing or collaging an unbelievable adventure

Source: Prompt students to select work from the weekly inquiry that can benefit from peer feedback.


Task: Hold a virtual class critique of work using Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another video conferencing program.

Source: Excerpts about Paul Bunyan’s logging crew from Paul Bunyan, American Hercules and Wisconsin Tall Tales of the Prince of American Lumberjacks.75-foot

  • “Jim Liverpool was a great jumper. Planting his feet on the bank of a river he could jump across it in three jumps.”

  • “Big Joe Mufraw (Mufferon) the boss cook was a very talented man. With his caulked boots he could kick his initials into a ceiling eight feet high with one foot and wipe them out as fast as he kicked them in with the other.”

  • “Chris Crosshaul, the foreman, had such sharp sight that he could see to the tops of the tallest pines in several looks.”

  • “Curley Charley had a double set of teeth with which he could saw through anything.”

  • “Shot Gunderson was the best log spinner in the camp. Taking a 75 foot log he could spin it so fast with his feet that the log slid out of the bark and he walked ashore on the bubbles.”

  • “Bunyan was assisted in his lumbering by his huge ox, Babe, of whom he was very fond. Babe had the strength of ninety horses and weighed ten thousand pounds.”

  • “Big Ole was the blacksmith at the Big Onion camp. He was a very powerful man and when he struck his anvil the ring of the metal could be heard in the next county.


Task: Challenge students to identify the exaggerations in the excerpts.


Task: Challenge students to design a set of trading cards for Paul Bunyan and his crew.





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