Tall Tale Topics For Essays

KidZone Creative Writing
Tall Tales - Paul Bunyan

© Contributed by Leanne Guenther

Introduction:

A tall tale is a fictional story that exaggerates the truth.

Tall tales began as campfire stories told by American pioneers.  They are a fun creative writing project for children because they are full of humour and exaggeration.

Discuss a few tall tales with the kids and then let them create their own!  The worksheets I've provided feature images of Paul Bunyan, a pioneering American lumberjack who moved mountains, straightened rivers, blew out forest fires with a single sneeze and had a terrific best friend -- Babe, the blue ox.

DLTK's has a decent list of Tall Tales about Paul Bunyan if you'd like to print them off to share them with the kids (although I prefer to just share the blurb in the paragraph above and then let them have fun making up their own stories).

Elements of a Tall Tale:

  1. The hero of the story is a super-human person who is often unusually large or strong.
  2. The hero of the story believes he is a common man and uses ordinary language. He usually doesn’t realize there is anything extraordinary about his behavior.
  3. There is a problem that needs to be solved. The solution the hero comes up with is usually funny or outrageous.
  4. Details of the story are exaggerated beyond belief. There is no doubt that the story is unreal.
     

Printable Templates:

Elements of a Tall Tale:

Information about Tall Tales

 


Paul Bunyan Writing Paper:

Write a story about Paul Bunyan on a page which includes a picture of him.
 
You may wish to provide additional Lined Paper.

 


Tall Tale Writing Paper, head and feet:

Write a story about Paul Bunyan on the writing paper provided and then tape his head to the top of the page and his feet to the bottom of the page. 

 

Tape as many pieces of additional Lined Paper as needed together to make a TAAAALLLLLL tale!


(Small) Tall Tale head and feet:

Same idea as the last worksheets, but a smaller version (cut sheets of Lined Paper in half).  This is actually sort of nice because your story (and therefore Paul's body) will be longer and skinnier.


Head with blank face:

The tall tale head and the (small) tall tale head worksheets but without the features drawn in -- you can let the kids draw their own.

You can also use the same idea and just let them draw the head and feet by themselves from scratch (without the templates)!


Tall Tale - blank face 
color   or   B&W

 


(Small) Tall Tale - blank
color   or   B&W


 

American Tall Tales

Using Folk Tales for Writing Tall Tales

American tall tales are whoppers, indeed! Use Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink and other legendary heroes to write original tall tales.

Kids love a good bragging contest! The more exaggerated the exploits, the funnier the deeds, all the better! Put their love of "fish stories" to good use by reading tall tales to inspire their own wildly creatively written stories!

First, discuss the elements of tall tales with your students, namely the characteristic of unbelievable exaggeration, ususally as if it were hard fact. These stories are quite humorous, and the line between myth and tall tale is a fine one. Whereas myths often exaggerate heroic deeds of their characters, such exploits do not take over the whole of the plot. With a tall tale, however, wild exaggerations tend to become the story itself! I recommend assembling a collection of short stories and picture books based upon some of the better known heroes:
  • Paul Bunyan, legendary lumberjack of the Northwest, whose axe carved out the Grand Canyon
  • Paul's younger brother, Cordwood Pete, and their cousin, Tony Beaver, both lumberjacks as well
  • Pecos Bill, legendary cowboy who lassoed tornadoes
  • Mike Fink, legendary boatman of the Mississippi River, who wrestled alligators
Tall tale anthologies and picture books are wonderful read-alouds! As a class, count and list the number of exaggerations per story, and discuss the "wildness" of the descriptions!

Next, have students practice the "art" of exaggeration by completing the following statements:
  • Her voice was so loud that...
  • He walked so slowly that...
  • They were so rich that...
  • The football team was so confused that...
  • My cat is so smart that...
  • My mom drives so fast that...
  • My desk is so messy that...
  • My dad snores so loudly that...
Last, choose one of the completed statements and build a tall tale around it! Remind students that stories should have at least one main character, a problem and solution, and be 50 pages long! (Just exaggerating!). These tall tales lend themselves wonderfully to accompanying drawings and paintings! Display and share the work! Have fun!

Paul Bunyan, and his fellow heroes of American tall tales, would be mighty proud, indeed!

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