Standard Lesson

Thundering Tall Tales: Using Read-Aloud as a Springboard to Writing

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three to four sessions
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This lesson, intended for the end of a unit on tall tales, uses the book Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen to reinforce the common elements, or text structure, of tall tales. As the text is read aloud, students examine the elements of the book that are characteristic of tall tales. Then using what they've learned over the course of the unit and lesson, they write tall tales of their own.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Reading aloud to students should not be excluded from a repertoire of teaching strategies once students reach the intermediate grades.

  • Reading aloud to intermediate students increases comprehension, as the teacher and students form a partnership with the common goal of understanding the text.

  • This article and lesson plan remind teachers that reading aloud is not only an enjoyable experience for intermediate students, but also integral for continuing to model what good readers do as they work through texts to ensure comprehension.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen (Harcourt Books, 2003)

  • Large sheet of butcher paper for T-chart graphic organizer



1. Before starting the lesson, gather the necessary materials:

2. Bookmark the ReadWriteThink interactive Timeline Tool and Story Map on your classroom or school computers for pairs of students to use before writing their tall tales.

3. Using butcher paper and a marker, make a large copy of the T-chart graphic organizer. (This chart will be used for modeling and to record the characteristics of tall tales.)

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Engage in a read-aloud by listening to the book Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen and participating in class discussions about the book

  • Conduct a genre study by examining the common elements or characteristics of tall tales

  • Recognize a tall tale by comparing the story elements of Thunder Rose to the common elements or characteristics of tall tales

  • Apply the writing process (i.e., brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, and publish) to produce their own tall tales with partners

Instruction and Activities

This lesson is intended to be used at the end of a unit on tall tales. Students should be able to use the knowledge and understanding that they have gained throughout the unit in evaluating the text Thunder Rose and creating their own tall tales.

Before reading: What is a tall tale?

1. In a whole-group setting, show students the cover of Thunder Rose and tell them that you think this is a tall tale, but you're not sure.

2. Ask them to recall how they know whether a story is considered a tall tale, and record their responses on chart paper. A sample Tall Tales Checklist is available, or you can create your own checklist based on your teaching points throughout the unit or in previous lessons.

3. As part of the brainstorming, ask students to connect each of their responses to other tall tales that they have read in the past and to recall specific examples from those stories that relate to each story element.

4. Continue by saying, "This would make a great checklist so that we can check off what elements, if any, are present in Thunder Rose. Let's make a T-chart with the elements of tall tales on one side. If we find specific examples of those elements in Thunder Rose, we can record them on the other side." Use the large sheet of butcher paper to create and model the use of a T-chart.

5. Show students the cover of Thunder Rose again, and ask them to make predictions about the text as they preview the cover and illustrations. (Use previewing or picture walk as an opportunity to also discuss words or terms that might be new for students.)

During reading: Recognizing a tall tale
[Note: The read-aloud of this book may need to occur over two or three sessions.]

1. Read the first six pages of Thunder Rose aloud. Stop and ask students to recap what has happened in the story so far. Ask them also if the story exhibits any of the elements of tall tales listed on the T-chart. Record specific examples from the story in the right column of the T-chart across from the related elements. In addition, to ensure student engagement throughout the read-aloud, distribute a copy of the Tall Tales T-Chart to each student so that they can simultaneously record class responses on their own copies of the chart.

2. Read the next eight pages aloud, and then ask students to recap what happened during Rose's childhood. During the read-aloud and class discussion, check for students' understanding of vocabulary in the story. [While the main focus of this lesson is to synthesize students' knowledge of tall tale elements, difficulty with vocabulary may inhibit students' understanding of the text. Conducting a vocabulary minilesson may facilitate comprehension and would be a good opportunity for refining thesaurus and dictionary skills.]

3. Refer back to the chart and ask students for further evidence from the text that Thunder Rose is a tall tale. Record their responses on the class T-chart.

4. Continue reading the text, stopping every so often to check for understanding of the story and vocabulary, and to gather and record evidence that supports Thunder Rose being a tall tale.

After reading: To be or not to be a tall tale

1. Conclude the read-aloud by having the class decide, based on the evidence that has been recorded on the T-chart, whether or not Thunder Rose is a tall tale.

2. Review the elements of a tall tale and relate each one back to the story of Thunder Rose.

3. If students need additional support or practice in identifying tall tale elements, you may allow them time to read other tall tales and use the T-chart to record other examples (see the Tall Tales Booklist for additional titles).

4. Explain to students that they are going to work in pairs to create original tall tales.

5. Distribute the writing rubric that you have prepared for this lesson (see sample Writing Rubric) and model for students how to use the rubric as you write a rough draft of your own tall tale. Make certain to point out how you are integrating the elements of a tall tale into your own story, using the rubric as a guide.

6. Place students in groups of two to begin brainstorming and working on their tall tales. They can use the interactive Timeline Tool (selecting "event" as the unit of measure) or the Story Map as prewriting exercises.

7. Students will use the writing process to complete their tall tales. [If students are not familiar with the writing process, a minilesson on the writing process would be appropriate at this point in the lesson.]

8. To bring the lesson or unit to a close, designate time for students to share their original tall tales. Doing so brings the lesson or unit full circle as students will have gone through the complete cycle of "consume-critique-produce." Sharing one's writing is also an important part of the writing process.

9. If time and circumstances permit, it would be great to share the tall tales with another class, create a book of the tall tales to share with parents or put them on display in the library so that the rest of the school can enjoy the students' work.


  • Have students further explore the elements of tall tales using the ArtsEdge lesson plan Exploring American Tall Tales.

  • Have students dramatize their tall tales for the class. The ArtsEdge lesson plan Tall Tales Today provides some additional lesson ideas and guidelines for a successful dramatic presentation.

  • You can use tall tales to increase reading comprehension by having students examine the sequence of the story, as demonstrated in the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Sequencing: A Strategy to Succeed at Reading Comprehension. In this lesson, the Paul Bunyan tale is used.

  • Have students create flyers or brochures for a show or event that features Rose, the main character in Thunder Rose. Students may choose to design their flyers or brochures using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.

  • Create a Thunder Rose section for the word wall, and record and examine vocabulary from the story.

Student Assessment / Reflections


  • Anecdotal notes based on teacher observation of students' participation in class discussions and during the writing process

  • If writing workshop is a regular component of your literacy program, then any notes recorded during writing conferences would also serve as assessment

  • Teacher "comments" within the writing rubric to assess final drafts of the original tall tales (see sample Writing Rubric); point values can be assigned to the rubric depending on your expectations and grading scale

  • Student self-evaluation of their original tall tales by "evidence" cited on the writing rubric