Unit Lesson Plan

Mountain Humor: Folklore

Prepared by Judy A. Teaford
Mountain State University, Beckley, WV

in consultation with
Tina L. Hanlon
Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA

A Version of this Unit Plan was Presented at the Appalachian Teacher’s Network
September 24, 1999, Radford, Virginia



The following materials and exercises for teachers and students have been designed for implementation at the junior high level. However, most of the materials and exercises can be used or adapted for lower and higher levels of instruction.

This unit plan consists of teacher plans and student handouts for 4 lessons. The lessons (1) emphasize Appalachian humor, using examples of jokes and cartoons, and relating this humor to folktales of the region; (2) focus on the characteristics of folktales and Appalachian values; and (3) examine selected folktales (in the following forms: oral and written, picture book, and film). The goal of this unit is to facilitate an understanding of and pride in Appalachians’ unique heritage.

Lesson 1: Hillbilly or Appalachian: Is There a Difference? is a survey of students' knowledge of Appalachia and Appalachians. It includes discussion of Appalachian humor using jokes and cartoons.

Lesson 2: Tell Me a Folktale examines folktale characteristics, Appalachian values, and the use of humor. This lesson uses variants of the same folktale.

Lesson 3: What’s in a Picture Book? examines picture book adaptations of Appalachian folktales, analyzing the characteristics of the Appalachian folktale, Appalachian values, and the use of humor. A brief introduction explaining the connection between text and illustrations is provided.

Lesson 4: What About Films? examines Jack and the Dentist's Daughter, one of Tom Davenport’s Appalachian folktale films, analyzing folktale characteristics, Appalachian values, and the use of humor.

Additional Activities provides a selection of student activities and projects for independent or group work.


Where is Appalachia? What is an Appalachian? Ask these questions to many people who live outside the region and you will discover that they either do not know or have based their definition on cartoons, films, television shows, and media coverage that rarely reflect the full picture, or even an accurate picture of the region and its people. And, surprisingly, many youth who live within the region and are a part of the culture are often unaware of the fact that they are Appalachians. They, like outsiders, are also unable to identify the Appalachian region. (Note: Defining the region is also problematic for scholars of Appalachia. Should Appalachia include all of the states outlined in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s definition, emphasizing geographical boundaries? Should it include only the Southern Appalachian states, focusing on cultural similarities? There is no consensus among scholars, each defining the term based upon their own needs. For the purpose of this unit, the definition used by many literary scholars, that of the Southern Appalachian Region, will be utilized. Definitions are included as part of the materials and exercises that make up this unit.)

Written for Appalachian youth, this unit will aid students in identifying themselves as part of the Appalachian Region. (As a matter of introduction, students will also be made aware of the problems inherent in defining the region.) More importantly, Appalachian students will be afforded the opportunity to learn about and take pride in their unique heritage.

Historically, Appalachians have been misunderstood, stereotyped, and occasionally even dismissed as illiterate, backward people who are incapable of contributing to society. The positive qualities of Appalachians continue to be ignored. Instead, the focus for many outsiders is their perceived notion of the "hillbilly." Using this unit with students who live outside of the Appalachian Region will cultivate a positive understanding of Appalachia and Appalachians.

This page created:  11/08/2001
Links checked in this teaching unit: 7/13/05
Last update: 7/13/05

Complete list of AppLit pages on Folklore