for Teaching Appalachian Folktales and Dramatizations by the Jack
by Tina L. Hanlon,
Ph.D. and R. Rex Stephenson,
Drama, Discussion and Writing Activities
Dramatization in the Classroom
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Tale Players Study Guides
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also Teacher’s Study Guide for the Jack Tale Players and "Two Lost Babes”
Activities for Three Folktales ("Ashpet," "Wicked
John and the Devil," "Whitebear Whittington")
Four "Jack" Books
Write Jack Tales
Activities in Unit
Lesson Plan on Mountain Humor in Folktales and Other Media
The Jack Tale Players Web Site
Guide for "Ferradiddledumday" and Other "Rumpelstiltskin"
West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature,
a teaching unit in AppLit
John and the Devil Crossword Puzzle
of Fantasy: Game on Language in The Jack Tales
Activities for Three Appalachian Folktales, including
Ashpet jump rope chants
on Appalachian Language in Jack and the Three
Appalachian Music and Literature contains introductions
for children to folk instruments with pictures and audio files, activities
with audio on singing ballads and dance tunes, online quizzes (one
labeled a play-party game) on the state of WV and Appalachian folklore,
and discussion questions following reading and writing activities.
The Teacher's Guide has a list of Additional
- Have children draw
pictures of characters or scenes from one folktale after seeing
a performance. Then discuss any of the following issues:
the children explain why they chose the details in their picture.
the different choices of scenes or characters by different children.
the different ways that children depicted the same scene or
scene(s) were the most popular when the children decided what
to draw? Why?
Have children draw
pictures of characters or scenes based on their memories of
different versions of one folktale they have seen or heard. How
are the visual images in their drawings from the stories different? See
also ART in Teaching
Four "Jack" Books.
Compare the illustrations
in different picture
books or folktale collections,
or compare the visual effects in a dramatization
or film with a picture book version of the same tale. Have
students pick a picture book they like and illustrate another
scene or folktale in the same style. AppLit's Annotated Index
of Tales by Title can help you find different versions of
the same tale from Appalachia and other regions.
- Mutsmag is AppLit's online picture book adaptation by R. Rex
Stephenson, with illustrations drawn in 2000 by children in grades
K-3, Franklin County, VA, after they saw the Jack Tales Players'
dramatization of the tale. The children's drawings are cropped
and some animation is used; compare this format to reading other
folktale picture books, or to your students' drawings. Some of
the original drawings by the children are being placed on various
AppLit folktale pages and there are some observations about the
children's drawings on the Introduction to Mutsmag page
and in AppLit's Picture Gallery.
- If you are studying
artistic styles or techniques in enough depth, extend activity
3 by comparing the styles of particular folktale illustrations
with other artistic trends. Which artists use cartoonlike styles?
Which ones use realistic styles? How do they emphasize the realistic
or comical or magical elements of the tales? For example,
Owen Smith's illustrations in The Jack Tales by Ray Hicks
and Brad Sneed's illustrations in Smoky Mountain Rose by Alan Schroeder are reminiscent of the style of American painter
Thomas Hart Benton. Kenn Compton says he was influenced by cartoon
characters, including Dudley Do-Right, in his illustrations. (Watch
for Judy Teaford's analysis of picture book illustrations and
fine art styles in future AppLit pages.)
If your students
hear Jack tales before seeing illustrated or dramatized versions,
have them draw their own pictures of Jack and discuss the differences
in their images. Do they picture Jack differently depending
on which tales they hear?
If you have a collection
tale books, or you can copy images from a variety of books,
have students discuss or write a comparison of the different
images of Jack by various artists. Which one(s) fit their own
idea of Jack best? Why? Activities 7 and 8 could also be done
Henry (although he isn't the hero of so many different tales),
or Ashpet and Cinderella characters from different places, or Mutsmag/Muncimeg
and Molly characters, or antagonists such as the giant or witch
in many tales.
background and ideas on illustration, see Appalachian Picture
Book in AppLit's Short
Teaching Tips; What's
in a Picture Book? in Unit
Lesson Plan on Mountain Humor in Folktales and Other Media; and Assignments
and Study Guide on Contemporary American Picture Books.
AppLit's Picture Gallery
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Other Dramatic, Discussion,
and Writing Activities
After Watching a Dramatization or Reading or Listening to Folktales
discussion questions at Jack Tale
Players Study Guides.
a modern version of the folktale that could happen in your county.
- Try acting out
a version of the folktale. (See below for more detailed
suggestions for classroom dramatizations.)
- Place the names
of characters, or simple drawings or photographs of characters
on the board. For example: Ashpet,
Stepsisters, Stepmother, Mrs. Sigmon/magic godmother character,
Prince. Give individual students or groups colored chalk or
marking pens and ask students to write descriptive adjectives
about each character on or under the picture or name. After
everyone has had a chance to write at least one adjective, stop
and discuss the characters. Have students add more descriptive
adjectives or characteristics after asking questions such as
do you like or dislike this character?
- How do his or
her actions affect other characters?
- Is he or she
a good person? Would you like him or her to spend the
night with you and your family? What would you talk about?
Either after activity
4, or as a separate activity, have each group of students
construct a new scene in which characters in the story interact. For
example, what would Mutsmag's sisters do after they leave
Mutsmag to fend for herself? What if they encountered a giant
or a witch without Mutsmag there to help them? See also Creative
Activities for Three Appalachian Folktales.
Add new characters
to the tale and construct a new scene. For example, add
some other people that Jack might trade with in "Jack
and his Lump of Silver," or other animal characters
and the Robbers," or new characters with extraordinary
powers in "Hardy
Hard Head." Divide
the students into groups of three and have them take turns
pretending to be Mutsmag or Ashpet and her sisters. Or create groups of six with
children taking the roles of Mutsmag, her two sisters, and
the giant's three daughters. Improvise a conversation they
might have while eating dinner together, or doing chores,
or talking to the prince.
the children explain how they would cast the folktale using
characters from their favorite cartoons.
a "sequel" or "prequel," a scene that
takes place before the folktale begins or after the ending
of the folktale. For example, create a scene between
Wicked John and the neighborhood kids who bother him before
he meets St. Peter. Or improvise one of Mutsmag's adventures
after she goes off with her reward of gold. See also Creative
Activities for Three Appalachian Folktales.
a debate about how and why people like to be scared by stories.
How do some tales, such as "Jack
and the Hainted House," scare us? How much disagreement
is there among students about what frightens them? How does
humor relieve or undercut the horror in some tales, such as
and the Robbers"? How does the performance create
differences between scaring the characters and scaring the
audience? For more examples and teaching ideas, see Ghosts in West Virginia's
Appalachian Music and Literature. This topic can lead
to further comparison of how book illustrations, performance
methods, animation, or live-action films create frightening
activity 11 by debating how and why people have different
responses to humor in folktales (and other stories in different
media). How is humor different in tales with foolish or "noodlehead"
main characters, such as "Foolish
Jack," and in tales with more clever or heroic main
characters, such as Mutsmag or Jack in other tales? Does humor
prevent some tales, such as "Wicked
John and the Devil," from becoming too scary or sacrilegious?
For more examples and ideas, see Humor in the West Virginia's
Appalachian Music and Literature.
Advanced Discussion and Writing Topics
Read or retell a
version of "Mutsmag" or "Ashpet," or watch
Tom Davenport's film Mutzmag or Ashpet. How
does watching a film or reading a story, or hearing the tale
being read, compare with watching the story theatre dramatization
by the Jack Tale Players? (See pages on "Mutsmag"
and "Ashpet"; Davenport
Script as Story Theatre.)
Have each student,
or group of students, select one folktale and read, view or
listen to several variants of the same tale. Each student
or group can then report to the class orally, or construct
an outline, poster, or report on what they learned from their
research. This activity could be helpful for introducing,
or reinforcing, different types of folktales; examining universal
features of folktales and culturally specific details; comparing
Appalachian tales with parallel tales from other cultures;
and practicing close analysis of themes and motifs. AppLit's Annotated Index
of Folktales lists many variants of individual Appalachian
to Online Texts leads to many tales on the Internet from
other traditions. David Russell's Literature for Children:
A Short Introduction has a good overview of types and
features of folk literature.
Do they agree
that Mutsmag and Ashpet are more clever and independent than their predecessors in
older tales such as "Molly Whuppie" and "Cinderella"?
the students know other stories (including modern films or
cartoons) with heroic female characters comparable to these,
or with tricks like those depicted in "Mutsmag"
Three Old Women's Bet"?
would you compare the encounters with giants in "Mutsmag"
and the Bean Tree," or other tales with giants?
do the women in "The Three Old Women's Bet" use
their husbands' quirks and weaknesses to play tricks on them?
How does this tale compare with other stories of "war
between the sexes"?
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For more ideas on
paper topics involving folktales and adaptations, see Comparing Folktales (a comparison/contrast
paper) and Fairy Tale Resources and Assignments (a
short research paper assignment for Tina Hanlon's English 102
- For additional ideas
on studying folktales and their influence in other literature,
see World Folktales and Literature (Tina Hanlon's
sophomore-level college literature course).
are a variety of ways that a performance of the Jack Tales can serve
as a springboard for dramatic activities in the classroom. You may
start with a warm up. This time is used to allow the children to make
the transition from classroom activity to dramatic play.
Up: First, have students move their desks so that there
will be a large free space. This can be done quickly. Tell the children:
"You are Jack and your desk is a valuable chest of gold. With
a partner, hide the treasures on the outskirts of the roomquietly,
so that no one will know you've hidden it."
children return to the center of the room and ask them to choose roles
as animals. Suggest some, such as:
Dog - cat
- cow - duck
Frog - chicken - fox
important at the beginning of the session that all participate as
a group. If students are enjoying this, you may want to have them
join in pairs to create other animals, such as:
- donkey - camel
Pig - horse - sheep
the children to show their animals to each other. You may also want
to create an animal parade or a zoo. If the children are enjoying
being animals, you may want them to react to details about the environment,
Dramatization: When the warm-up session is over, return the children to the center
of the room and have them sit on the floor. Pick one of the stories
to dramatize. Since the warm-up session was about animals, you may want
to work on "Jack
and the Robbers." Ask the children to retell the story to you. Be
sure that each incident is retold. You may want to question the
group to get the correct sequence or to insure that they understand
the motivation of the characters.
"It is dark."
"It is raining."
do you think Jack left home?"
"What is the first animal he met?"
"If you were the rooster, would you go with Jack? Why?"
"Why did Jack go back home?"
like these until the story is in the detail you think suitable for
your grade level. You may want to have them act out various scenes
as they retell them.
me how you think the dog would walk."
"Show me what would happen when a robber entered the house."
also ask them to make the sounds of the various animals in the story,
or to dramatize a short scene like the one between Jack and his father.
are satisfied that the children know the story and are anxious to
dramatize it, divide them into groups of five or six and ask each
group to play through the story. You may want to act as the storyteller
or let children volunteer for this important role.
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Some of these activities
are based on ideas in Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond by Nellie McCaslin. (7th ed. New York: Longman, 2000). See this book
for many other ideas for using dramatization in the classroom.
Some of these activities
were previously printed in "Teachers' Guide for Use in Conjunction
with the Performance of Jack Tales," by R. Rex Stephenson (Hurt, VA: Artistic Printing,
Others are reprinted and
adapted with permission from Journey Through Fantasy Literature:
A Resource Guide for Teachers. Vol. I. Ed. Roberta
T. Herrin. Developed during a Teachers Institute sponsored by East
Tennessee State University and the National Endowment for the Humanities,
Lowell Swortzell, Cinderella: The World’s Favorite Fairy Tale (Charlottesville, VA:
New Plays Inc., 1992) contains an excellent introduction to fairy
tales and theatre, and a Multicultural Study Guide by Nancy Swortzell
with exercises involving drama and cultural traditions. The script
combines Cinderella tales from France, China, Russia, and the Micmac
tribe of North America.
Types of folk literature
are explained in "Chapter 8, Folk Literature," Literature
for Children: A Short Introduction by David Russell (4th ed.
New York: Longman, 2001), pp. 148-73 (includes a bibliography). See also Judith V. Lechner's textbook on different types of folk
literature, Allyn & Bacon Anthology of Traditional
Literature. New York: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2004.
Women in Appalachian Folktale Dramatizations by R. Rex Stephenson is an essay by Tina L. Hanlon.
Guide for "Ferradiddledumday" by Becky Mushko gives
responses of third and fifth graders to an Appalachian adaptation
of "Rumpelstiltskin," and teaching ideas related to Virginia
Appalachian Music and Literature is a teaching unit for third
through fifth grade, formerly in the West Virginia World School web
site and now reprinted in AppLit. It contains three lists of resources
on Appalachia, folklore, music and literature.
of Appalachian Folktales in Children's Literature includes pages
of Student Writing and Illustration in AppLit links to samples
of student work at all levels through M. A.
List of AppLit Pages on Folklore
Timeline of Appalachian Folktales