Creative Activities for Three Appalachian Folktales

"Ashpet," "Wicked John and the Devil," and "Whitebear Whittington"

by Frances Auville

In 1988-89 Frances Auville taught fourth through sixth grade at Memorial Elementary School in Bluefield, WV. Auville's activities below are 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, 1988–89. For questions or comments on this page, or to submit additional ideas or examples from your classes, contact Tina L. Hanlon.

Ashpet Wicked John Whitebear Whittington Back to Other Folktale Activities quilt square

Click on the tale titles below to find annotated references to different versions of these tales.


The first two activities are based on the ending of "Ashpet" in the version published by Richard Chase in Grandfather Tales (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948).

Creative Writing. Write a skit about the mother and two daughters in the Old Hairy Man's cave. Keep in mind their treatment of Ashpet. Or write the story in poem form.

Starter: Old Hairy Man says, "This cave needs a good cleaning."

Group Activity:  Skit. The setting is Old Hairy Man's Cave. The characters are Old Hairy Man, the mother, and two daughters. The situation is life in the cave as depicted in the skits. Students will perform skits for the class.

Group Activity: Jump Rope Chants. Four or five students per group will meet in groups and make up chants based on "Ashpet" that will be suitable for jump rope activities.  See samples written by students below.

See also Ashpet Crossword Puzzle

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Wicked John and the Devil

Creative Writing. Write a tall tale or poem about Wicked John's own hell.

Starter: Wicked John took the hot coal and set off down the road.

Group Activity:  Skit. The setting is Wicked John's own hell. The characters are John and two little devils. The situation is that the two devils are visiting John in the hell he made for himself. He is giving them the grand tour and showing items he has in hell. The items should be related to the original story.

Group Activity: Cheers.  Four to six students make up cheers related to the story and perform them for the class.

See also Wicked John and the Devil Crossword Puzzle

Whitebear Whittington

Creative Writing. Write an episode in story or poem form that tells how the spell in "Whitebear Whittington" was broken.

Starter: Whitebear Whittington was still under the witch's spell when he started up Piney Mountain.

Group Activity: Chants. Five or six students meet in groups and make up chants related to the story and perform them for the class.

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Ashpet Jump Rope Chants

By students from Memorial Elementary School, Bluefield, WV (at the end of the 1980s)

Ashpet, Ashpet,
Where do you go?
Up in the mountain
High and low.

Ashpet, Ashpet,
Where do you sleep?
Near the chimney
Where I sweep.

Ashpet, Ashpet,
What do you do?
Wash the dishes
And lose my shoe.

How many dishes
Do you wash?
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Trim you heels!
Trim your toes
Under the tub
The slipper goes!

1, 2 where are you?
3, 4 she's on the floor.

They'll try to hide her
But they will fail
Because I've heard
This 'Appy tale.

Ashpet, Ashpet
Dressed in red
Go in yonder
And make that bed.

How many beds did
She make?
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

By Jamie, Holly, and Nikki

At night I lie in bed
    and dream
Trying to think of a
    fantasy theme!
By Kerri, Ragad, and Rahaf By Angela and Kray By Brandon

See also 

Study Guides for Jack Tale Players

Teaching Four "Jack" Books, which includes chants by children

Bibliography of Appalachian Folktales

Lesson Plan for Granny Will Your Dog Bite and Other Mountain Rhymes

Standards of Learning Covered by Study of "Mutsmag" and "Ashpet" Dramatizations

Complete List of AppLit Pages on Folklore

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