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Impact II: Projects & Lesson Plans: Celebrating American Folk Heroes and Heroine
Celebrating American Folk Heroes and Heroine

HOW IT WORKS
Celebrating American Folk Heroes and Heroines is an interdisciplinary program that teaches students how folk literature reveals U.S. history, geography, and cultural values within the genre of adventurous “tall tales.” Building on superhero characters such as Spiderman and Batwoman, students are introduced to the earlier great American folk heroes/heroines, including Sally Ann ThunderAnn Whirlwind Crockett, Mike Fink, and the subject of the program’s touchstone text, Mose Humphrey, the legendary New York City firefighter whose story is told by Mary Pope Osborne in New York’s Bravest. Humphrey is of particular importance because he is the first urban folk hero in America. He represents the courage and strength of firefighters throughout history, a courage so dramatically displayed on September 11, 2001. By listening to the book and examining its lavish illustrations of New York City in the mid 1800s, students learn how the elements of exaggeration and braggadocio give shape to tall tales as well as how these stories provide us with a wealth of information about the kinds of people, places, and events that shaped our cultural history. All of the lessons are designed to promote student learning in a variety of ways that allow them to organize their thinking, develop language skills, and increase their appreciation of literature.

The study of folk literature is also an appealing way for students to explore how the Internet is an important research tool. Once they have learned about American tall tale characters and the U.S. regions that inspired them, students are ready to write their own original tales that, after they work through each step of the writing process, can be illustrated and published with the use of a computer.

THE STUDENTS
The program is designed for classes in grades two through five that meet in the library. Throughout the study, students have the opportunity to strengthen their language arts, social studies, and technology skills through whole group, independent, and cooperative learning activities. The program can easily be adapted for individual needs through the simple modification of literature and Web site selections.

THE STAFF
Doris Meyer has been teaching in P.S. 158 since 1987. She is currently the library-media specialist, and for fourteen years she taught grades three through six. She has worked with consultants from the Teachers College Writing Project and has been an annual participant in the National Arts Club Creative Writing Program for students in New York City public schools. Since becoming library-media specialist, she has conducted workshops for parents on the effective use of literature with children. She has a special passion for folklore and storytelling that she enjoys sharing with her students.

WHAT YOU NEED
The essential needs of this program involve the book New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne, folktale anthologies that include American tall tales, a visually appealing map of the U.S., and a computer with word processing software, Internet access, and a printer.

OVERALL VALUE
Celebrating American Heroes and Heroines enables students to gain a deeper appreciation of the genre of tall tales within the larger body of American folktales. It is an entertaining and fascinating way for teachers to set instruction goals related to reading and listening comprehension, critical thinking and creative writing skills, knowledge of U.S. geography and history, and computer technology. Since September 11, it is especially valuable in the way it affords insight into the spirit of American heroism.

 

View the Curriculum Unit/Dissemination Packet

CURRICULUM AREAS
Language Arts
Social Studies
Technology

GRADES
2-5

MORE INFORMATION

Doris Meyer
P.S. 158
1458 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021
dorismeyer@aol.com

Principal
Suzanne Lewin

IMPACT II 
Catalog 2003-2004

 

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