Imagining Your Hero
DAY 2 ACTIVITY
Investigate what makes a story into a tall tale
Explore the story of John Henry
Create a “Trading Card Plan”
Paper or notebook
Pencil, pen, or other writing tool
We’re thinking about
"How can we celebrate our everyday heroes?”
Your challenge this week is to create a “Tall-Tale Trading Card” that describes the special traits and talents of your personal hero.
Let's Get Started!
While tall tales could be outrageous and funny, they also served an important purpose.
Characters showed qualities like strength, courage, and cleverness, all of which were important in rugged landscapes and dangerous times in US history.
These stories provided examples of people coping with hardships and overcoming challenges.
Some historians say they also helped to create a shared history for a new nation.
Tall tales did include things that were unreal, but some tall tales were based on real people who did amazing things.
Real Name: Martha Jane Canary
Martha Jane Canary worked as a Pony Express rider, carrying mail by horseback over 50 miles of rough terrain and across rivers. She was known for being tough and fearless, as well as good at horse racing.
Calamity Jane was so good at roping cattle that she could knock a fly off a cow's ear with a 16-foot whiplash.
Real Name: John Chapman
John Chapman was a religious man and a businessman who planted nurseries of apple trees on the western frontier. He was known for his wilderness skills and his love of sleeping outdoors.
Johnny Appleseed walked across the wilderness of the United States, wearing no shoes, a burlap sack, and a tin pot hat, scattering apple seeds in the wind.
Real Name: David Crockett
David Crockett was a politician and soldier who died at the famous Battle of the Alamo in Texas. He was known as a very skilled frontiersman and hunter.
Davy Crockett killed a bear when he was three years old.
Let’s dig deeper into a tall tale based on a real person named John Henry.
He helped to build the railroads in the mid-1800s.
To build the railroads, people needed to dig tunnels and create paths through mountains.
This picture shows a statue of John Henry.
How would you describe how John is represented in the statue?
Why do you think someone like John would be a hero to railroad workers?
John Henry worked on the railroads as a steel driver. To dig tunnels, steel drivers like John would swing their hammers as hard as they could to pound a drill into rock. Then, those holes would be filled with dynamite and the rock would be blasted away.
The companies that built the railroads needed steel drivers to work hard and fast. These companies were racing each other to build railroad systems across the United States. Thousands of people worked on building the railroads. It was very hard and dangerous work, and workers did not get paid very much for doing it.
This video tells the story of John Henry’s race against a machine called a steam drill.
In 1870, railroad workers began to dig the Great Bend Tunnel in the area now known as West Virginia. While digging the tunnel, John Henry competed against the steam drill. Who do you think was faster?
As you watch…
Find details in the text and illustrations that capture John
Henry’s struggle against the machine that would replace him.
How are the themes of bravery and death central to his story?
In what ways was he heroic?
Watch the short clip and see if it confirms or changes your thinking.
Your challenge this week: Create a “Tall-Tale Trading Card” that describes the special talents and traits of a real-life hero. Today, you will choose one of your everyday heroes and make a “Trading Card Plan.”
Now it’s time to create your “Trading Card Plan." Make sure to include:
Trait or Talent:
Known for: (Hint: This is your exaggeration!)
Write it out on a piece of paper or use the “Trading Card Plan" handout.
Remember to save your “Trading Card Plan” so you can use it when you make your “Tall-Tale Trading Card.”