I always enjoy teaching this lesson from Nanette Musters. I introduce “Pourquoi Tales” by explaining that the word “pourquoi” means “why” in French. A Pourquoi Tale explains why something in the natural world is the way it is today. Then I read two Pourquoi Tales, one from a book and one example from a student. We discuss the similarities and the pattern of the stories.

The first part begins with “Long, long ago,” and tells the main character’s problem. The problem can be a quality/characteristic or a lack of something. Then tell what problems this quality or lack has caused.

The second part explains how the character got that quality/characteristic. Did it have an accident? Did it borrow something from another living thing?

The third part explains the character’s reaction to getting the new quality/characteristic. How did it feel? The pourquoi tale ends “And that’s how….”

If you’d like to include an art component to this writing exercise, students can create their characters out of paper plates or puppets out of brown paper lunch bags.

Myths, Legends, Fables & Folklore
Teaching with Pourquoi Tales
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale Retold by Verna Aardema
How the Ostrich Got a Long Neck: A Tale from the Akamba of Kenya by Verna Aardema

How the Wolf Got Sharp Teeth

Long, long ago the wolf had no sharp teeth. Instead he had regular human teeth. One day when wolf was walking in the snow, he came upon a porcupine. I need sharp teeth. I need quills. “May I have some of your quills?” said wolf. “Certainly,” the porcupine said. So the porcupine gave the wolf some of his quills. The wolf put the quills in his mouth. “Thank you,” said the wolf. So the wolf went home and showed his friends, and that is how the wolf got sharp teeth.

Ethan, 1st grade

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

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