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Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
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Educator's Guide Glossary  
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Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
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Unit V Outline:


Lesson 1: Introduction to Traditional Oral Narratives

Lesson 2: Language and Dialect

Lesson 3: Folk and Family Heroes and Heroines

Lesson 4: Tall Tales and Urban Legends

Lesson 5: First Meeting of the Indians and the Europeans

Lesson 6: Historical Legends

Lesson 7: Personal Experience Narratives






  Unit V
Oral Traditions: Swapping Stories

Lesson 3 Folk and Family Heroes and Heroines


All that spring, Mama was talking about Tuskegee, and I was talking about Tuskegee. And there was a period of time that they weren't talking about Tuskegee too much. But I never gave up. . . . My daddy said, "Well, I'm going to put in more cotton, and I'm going to plant an extra couple acres. Whatever that yield, we're going to use that money for going to school." One day my daddy came home with a trunk. And I knew then he had faith enough to know that I was going to be able to go to college. And then the university had sent an itemized list of things that you were to bring--galoshes, umbrellas--I never had seen galoshes before! My daddy had gone and bought galoshes for me and brought them back. I was the first one in my family to go to college. When he brought the galoshes, I don't think I slept the whole week. I was so proud of my galoshes. And I studied my list and my checkoff. Whatever he get, I put it in that trunk.

--Fochia Wilson, Tangipahoa Parish

Grade Levels


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Social Studies


Purpose of Lesson

Students define and learn the difference between folk heroes, held in collective memory, and family heroes or a media celebrity. They read about and find family and folk heroes and heroines in their own lives.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

1. Students learn the qualities of folk heroes.

ELA-7-E2 Problem solving by using reasoning skills, life experiences, and available information. (1, 2, 4)

2. Students identify family and folk heroes in their own lives.

ELA-5-E3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, simple outlining, note taking, and summarizing to produce texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

H-1C-E1 Describing the people, events, and ideas that were significant to the growth and development of our state and nation. (1, 3, 4)

3. Students read literature about folk heroes and compare them with Louisiana or family heroes.

ELA-6-M1 Identifying, comparing, and responding to United States and world literature that represents the experiences and tradition of diverse ethnic groups. (1, 4, 5)

ELA-6-M2 Identifying, comparing, and responding to a variety of classic and contemporary literature from many genres (e.g., folktales, legends, myths, biography, autobiography, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, novels, drama). (1, 2, 4, 5)

ELA-5-E4 Using available technology to produce, revise, and publish a variety of works. (1, 3, 4)

ELA-1-E1 Gaining meaning from print and building vocabulary using a full range of strategies. (1, 4)

ELA-1-M5 Using purposes for reading to achieve a variety of objectives. (1, 2, 4, 5)

ELA-2-E4 Using description and exposition to develop compositions. (1, 4)

ELA-5-E4 Using available technology to produce, revise, and publish a variety of works. (1, 3, 4)

Time Required

2-5 class periods



Swapping Stories video, book, and website; paper and pencils. If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

Louisiana Folklife Articles

The African American Toast Tradition

Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana

Louisiana Folklife Bibliography

The Stories from Swapping Stories

Student Worksheets

Opinionnaire Worksheet -- Folk and Family Heroes


Evaluation tools/Opportunities


1. Opinionnaire Worksheet -- Folk and Family Heroes
2. Interview with family members


1. Summary of data from Opinionnaire Worksheet -- Folk and Family Heroes
2. Presentations of edited fieldwork


1. Final products: tapes, portfolios, scrapbooks, or presentations with edited fieldwork
2. Completed transcriptions
3. Student lists of hero qualities
4. Brainstorm lists of heroes
5. Essays or poems about folk heroes


Background Information for the Teacher

What defines a folk hero, held in collective memory, as opposed to a family hero or media celebrity? A folk hero is bigger than life, holds uncommon powers, and is the subject of various stories. A family hero may be known only to a family, but the admirable qualities of this person inspired the family. Can a media star be heroic? This lesson explores these questions.


To Prepare

Think about literary, local, and family heroes important to you. Read Ben Lilly, Strong Man of Morehouse Parish from Swapping Stories. Eighth grade teachers should read Shine and the Titanic and consider giving students an excerpt of this long toast. Although most of this toast may be inappropriate for classroom use, an excerpt might work well and illustrate a vivid hero's exploits. Elizabeth Simons has two chapters on heroes and her success using family heroes as subjects for student writing in Student Worlds, Student Words (see Unit V Resources). Read The African American Toast Tradition, by Mona Lisa Saloy.


4th and 8th Grade Activities

1. Open a discussion with students about qualities of heroes and heroines. Are heroes always in the right or always good? Are they famous because of the media (celebrity) or because everyday people tell stories about them (folk hero)? Can celebrities also be folk heroes? Are family members heroes? After some discussion, list qualities of heroes with students.

2. Have students complete the Opinionnaire Worksheet -- Folk and Family Heroes to help them examine their own attitudes, opinions, and related experiences about heroes before they interact with the characters in the tales.

3. Ask students to brainstorm lists of people they think are heroic. Discuss as a class or in groups. Categorize them: family member, local/state, national, celebrity, male/female, age, etc. Next, ask students to review their own lists and choose no more than three from their original lists who they think are truly admirable, then tell a story about why they think one of these people is heroic. Students may refine their stories into essays with peer editing, or write a poem, or compose a rap song about what makes a hero or one of their heroes using computer publishing software.

Technology Option: Students create family hero trading cards by scanning photos and writing a short biography for the card.

4. Read Ben Lilly, Strong Man of Morehouse Parish from Swapping Stories, told by James B. Rider of Bastrop, Louisiana, aloud to students, then discuss his heroic qualities. Eighth graders might read an excerpt of Shine and the Titanic, by Arthur Pfister of New Orleans. Preview the excerpt from the long toast told about an African American folk hero to see if it is appropriate for your students. A discussion about appropriate classroom language should precede this activity since toasts often feature earthy language. Research these heroes in books by Dobie or Abrahams (see Unit V Resources). Solicit student volunteers to practice before reading excerpts to the class. The roots of rap will certainly be evident and will evoke discussion of the traditional roots of rap as well as characteristics of heroes.

5. Search for family or local heroes through further discussion with class. Ask students who have written about family members to read their essays or poems to the class.

6. Assign students interviews with family members or other adults about their heroes (see Unit II).

7. With students, decide on final products and make audio podcasts, portfolios, scrapbooks, or presentations with their edited fieldwork. This is an opportunity for 8th graders to learn transcription of recorded stories. Ask them to choose an interesting part of an interview to transcribe word for word (see Transcribing in Unit II).

Technology Option. Use a software program to make an electronic slide show for the final product. Students may add audio or video files.

8. As a concluding activity and summative evaluation, have students compile the data from the individual Opinionnaire Worksheets into a class summary and report the results orally or with graphs.


4th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. Categorize the list of adults' heroes and compare results with students' lists.

2. Read literature about other folk heroes such as John Henry, by Julius Lester, and Virginia Hamilton's Her Stories (see Unit V Resources) or stories about family heroes. Compare folk and family heroes with mythic or ancient heroes.

3. Invite a community member to the classroom to talk about their heroes and heroines. Teachers, see Unit II Lesson 3 for ways to take advantage of this learning opportunity.


8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. Discuss and graph the similarities and differences between tricksters and folk heroes. Refer to the Oral Narratives Checklist.

2. Read Elvis Comes to Angie, by Mary Etta Scarborough Moody about her sighting of a media celebrity who is a folk hero to many. Her discussion of life in a poor British American community in the 1950s may surprise students. Discuss Elvis and other celebrities as heroes.


Unit V Resources

Unit V Outline


National Endowment for
            the Arts.

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