The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 4

Notes and Lesson Plans

Tall Tales & U.S. Geography
updated June 17, 2019


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Tall Tales & U.S. Geography
for Class 4


This year I taught a combined third/fourth grade class in my Waldorf homeschool co-op.

We did the traditional fourth grade Local History & Geography block in September 2018 and did this block the following March.

U.S. Geography is typically done in fifth grade, but I chose to combine it with the Tall Tales topic in Language Arts because it seemed so natural to consider the folklore in relationship to the regions of this country. I would still go more in-depth into U.S. Geography next school year as well.

With all its talk of oil, coal, gold, etc. this served as the perfect transition into our Currency block!

As far as I know I'm the only person combining these things in this way, so please do not interpret from my notes that this is the "correct" way to do it in Waldorf.

Note 1: You should always feel free to thoughtfully substitute my suggestions of stories and activity ideas with what you have and what works for you.

Note 2: Please be aware that these lesson notes are descriptive and not prescriptive; at all times Waldorf education emphasizes responding to the needs of the unique individual child who is in front of you.

Note 3: There is not and never will be a prescriptive Waldorf curriculum which you can purchase in binder form and turn to page 1 and begin. The relationship between the curriculum and the teacher and the individual child is a precious one. Why? Because of anthroposophy, the philosophy about human development which undergirds the Steiner/Waldorf method.

The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy
by Rudolf Steiner




Books to Buy

I vastly prefer Olive Beaupre Miller's Heroes, Outlaws & Funny Fellows of American Popular Tales from 1939 over all other collections of tall tales. The writing is exquisite and the collection far-ranging. She also tells which state each legend is from in the table of contents, which is helpful!


This collection contains 25 stories, enough to easily fill two Waldorf 4th grade main lesson blocks. They are as follows:

    Captain Kidd and His Buried Treasure
    A Story of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and New England

    Lord Timothy Dexter, First Lord of "Amercay"
    A Story of Newburyport, Massachusetts

    Old Stormalong
    A Yarn of the Yankee Sailors on the Maine to Massachusetts Coast

    When Witches Rode Broomsticks
    A Legend of New England

    Dutch Adventures in Old New York
    Yarns and Legends of the Dutch Retold after Washington Irving

    Christmas in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
    A Story Told by Czech and German Settlers from Moravia

    Old Johnny Appleseed
    A Tale of Ohio and Indiana

    Mike Fink and the Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock
    A Story Told by Boatmen of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers

    A Twelfth Night Prank in Cahokia
    A Folk Tale of the French in Illinois and Missouri

    The Pirate La Fitte and His Ghost
    A Popular Tale of Louisiana and Texas

    The Bell Witch
    A Folk Tale of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi

    John Henry's Contest with the Big Steam Drill
    A Story of West Virginia Told from Ballads of the Railroad Builders

    The Crazy Doings of a Funny Fellow Among the Pennsylvania Germans
    Told from Articles Written in Pennsylvania German by T.H. Harter

    Heroes of the Coal Mines
    Told from Tales and Songs of the Anthracite Miners of Pennsylvania

    John Buck, the Big Norwegian Sailor
    A Story of the Green Bay Islands off Wisconsin and Michigan

    Big Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox, Babe
    A Tall Tale of the Forests of Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as told by Loggers in the Lumber Camps

    The Cardiff Giant
    A Favorite Story Told by Old Timers in Iowa

    The Sad Story of Febold Feboldson and His Enormous Load of Sand
    A Popular Tale of Nebraska

    The Traveling Courthouse
    A Yarn of the Kansas County Seat Wars

    Kemp Morgan, the Hero of the Oil Fields
    A Tale Told by the Oil Drillers of Oklahoma and Texas

    Pecos Bill, the Cowboy
    A Tall Tale of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado as Told by American Cowboys

    Don Jose's Sheep
    A Folk Tale from the Spanish of the Mexicans in New Mexico

    Finn MacCool, the Greatest of Civil Engineers
    A Tale of the Grand Canyon of Arizona as Told by Irish Work Gangs and Civil Engineers

    Joaquin, the Robber
    A Story of the California Gold Rush

    Paul Bunyan Goes West
    A Tall Tale of North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington


We also used a few Montessori and traditional materials to kick up the U.S. Geography component a bit. Here were the tall tales we did and how we explored them.

Day #1 - U.S. Geography: Regions
we had a variety of resources available, depending on student prior knowledge


Day #2 - U.S. Geography: States
we had a variety of resources available, depending on student prior knowledge


Day #3 - U.S. Geography: State Capitals
we had a variety of resources available, depending on student prior knowledge


Northeast Region (New England and the Mid-Atlantic)
13 states (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV, VA)

    States & Capitals List
    Maine - Augusta
    New Hampshire - Concord
    Vermont - Montpelier
    Massachusetts - Boston
    Rhode Island - Providence
    Connecticut - Hartford
    New York - Albany
    New Jersey - Trenton
    Pennsylvania - Harrisburg
    Delaware - Dover
    Maryland - Annapolis
    West Virginia - Charleston
    Virginia - Richmond


    Day #4 - "Captain Kidd and His Buried Treasure"

    give each student pages 15-16 of States and Capitals, take notes on the states and capitals of Hawaii and Alaska (for which I have no tall tales) as well as the Northeast Region

    #50, #49, #48, #47, #46, #45, #44, #43, #42, #41, #40, #39, #38, #33, #32

    The Ballad of Captain Kidd (Carl Peterson)


    Day #5 - "John Henry's Contest with the Big Steam Drill"


    John Henry

    retold by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

    John Henry Song (Tennessee Ernie Ford)

    John Henry Song (Harry Belafonte)

    Music for Little People 101 Toddler Favorites CD #1
    "I've Been Working on the Railroad" folksong - track #20

    This is the Way We Wash-a-Day CD
    "Pat on the Railway" folksong - track #9
    "Manamolela" folksong - track #10

    Manamolela - Work Song
    record by The Song Swappers and Pete Seeger, avail at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings


    Day #6 - "Heroes of the Coal Mines"


Southeast Region (Southeast and the Mississippi & Ohio Valleys)
15 states (NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MI, LA, AR, TN, KY, OH, IN, MI, WI, IL)

    States & Capitals List
    North Carolina - Raleigh
    South Carolina - Columbia
    Georgia - Atlanta
    Florida - Tallahassee
    Alabama - Montgomery
    Mississippi - Jackson
    Louisiana - Baton Rouge
    Arkansas - Little Rock
    Tennessee - Nashville
    Kentucky - Frankfort
    Ohio - Columbus
    Indiana - Indianapolis
    Michigan - Lansing
    Wisconsin - Madison
    Illinois - Springfield


    Day #7 - "Mike Fink and the Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock"

    use pages 15-16 of States and Capitals to take notes on the Southeast Region

    #34, #35, #36, #37, #30, #29, #28, #27, #31, #26, #25, #24, #23, #22, #21


    Mike Fink

    retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg


    Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett

    retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg


    Day #8

    field trip to Cave-in-Rock State Park
    1 New State Park Road, Cave in Rock IL 62919


    Day #9 - "Old Johnny Appleseed"


    The Story of Johnny Appleseed

    retold and illustrated by Aliki


    Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend

    retold and illustrated by Will Moses


Midwest Region
10 states (MN, IA, MO, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, WY, ID)

    States & Capitals List
    Minnesota - St. Paul
    Iowa - Des Moines
    Missouri - Jefferson City
    Kansas - Topeka
    Nebraska - Lincoln
    South Dakota - Pierre
    North Dakota - Bismarck
    Montana - Helena
    Wyoming - Cheyenne
    Idaho - Boise


    Day #10 - "Big Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox, Babe"

    use pages 15-16 of States and Capitals to take notes on the Midwest Region

    #20, #19, #18, #15, #14, #13, #12, #7, #6, #4


    Paul Bunyan

    retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg


    Day #11 - "The Sad Story of Febold Feboldson and His Enormous Load of Sand"


    Febold Feboldson: Tall Tales from the Great Plains

    compiled by Paul Beath


Southwest Region
7 states (TX, OK, CO, NM, AZ, UT, NV)


Northwest Region
3 states (CA, OR, WA)

    States & Capitals List
    California - Sacramento
    Oregon - Salem
    Washington - Olympia


    Day #15 - "Paul Bunyan Goes West"

    use pages 15-16 of States and Capitals to take notes on the Northwest Region

    #1, #2, #3


Note: I chose to focus on historical American tall tales when deciding on my stories for this block, but I did have one of the girls in my class comment that there weren't any tall tales about women (besides Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett). Several modern women writers have created "original tall tales" to try to rectify this. Here are the ones I have found so far:


I also found a children's book from 1962 called Three Strong Women: A Tall Tale from Japan by Claus Stamm.


Blog posts from teaching this block:



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