Fourth grade students at Wakefield Elementary engaged in an interactive lesson on tall tales Thursday. Tracy Murphey, the teacher behind the lesson, explained it was created to teach students how to follow a plot map in order to compose a summary.


“Waynetta and the Cornstalk: A Texas Fairy Tale” written by Helen Ketteman and illustrated by Diane Greenseid was the topic for the plot map. Murphey said the story is a new take on the original Jack and the Beanstalk tale. The students have been learning that fairy tales, legends and myths are the same story told many different ways.


The Sherman Independent School District students were asked to make suggestions as to what would be considered the characters, setting, problem and ending for the story. By limiting the chart to the essentials, Murphey explained the students would better understand what details were extraneous and therefore unnecessary in a summary of the story.


When the students completed their work together on the plot map, they returned to their desks to be instructed on a writing exercise. Murphey explained she believes writing to be an essential skill.


“I wear two hats,” Murphey said. “One is to help them pass the writing STAAR test. The other one is because I believe it helps us express ourselves. Writing helps show our intellect and keep our mind engaged.”


Students were asked to take out their writing journals and volunteer topics they would be interested in writing about. In addition, they were told they would be able to develop their own ending for the “Waynetta and the Cornstalk” story.


The fourth grade students have had the same writing journals since the second grade. This allows them to see how their writing has grown as they learn.


Murphey, who has taught for 19 years, said she tries to make her lessons interactive for the students. She believes interactive learning engages multiple senses.


“This activates long-term instead of short-term memory,” Murphey said. “That helps them build skills and stamina for testing and things like that. Not only do we teach these kids what they need to know, we give them the rationale constantly.”