John Henry
By: Julius Lester
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Genre: Tall Tale/Legend
Author’s Purpose: Entertainment
Skill: Making Judgments
Compiled by Terry Sams, Piedmont
Summary
Folks knew John Henry was special from
the day he was born. He jumped right out
of his mama's arms and grew so fast that
his head and shoulders poked through the
porch roof. He went on to win a race with
Ferret-Faced Freddy, even though Freddy
was riding a horse and John Henry was
running on his own two legs. Later, he
broke up a boulder that even dynamite
couldn't touch.
Genre: Tall Tales
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A tall tale is a story that has these features:
A larger-than-life, or superhuman, main
character with a specific job.
A problem that is solved in a funny way.
Exaggerated details that describe things as
greater than they really are.
Characters who use everyday language.
There are some real-life details.
Comprehension Skill:
Making Judgments
Making judgments means thinking
about and deciding how to react toward
people, situations, and ideas in stories
you read.
Use what you have read and your own
experiences as you make judgments.
Ask yourself if the author is trying to
influence you and whether he succeeds.
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Comprehension Skill Review –
Character
Authors provide information about
characters through thoughts and
actions.
Authors also use a character’s
relationships to give clues to their traits.
Pay attention to motivations, conflicts,
points of view, and changes to help you
better understand a character’s traits.
Practice Character
Clue to
Character
Motivation
Example from
Story
Trait
“What matters is how
goodhearted
well you do your living (p.254)
Conflict
“But even you can’t outhammer competitive
a machine.” P.251)
Point of View “I’ve heard you are the best
respected
there ever was.” (p.251)
Relationship “That day John helped his papa hard-working
rebuild the porch he had busted…”(p. 244)
Changes
“…that baby jumped out of his
tall tale hero
mama’s arms and started growing.”p.242)
Vocabulary Skill:
Multiple-Meaning Words
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Many words have more than one
meaning. To decide which meaning of
a word is being used, look for clues in
the surrounding sentences or
paragraph.
Use context clues, experience, and
word order to decide on the correct
meaning of a multiple-meaning word.
Click on the title to practice this skill.
Research Skill –
Card Catalog/Library Database
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To find books in the library, you can use
the card catalog or library database.
You can search for a book by author, title,
or subject.
When searching by author, always use
the author’s last name first.
When searching for what a book is about,
always use the subject of the book.
If you only know the title, always look for
the title first.
More Good Stuff
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ABC Spelling words
John Henry Stories
More About Tall Tale
More on John Henry
Create your own tall tale
Reading Test
Spelling Test
Weekly Fluency Check Improve Read with Expression
● Students should vary reading pace to match
the action of the story. Because of the
exaggeration and vivid language in tall tales,
the pace and intensity of the story are often
at high levels.
● Reflect this pace through stressed words,
loudness and softness, and a slightly
quickened reading rate.
● Go to pages 248-249, beginning with
“That dynamite. . .”
Read to Find Out – Day 1
Pages 241-247
1.
2.
3.
What happens when John Henry is
born?
What jobs does John Henry
accomplish the day after he is born?
Is this possible or exaggerated?
Why do you think John Henry
challenges Ferret-Faced Freddy to a
race?
Read to Find Out – Day 2
Pages 248 - 257
1.
2.
3.
4.
How does John Henry succeed in
building the road when no one else
could do it?
How was John Henry different from
other newborn babies?
How was John Henry like a steam
drill?
What lesson does this story teach?
Writing Assignment
Pick one of the following and write it on
notebook paper.
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Pretend to be John Henry and write a
diary entry describing one of the
events that happened in the story.
Write an article for a newspaper or
television broadcast that tells about
John Henry and his amazing feats.
Say It!
boulder
rhythm
glimpse
shivered
hollered
tunnel
horizon
More Words to Know
dynamite
parapets
sledgehammer
boulder
a
large rock
glimpse

a
short look
hollered

cried or
shouted
loudly;
yelled
horizon
 the
line where the
earth and sky seem to
meet
rhythm
 any
movement with
regular repetition of a
beat
shivered

shook with
cold, fear, or
excitement
tunnel
 an
underground
passage
dynamite

a powerful explosive
most commonly used
in blasting rock
parapets

low walls or mounds of
stone or earth used to
protect soldiers
sledgehammer
a
large hammer
usually swung with
both hands
The soldiers hid behind
the parapet when the
shooting started.
The soldiers hid behind
the parapet when the
shooting started.
A large boulder blocked
my way out.
A large boulder blocked
my way out.
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The workers used
dynamite to move the
mountain out of the way
of the new road.
 The
workers used
dynamite to move the
mountain out of the
way of the new road.
The children hollered
so loud you could hear
them over the roaring
of the cars on the
street!
The children hollered
so loud you could hear
them over the roaring
of the cars on the
street.
I got a glimpse of
the butterfly as it
fluttered by the window.
I got a glimpse of
the butterfly as it
fluttered by the window.
The sun comes up on
the eastern horizon.
The sun comes up on
the eastern horizon.
The rhythm of a
heartbeat is very
important.
The rhythm of
the heartbeat is
very important
John Henry shivered
when he got out of
the creek.
John Henry shivered
when he got out of
the creek.
The train tunnel
through the
mountain was
very dark.
The train tunnel
through the
mountain was
very dark.
Spelling Words
Adding -er and -est
 smallest
 deepest
 largest
 closest
 happiest
 scariest
 hottest
 funniest
 saddest
 fattest
Spelling Words
Adding -er and -est
 smaller
 deeper
 larger
 closer
 happier
 scarier
 hotter
 funnier
 sadder
 fatter
This Week’s Word Wall Words
Click and type your own
words for this week:
Let’s review our spelling
words.
Watch carefully because
they will flash on the
screen for just a moment.
We will clap as we spell
the word .
.
smaller
smallest
larger
largest
happier
happiest
hotter
hottest
sadder
saddest
deeper
deepest
closer
closest
scarier
scariest
funnier
funniest
fatter
fattest
GREAT JOB!
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