The Tailor is a folktale. Scholars say this story began as a Jewish folksong that told a story. Both songs and stories can be passed from person to person and from generation to generation when people sing or tell them. Such passed-along stories and songs are called folktales and folksongs.
Many storytellers tell this folktale. Each storyteller tells it in a different way. In this folktale, something is always used and reused. By the end of the story, only the story remains.
This video shows Megan Hicks, a storyteller from Pennsylvania, telling this folktale her way. When Megan tells this tale, she tells it using first person point of view. She also tells it using both facts and fiction. The facts come from her life. She made up the fiction. When Megan tells this tale, she also uses the art of origami. Origami is the art of folding paper to create objects.
The storyteller Megan Hicks has called this story “autobiographical fiction.” Which parts do you think are autobiographical? Which do you think must be fiction? Autobiographical means anything that really happened in the storyteller’s life. Fiction means anything she made up.
In the story, Megan repeatedly outgrows her clothing, but clothes aren’t the only thing that can be outgrown. What have you outgrown during your lifetime? (Examples might be a toy you no longer play with, an activity you used to love that you no longer enjoy.)
Throughout the story, Megan’s Grandma Rose reuses items again and again. What have you reused? What do you recycle so others may reuse it?
Megan’s Grandma Rose has a saying she often repeats: “Sweet Pea, you listen to me. In my house, we do not throw things away just because they are old.” Think about the older people in your family. What do you remember one of them saying again and again? Why do you believe this saying is so important to that person? What, if anything, do you think they want you to learn from that saying?
Megan says her grandma “was so smart she never needed much money.” What does it mean to be smart that way? Do you know someone who is smart that way? What do they do that shows they are smart that way?
At the end of the story, Megan is sad because she no longer has anything left, but her Grandma tells her she will always have the story. Some things have probably left your life too, but you still have the story. Tell someone the story of an item you no longer have: When and how did you get it? What are some of your favorite memories of using it? What happened to it?
1. This basic story has also been retold in book form at least three times!
• Gilman, Phoebe. Something from Nothing. Scholastic Canada, 1992. This book really contains two stories--the story of a boy whose grandfather keeps remaking his clothing, and the story of a mouse family living under the wooden floor boards reusing the fabric scraps that fall there. There are no words for the mouse family story, so your students have an opportunity to use their own words to tell that tale based on the illustrations.
• Sanfield, Steve. Bit by Bit. New York: Philomel Books, 1995. The cover of this version, illustrated by Susa Gaber, shows a person sitting in a chair holding this same book, and so on, smaller and smaller.
• Tabak, Simms. Joseph had a Little Overcoat. New York: Viking, 1999. Tabak won the Caldecott Medal for this book. Holes in the pages play a fun role in showing just what was created with each reuse of material.
Compare and contrast the told story with a book version: What can a book do that the storyteller can’t? What could the storyteller do that a book can’t?
English Language Arts Standards: Reading Standards for Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. Grade 2, Item 9. Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story by different authors or from different cultures.
Grade 6, Item 7. Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they “see” and “hear” when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.
Grades 9-10, Item 7. Analyze the representation of a subject or key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.
2. Using this tale as a model, have your students create their own stories of reusing and reusing something until all that is left is the story. Much is possible with varied degrees of sophistication in the retellings. Here are a few examples:
• A tale of a barn struck by a tornado which, after repeated tornados striking ever smaller structures, ends up a mailbox post blown away by a final tornado;
• A deer hunting adventure that eventually results in the creation of a deer hide wallet that is stolen;
• A wedding dress reused for various necessities over the course of long lifetime that eventually becomes the handkerchief the widow tucks into her husband’s suit coat pocket at his funeral.
This story model provides a handy plot to use while developing numerous other story writing skills.
English/Language Arts Standards: Writing Standards: Text Types and Purposes: 3 Write narratives.
3. Include this story when you embark on a study of how your community reduces, reuses, and recycles. Here are PBS Learning Media sites about reducing, reusing, and recycling:
A video that looks like it may be for older elementary kids follows one kid through his home looking at how his family reduces, reuses, and recycles.
Next Generation Science Standards:
Core Idea ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems.
• Things that people do to live comfortable can affect the world around them. But they can make choices that reduce their impacts on the land, water, air, and other living things.
• The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources. (HS–ESS3-3)
• Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation. (HS-ESS3-4)
4. The storyteller, Megan Hicks, calls this story a work of autobiographical fiction. After your students consider what might be autobiographical and what might be fictional, challenge them to write their own autobiographical fiction tale.
English/Language Arts Standards: Writing Standards: Text Types and Purposes: 3 Write narratives.
5. Megan Hicks briefly demonstrates using the bow her Grandma makes as a hair bow, a bow tie, a mustache, an airplane, a bird, and then a butterfly. Talk about what she did to show those different uses (repositioned the object and told what how she had used it). Select an object in your classroom, such as a piece of paper or a yardstick, a chair, or a box. Play a theatre game in which each player demonstrates a different use for the selected object by announcing what the object is and miming using it that way. For example, a piece of paper can be home plate by standing beside it like a baseball batter, or a hat by placing it on your head, or a telescope by loosely rolling it and looking through the roll, or the steering wheel of a car by sitting in a chair and holding and moving the paper like a steering wheel while making motor noises. You can also up the skill level by having the use be shown through mime and monologue to make the use clear without allowing an announcement of the object’s use. For example: the batter at home plate might tap the plate with a mimed bat, hold the mimed bat properly, and mutter a challenging “Come on, Pitcher, throw your best!” to show the piece of paper is now home plate.
TH:Cr1.1.Pk & K, b.With prompting and support, use non-representational materials to create props, puppets, and costume pieces for dramatic play or a guided drama experience.
TH:Cr2.1. Pk & K, b. With prompting and support, express original ideas in dramatic play or a guided drama experience.
TH:Cr3.1.1 c. Collaborate to imagine multiple representations of a single object in a guided drama experience.
TH:Cr3.1.2 c. Generate independently multiple representations of a single object in a guided drama experience.
TH:Pr5.1.1 a. With prompting and support, identify and understand that physical movement is fundamental to guided drama experience.
TH:Pr5.1.2 a. Demonstrate the relationship between and among body, voice and mind in a guided drama experience.
TH:Pr5.1.3 a. Participate in a variety of physical, vocal, and cognitive exercises that can be used in a group setting for drama/theatre work.
6. In folklore, there is a solo acting performance piece that uses a paper bow as a prop (positioning it as a hair bow, a bow tie, and a mustache). The success of the piece depends on the performer using voice and body to convey three different stock characters along with moving the “bow” to the appropriate position for each character: A villain (with bow as mustache), a hero (with bow tie), and a damsel in distress (with hair bow). Here’s the script:
Villain: You must pay the rent. Damsel: I can’t pay the rent. Villain: You must pay the rent! Damsel: But I can’t pay the rent! Hero: I’ll pay the rent. Damsel: My hero!
And yes, the roles are quite sexist – it’s a very old little melodrama. So, you can even expand the lesson looking at how the roles could be different in a more modern version.
TH:Cr3.1.3 b. Participate and contribute to physical and vocal exploration in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.4 b. Develop physical and vocal exercise techniques for an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.5.b. Use physical and vocal exploration for character development in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.6 b. Identify effective physical and vocal traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.7 b. Develop effective physical and vocal traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.8 b. Refine effective physical, vocal and physiological traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.HSI b. Explore physical, vocal and physiological choices to develop a character that is believable, authentic, and relevant to a drama/theatre work.
TH:Pr4.1.1 b. Use body, face, gestures and voice to communicate character traits and emotions in a guided drama experience.
TH:Pr4.1.4 b. Make physical choices to develop a character in a drama/theatre work.
TH:Pr4.1.5 b. Use physical choices to create meaning in a drama/theater work.
7. Most versions of this folktale end with the idea that even when something is gone, the story of it remains. Ask your students to make a list of things they no longer have in their lives, and then challenge them to tell a partner the story that remains of one item on their list. (Keep in mind that for some of your students a person or a pet no longer in their lives may loom larger than an object as a source of story; older students may even be aware of ideas they no longer have, yet a story when they held that idea and how their thoughts changed remains.) Give listening partners a chance to ask questions to clarify their understanding of the story, and give tellers a chance to tell a revised version to a different partner. After repeated tellings, challenge your students to write the story they’ve been telling.
English/Language Arts Standards:
Speaking and Listening Standards: 1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions. Writing Standards: Text Types and Purposes, Item 3 Write narratives.
8. Use the story to introduce an exploration of origami.
Here are links to sites you may want to connect with for exploring the art of origami.
Assign directly to your students using the code or link above, without having them log in. Simply tell your students to go to
www.pbsstudents.org and enter the Assignment Code, or click on the Assignment URL to share the assignment as a link.