Seven at a Blow

Seven at One Blow or  The Brave Little Tailor is a Grimm’s fairy tale about a tailor who swats seven flies at once, and is so proud of himself that he boasts to everyone that he has killed “seven at one blow.” When his listeners think he means that he has vanquished seven people at one blow, his boasting leads him into danger, but he is clever enough to turn the tables and live happily ever after.

You may know the story best from the Mickey Mouse version called The Brave Little Tailor. The link will take you to a DVD including this story as well as “Mickey and the Beanstalk.” Enjoy this version of the story with your class after reading the traditional version, and use a Venn diagram to identify differences.

Read the whole story at Fairy Tales 4 U, or at more length  from BartlebyGrimm Stories also has links to other versions of the story, and to the same story in different languages. Depending what source you use for the story, it can be suitable for preschoolers to middle school.

Once you’ve read the story you can move on to some curriculum connections.

Science:

  • The story begins with a description of the seven flies and their behavior. After studying about flies, challenge students to decide whether the story is realistic in its depiction of flies.
  • Lots of housefly data.
  • Here is a good explanation of the popular insect mouths adaptation lesson, which compares flies with other common insects.
  • Check out this coloring or labeling sheet of a housefly face.

Math:

  • If you wanted to knock out seven flies at one blow, would it matter how the flies were arranged? Use counters and paper flyswatters to determine what arrangement of seven flies would be easiest to knock down at once. Put students in groups to do this experiment, and ask them to report on their results. Then discuss and see whether it is possible to capture a generalization.
  • Stepping away from the story, you can use the easy reader A Fly on the Ceiling to learn about Descartes and the use of coordinates to identify locations. Step back to the story by using coordinates to report on the experiment above.
  • Mathforum has a lesson on estimation using the idea of giants. The lesson suggests reading Jack and the Beanstalk, but it will be just as suitable for this story about giants. Students may be interested to know that the tallest humans on record have been over 8 feet tall. However, fairy tale giants may not be human, so this information doesn’t have to limit their imaginations.
  • Most versions of this story have details about an old woman measuring out jam, so this can be a handy time  to practice or review measurements of volume. She is disappointed by the amount of jam the tailor buys — that is, her estimate of his buying is larger than his actual purchase. Put this together with the giant estimating activity, which uses linear measurements, and you can have a thorough study of measurement and estimation.

Vocabulary:

  • Depending what version of the story you read, the tailor is called “gallant” or “valiant” or “brave.” This is a good time to talk about synonyms!
  • As you read the story, have students write down any unfamiliar words they hear, using their best guesses on spelling. Transfer all the words to one list on the board and use it for dictionary and spelling work. If there are no unfamiliar words in your version of the story, you can do the same with favorite or most exciting words.
  • Think of as many compound words using “fly” as you can — butterfly, damselfly, dragonfly…. Use insect resources for skimming and scanning practice to make this activity double-duty, as students search for examples of -flies.

Character:

  • Though the title is about the tailor’s being brave, and he boasted about being strong, it may be that his best characteristic was actually resourcefulness, cheerfulness, or cleverness. Was his worst characteristic boastfulness? Pride? Conceit? Discuss this with the students.
  • When people make a false assumption about the tailor (that he struck down seven men rather than seven flies), he doesn’t correct them. Instead he takes advantage of their mistake. Is this lying? Vote and graph the results, discuss, or use the question as a writing prompt.
  • Some modern retellings of the story clean it up, but the story generally involves the idea that people respect the tailor for harming seven people with a single blow. This is not something most of us would admire today. For older students, the way that ideas about character change through time could be a good discussion and writing topic.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these buggy ideas!

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  1. Pingback: There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly | My Fresh Plans

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