The Teeny Tiny Woman” is sort of a ghost story and it is sort of spooky. There is not a great deal of story to it. A teeny tiny woman finds a bone and takes it home to make soup. The owner of the bone requests its return, repeatedly, in a voice that gets louder each time. Eventually, the woman says, “Take it!”
The harmlessness of the story makes it a perfect first ghost story to tell to the youngest classes. There is nothing in it to cause nightmares. I’ve even told it with an apple in place of the bone, and it is still fun. The whole effect of the story is in the telling. The words “teeny tiny” have to be said in a squeaky little voice every time. The words “Give me my bone” have to be said in a very slightly louder voice each time. Then the final “Take it!” has to be said in a really BIG voice. This startles the listeners and makes them laugh.
However, if you are working with older students, you might want to examine some cross-cultural stories of the same type. D. Ashliman’s folklore site has a collection of stories involving corpses wanting their belongings back, from Uncle Remus to some truly scary ones. Use maps and Venn diagrams to turn this collection of stories into a lesson on comparative folklore.
If you want to focus on comparison, a good choice for the second story is “Tailypo.” StoryTymes offers a dramatic retelling of the story for Halloween. The recording is just over six minutes long, and includes some interesting words: chagrin, dejected, heartbroken, stammering, and stumbled. “Tailypo” is also available in several different picture book versions, including one by Joanna C. Galdone.
There is also Stephanie Calmenson’s The Teeny Tiny Teacher, in which the bone is picked up on a class trip and intended to be used for an experiment. This can be a good segue into bone experiments.
Having listened to the story, perhaps in a couple of versions, you can move on to cross-curricular connections.
- “The Teeny Tiny Woman” is an example of a “jump tale” — a story with a trick to make the hearer jump. Ask students to think about how movies use tricks to make watchers jump. Can they write a screenplay for “The Teeny Tiny Woman” that will still work as a jump tale? Other jump tales include “The Golden Arm” (and Mark Twain wrote an essay on how to tell stories that included instructions on how to tell it) and “The Vampire in the Taxi.”
- Use a Scary Story Web to analyze “The Teeny Tiny Woman” and similar stories, or to plan an original scary story. This chart is another option. From the same source, aScary Story Planner is a great tool for helping students plan their own spooky stories.
- Use the phrase “teeny tiny” to jumpstart a lesson on adverbs and adjectives. Note all the places in the story where the phrase is used, brainstorm ways to add more repetitions, and conclude with a statement about where adverbs and adjectives belong in English sentences.
- “The Teeny Tiny Woman” is the perfect story for working on crescendo. After telling the story a few times, have students do the “Give me my bone!” part, going from pianississimo to fortissimo.
- Make bones from hard-drying or bakeable clay (Model Magic won’t be noisy enough) and let students use them to accompany the story, making teeny tiny sounds at the teeny tiny parts and big sounds on “Give me my bone!”
- Count the number of times the words “teeny tiny” are used in the story. Let the youngest students use bone counters (or bone-shaped Halloween candies) to keep a tally.
- Have students retell the story, trying to increase the number of repetitions of “teeny tiny.”
- Define “teeny tiny” in various units of measurement. Be abstract about it, just seeking out the smallest unit of measurement you can find, or decide how big the teeny tiny woman might have been, in feet and inches or in pounds.
- Depending on the experience level of the class, you could determine a specific size for each teeny tiny object in the story.
- Try these Nasa worksheets for practice with greater than, less than, and relative sizes.
- Check out this very simple soup recipe, Caldo de Hueso. There is a list of ingredients, including a bone, but no measurements. Bring out measuring spoons and cups and perhaps a container of rice or cornstarch to make it more concrete, and have kids decide what quantities they would use for their soup.
- At the risk of making the whole thing too real, you might discuss whether the teeny tiny woman should have picked up a random bone in a graveyard to make soup with. Most children will enjoy the creepiness of the discussion, and it may cause the “Don’t put that in your mouth! You don’t know where it’s been!” lesson to stick.
- Take this another step by pointing out that the teeny tiny woman not only picked up an unidentified bone from the ground, but also put it in her cupboard overnight. Modern ideas of safe food storage would not countenance this sort of thing.NIE’s food safety lessons offer a wide variety of activities and worksheets for middle school.
- This is a good starting point for studying the skeletal system.