Tortoise and Hare Lesson Plans

The Tortoise and the Hare is one of Aesop’s fables, also done by Jean de La Fontaine.

  • You can read it, and admire one of Rackham’s illustrations for it, here.
  • A shorter and easier version is online here.
  • Here‘s a brief printable version.
  • Here’s a short illustrated one.
  • Here is a retelling of the story as it would have one if there had been Chinese bureaucrats involved. A similar take from an American perspective can be found in James Finn Garner’s Once Upon a More Enlightened Time, in which the race is preceded by the appointment of a Commissioner of Kinetic Wellness and Overland Velocity Contests.
  • Here is a nice printable coloring page for “The Tortoise and the Hare.”
  • Disney did a cartoon version in the 1930s: Disney Animation Collection 4: Tortoise & The Hare.

D.L. Ashliman’s cross-cultural variants include ants and elephants, foxes and crabs, and various other mismatched racing creatures. These stories give a great opportunity for using charts and graphic organizers to make comparisons. In fact, there are so many variants on this tale that you can do some sorting and categorizing as well.

This is a great story for dramatization. Make paper-plate masks of all sorts of animals, and let everyone in the class join in — no audience needed!

Science

  • A study of tortoises and turtles, hares and rabbits fits perfectly with this story. The national standards call, when we study animals, for a study of their morphology (shapes), life cycles, habitat, and relationship to humans.
  • Sierra Club article for older students examines whether the tortoise or the hare has the best chance for survival during climate change.
  • Classification of animals is a good science connection. Compare mammals and reptiles. Have students find and chart the speeds of various members of the two groups.

Math

  • The obvious math connection is speed. Since the measurement of speed involves measuring both time and distance, this is a great opportunity to review or introduce all kinds of things about measurement.
  • This can also be a great chance to work on word problems. Divide the class into teams and let each team make up Tortoise and Hare word problems for the other teams. “If the hare ran 12 meters before taking his first break, and the race was a 50 meter race, then how many feet did the hare have left to run after his break?” Insist that the team that makes up the problem must have the correct answer to it. Then you can gather up all the problems and answers for a center to use in future studies.
  • Zeno’s paradox is under critical thinking below, but it’s also a neat math problem and a way to think about fractions.

Economics

  • A lesson on specialization compares the tortoise and the hare, suggesting that by specializing, each can make best use of his particular strengths.
  • The story is often used as a metaphor in economics news. Right now, China and India and Linux and Mac/Windows are being described in these terms. Have students do internet research to find examples of Tortoise and Hare economics metaphors, have them summarize the stories, and make a bulletin board showing cases in which slow and steady wins the economic race.

Critical Thinking

  • Shodor Interactive has a cool demonstration of Zeno’s paradox using the tortoise and the hare.
  • Most of us have had or known (or been) quick, flashy students whose grades were not as good as those of the earnest plodding student who worked hard and steadily. Is it time for a study skills lesson? A brief essay making this point might be a good choice. If you cut and paste to print this out, you might want to bowdlerize it a little bit.

Character Education

  • The essay linked above questions what the moral of the story really is. “Slow and steady wins the race” is how we usually hear it, but it may also be, “Work hard” or “Don’t be overconfident,” or “Don’t boast.” Have students come up with as many morals as possible and have them present their favorites orally.
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