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Turtle’s Tall Tale

Published about 2 years ago by Ann Baker

Turtle's Tall Tale

I just LOVE this book!! There is so much to love about it and so many springboards one could bounce from.

Measurement Vocabulary

I love this book because of the measurement words in it: • simple words, such as: tall, big, giant and far • comparative words such as: biggest, highest, deepest • unusual use of words such as: far and wide and open sea.

Start conversations about what big and biggest really mean, is it the same as giant or gigantic or tall?

I would expect young students to express strong ideas and justifications to back up their thinking and might ask them to draw or show in same way the meaning of each word. Expect many students to still be at a uni-dimensional view of big. Bigness might be judged by only one dimension such as- height, other dimensions such as width, overall shape and area may not be considered. Students at this stage are still non-conservers of size so will need lots of hands on comparison activities to explore.

Still sticking with the measurement vocabulary, we often take it for granted that students connect ideas and words but this is not always so. In a classroom recently a child had lain down on the floor to be measured by a partner. When the teacher asked her how tall she was, the answer was “Oh, we haven’t done that yet. We were doing long first.” Clearly the two ideas long and tall had two separate meanings for this young person. So why not springboard from as long as and as tall as and see where it takes you?

The terms giant, great giant and gigantic may also be open to a variety of understandings. If I said that a mouse is giant sized, what would be a great giant or gigantic sized? What if I said an elephant/fish /apple was giant sized. We need to help students reason about the fact that size is relational, something can be big compared to something smaller, but small when compared to something larger. There are lots of opportunities provided by the language and illustrations to draw out such comparisons.

I have included just one page from the book to unpack here.

turtles tall tale

Is turtle a giant?

I have chosen this page for a number of reasons: 1. We can argue whether Turtle is a giant , a great giant or gigantic in comparison with the other sea creatures on the page. 2. We can specifically look at and compare the lengths of the sea creatures and use materials to check their lengths. By my estimation it would take 8 little fish to measure from the tip of Turtles back flipper to the tip of his front flipper. 3. One of the stingrays is about half as long as the turtle. Students could create a scene of their own and compare lengths formally or informally. 4. Positional Vocabulary. Although there isn’t any specified in the text, I look at the page above and see scope for finding creatures using referents such as above, below behind, in front of, next to alongside. Once the words are in place they can be used to play 'Guess my sea creature'. Using questions such as “Is your sea creature above the turtle? Is your sea creature near the sea bed?” The sky is the limit-no pun intended. Those of you familiar with mental routines will recognize this game like situation using flip questions!


And of course, lots of opportunities to subitize, count, add and compare. e.g.,

Problematized Situation

Queenie and McKenzie love Turtles Tall Tale so much that they are going to make a collage poster for their bedroom wall. This is what they asked me, “We want 20 sea creatures altogether, we want more stripy fish, than stingrays and we want each stingray to have 3 little fish swimming with them. Of course we want a big turtle in the middle. What we don’t know is how many of each type of fish to make. Should we have any other sea creatures too?"

I said I’d ask you to come up with a plan and number list for them, then they will be able to choose one of them.

Change the script to match your learners but make sure you have enough appropriate difficulty. Oh, and let us know your ideas too.

Note: You might be interested in the Linear Measurement books which unpack the developmental milestones for linear measurement.

If you like problematized situations watch out for the next online workshop series: Problematised Situations

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