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Pourquoi Tales


Language Arts  


5, 6, 7  

Title – Pourquoi Tales
By – Jason Frankel
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Grade Level – 5-7th grade

A Pourquoi Tale

This is an activity that I do with my fifth graders. They really seem to enjoy it. In this activity, students will create their own Pourquoi Tale. They will journey through the path that authors take when they write a book and eventually have it published. Feel free to use this activity with your students and modify it as needed. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Supplies that you will need before you begin:

The final copy of the pourquoi tale can be done in a bounded hard covered book. If you would like for your students to use these books as the final draft, please visit, the Bare Books Site. There are a lot of options and possibilities that could be chosen from. My suggestion is to order item #2501. This is not a requirement.

If you choose to have your students use these books, I strongly recommend:

  • That you also purchase a line guide for each student. This will enable the students to write straight in the book.
  • Have each student purchase a WHITEeraser.
  • Have each student purchase a black flair pen.

For the first part of the activity, I like for my students to begin to learn about pourquoi tales by doing a web search. In this web search, they are looking for examples of writer’s craft: use of language, purpose for writing, structure of the tale, etc. (Usually, I will give them one class period to do the research on their own. The next day, I will give them some websites that I want them to explore. This can be done in groups and/or individually.) Once they have done extensive research, together we talk about the various writing crafts and examples that they found.

These are some of the websites that I direct my class to on the second day:




At the conclusion of the research and investigating, I will bring my class back together and discuss what they have found. I like to make sure that they have a good understanding of what the various crafts of writing are. When I can determine that the class has a good understanding, I will introduce to them a new craft of writing, pourquoi tales, comes from French, (a why story).

In the introducing of this craft of writing, I will help them understand what a pourquoi tale is, the necessary components, and show and discuss various examples. Before I explain what a pourquoi tale is, I like to show them the movie, The Elephant’s Child. This is an example of a pourquoi tale in the form of a movie. At the conclusion, I will have a discussion with my students. In the discussion, I am trying to get them to tell me what they notice about pourquoi tales.

Within the discussion, I will discuss the components and characteristics of pourquoi tales.

      -Pourquoi is French for why
      -Explain why things are the way they are
      -Usually describe something in nature, especially animals
    -The entire story is fictitious, up until the very last sentence

Once the discussion has ended and the students feel comfortable with the characteristics of pourquoi tales, I will then share some examples. I have done it in the past and have been able to acquire some examples of student stories. If this is your first time, I am including some websites of examples.

Example 1   
Example 2  

Once your students have a good understanding of the genre of the pourquoi tale, including writer’s craft specific to the pourquoi tale, it is then time to begin the project. The first step of the project is the prewriting stage. In this stage, students need to come up with a topic that they want to write about. Students should be given a day or two to brainstorm and come up with a topic that they want to write and feel that they could be creative with. Here are some examples that can be given to the students to get some ideas:

      Why the grass is green?
      How zebras got their stripes?
      Why turtles have shells?
    How giraffes got their long necks?

It is now a good idea to do some prewriting activities where the students brainstorm important aspects of their story (character names, setting, events, and so on). I have included a worksheet below in the resource section, entitled Development. Feel free to use what I have included. You may use other supplementals that you prefer instead or in addition to. Once the class has had some time to work on the prewriting, spend some time going over them, either individually or together as a class.
Your students should now be feeling comfortable with pourquoi tales. They should begin to write their rough copy of their pourquoi tale. Before they begin, they must be given some information. In order to fill the book, their story will need to be approximately 5-6 pages double-spaced. They should NOT write on the backs of the pages. Students should be given adequate time to write their story. I usually try to give them about two weeks.

Once the rough copies have been written, allow the students to peer edit one another’s story. I have included some worksheets that I made to guide the students through the peer edit process. You may use these or others if you would like. I prefer to have the students have their story peer edited twice. After the peer edits are complete, the teacher should then read each of the stories and make any additional corrections or support to the writer as needed.

Once all of the stories have been edited, it is now time to set up the scrap book (if you chose to purchase the hard cover books, otherwise, the students should write a final copy).


Every page will be labeled. This is extremely important and is very important that the students do this precisely. The pages in the scrap book are always back to back. On the following pages, at the top or in the corner should be written:

Page 1:
Front Cover
Page 2: Leave Blank
(Back of the front cover)
Page 3:
Title Page
Page 4: Copyright
(Back of the title page)
Page 5:
Page 6: 1st Picture
(Back of the dedication)
Page 7:
Begin Story
Page 8-29: Label page #
Page 30: End
Page 31: About the Author
Page 32:
Back Cover

Once the scrap book has been set up, the students should then begin to fill in their scrap book, simply by cutting and pasting. This will enable them to know how to complete their hard copy book. They should cut the first sentence of their story and paste in on page 7. The should also cut out the last sentence of their story and paste it on page 30. Between page 7 and 30, the students should fill up the pages. They can decide how to fill each page. They should have pictures throughout the story They could alternate between having pages of just words, some pages of just pictures, and some pages of a mixture of pictures and words. Where they want to put a picture, they should draw a very rough sketch of the picture that they want to put in. These pictures should not be more than stick figures and not have any color.

Once the story has been set up in the scrap book and there are NO blank pages, together, fill up the rest of the scrap book. On the front cover, they should draw a brief sketch of what the cover will look like, also including written by and illustrated by. (You may allow other students, a friend, family member, or anyone be the illustrator). The title pages should have the title, written by, and illustrated by. For the copyright page, the class can decide on what the publishing company should be or each student can come up with their own. The dedication page is who they want to dedicate their book to. The 1st picture page should be a rough sketch of what they want that picture to look like. The about the author page should be information about the author. If the students want to, they may draw a picture on the back cover or put a brief description of the book.

Once the scrap book is completed, it is now time to copy the scrap book into the hard copy of the book. The hard copy book should be exactly the same as the scrap book. This process does take a lot of time. In copying the story into the scrap book, the students must use pencil and the line guide. When the line guide is placed under each page, the lines will show through the page, making it easier to write straight. Once the story is written and the pictures are drawn, NOT COLORED YET, students should go over everything with the flair pen. Then, they may color in their pictures.

When this process has been completed, students should then be able to share their stories with one another.


1) Development:

“Why” Stories

Choose a topic for your ‘why story’ from the list below, or the list on the board.


Why the leaves change color

Why children go to school

Why it rains

Why people cook their meat

Why the grass is green

Why chickens lay eggs

What is the topic of your story? What are you explaining?


What is the setting of your story (time, place, etc.)?



Who are the main characters in your story?



What is the main event of your story?




What other things are going to happen?




Now take these ideas and write them into a story. Good luck!

Designed by Michelle Foster 1999


Created by Jason Frankel May 2004.

E-Mail Jason Frankel!

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