Exploring the adventures of the American frontier

From Davy Crockett’s many exaggerated tall tale stories came a perspective of the harsh yet entertaining lives of the American frontiersmen. But who is this Davy Crockett? By exploring historical documents, images, and informational text, students will use historical thinking strategies to study Davy Crockett and identify his contributions that had an impact on America’s westward expansion. Davy Crockett was born on August 17, 1786 in Tennessee and he spent many hours listening to stories about the frontier and the hazardous journeys of westward travelers. His life was difficult; clearing land, hunting and trapping, and building homes. Davy was an expert marksman and won many local competitions. He had various jobs, driving cattle and working on farms. Davy Crockett was a colonel in the Tennessee Militia and fought many battles. He became a member of the Tennessee legislature, and was elected to the United States Congress three times. In 1836, he fought the Mexican Army and died at the Alamo.

In Language Arts, the students read and analyze a variety of American tall tales. A focus can be on Davy Crockett and his many tall tale adventures. This lesson introduces the real hero and his contributions to the expansion of the American frontier.

Lesson Objective

Using historical thinking strategies (i.e. close reading and collaboration) discuss the character traits and historical contributions of Davy Crockett.

Discuss/ review the elements of fiction, such as characters, setting and explain the importance of exaggeration in tall tales.

Using the historical information acquired about Davy Crockett from the images, documents, and fact sheets, students will create an informative poster to describe the American pioneer hero; see rubric.



  1. Whole group/ class discussion: Review the hardships the pioneers faced while settling the frontier; see Social Studies Unit 3 guide for ideas to share with students.
  2. Next, ask the students to recall the tall tale hero, Davy Crockett, and use character traits to describe this specific tall tales pioneer. On chart paper, list some of the super-human things he did in the stories, obstacles he had to contend with, and the outcomes.
  3. Making the Connection from tall tale hero to real-life pioneer: Play the song, Davy Crockett and talk about what they heard in the song.
  4. On a large map of the United States, have students identify the areas in which the story of Davy Crockett takes place. Then explain to students that at the time of Davy Crockett, people who lived in rural locations had to fend for themselves.
  5. Historical Thinking/ Close Reading: In small groups, have students look at the images (Pass out handouts of C. Stuart engraving 1839 and Lithograph of painting by S. S. Osgood.) and do a close reading. Students will list their findings in their journals.
  6. Have students look at the details; list the things they see and tell what it means; and who made it? Why is it done that way? As a class, discuss and list finding on chart paper. (if possible, use the Elmo projector to display the image on the board for the discussion.)
  7. Hand out information data sheets and have students read and highlight important facts about Davy Crockett and record in journal. Independently, students will use their newly acquired information to create an informative poster to describe the real-life Davy Crockett. Students will share their posters in small group.


Informative Poster Project: Using the historical information acquired about Davy Crockett from the images, documents, and fact sheets, students will create an informative poster to describe the American pioneer hero; see rubric.

Extension/ Bonus Activity: Students will create an acrostic poem using information gathered from the lesson to describe Davy Crockett.


American Memory Collections. Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html (accessed July 24, 2012)

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/ (accessed July 24, 2012)

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