Pourquoi Tales

Simple Pourquoi Lesson Plans and Writing Ideas

Pourquoi tales can be an amusing adventure in writing creatively across the curriculum! Discuss pourquoi characteristics and the elements of pourquoi, and then write your own!

"Pourquoi" means "Why?" in French. A pourquoi story is a fictional narrative that explains why something exists the way that it does, as in why the tiger has stripes, why the leopard has spots, or why the cheetah is the fastest land mammal. Pourquoi stories ars also known as origin stories.

Before beginning a creative writing project of pourquoi tales, I recommend a literature group study the master of pourquoi, Rudyard Kipling.

First, have students read Just So Stories for Little Children, written, illustrated, and published by Rudyard Kipling in 1902. His pourquoi tales have themes of specific animals being transformed from original forms to those we know today, either through human actions or by magical means. An example would be the story, "How the Camel Got His Hump," in which the lazy camel is punished by a genie for refusing to work. Thus, the camel's hump allows him to labor for longer periods between eating. Older students can read the original edition. However, due to changes in the English language, I'd recommend that younger students read one of the many lavishly illustrated junior versions available.

Next, after class readings and discussions of the Just So Stories, have students complete one of the following pourquoi story starters. The beginnings and endings help kids imagine what happened in between.
  • One day, the penguin flew to...and that's why penguins swim and do not fly.
  • One morning, the tiny ostrich awoke from his cozy treetop nest...and that's why the ostrich is so tall.
  • Long ago, the little chipmunk was pure brown in color...and that's why the chipmunk has black stripes down his back.
  • Long ago, the mighty sun rose in the west and set in the east...and that's why we have the opposite today.
  • Long ago, there were no constellations...and that's why there are patterns of stars in the night skies.
  • Long ago, the air remained always calm and still...and that's why wind blows from the four corners of the earth.


Last, after this initial practice of writing pourquoi stories, begin to write across the curriculum! Have students apply their imagination to science and social studies for possible pourquoi topics. Create a class list and begin a new round of stories! Here are several ideas to get you started:
  • Where did shadows come from?
  • Why does the owl hunt at night?
  • Why does a seashell hold the roar of the ocean?
  • Why is the ocean salty?
  • Why does the racoon wear a mask?
  • Why is the hummingbird able to fly backward?
  • Why is the raven black?


May you and your students enjoy the magic of creative writing with pourquoi tales!

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