Story Cue Card

The Teeny Tiny Teacher.  By Stephanie Calmenson.  New York: Scholastic

Press, 1998.


Ethnic Origin: England (This is an American author’s version of the traditional English tale .)


Running Time: Approximately 7 minutes


Power Centers:

1) Carefree feeling when the class is going about their daily activities (such as singing songs, having a snack, and writing a story) and when the class is going on the field trip to the park

2) Funny feeling when the unknown voice is very whiney

3) Anticipation when the voice gets louder and louder and the students don’t know where it’s coming from

4) Relief when the teacher says, “Take it!” and ousts the ghost from the classroom



1) Teeny Tiny Teacher

2) Teeny Tiny Students

3) Teeny Tiny Ghost (formerly known simply as the Teeny Tiny Voice)



1) In the Classroom – Taking attendance, singing songs, getting ready to go

2) At the Park – Finding nature objects, teacher finding the bone

3) Back in the Classroom – Getting undressed, pouring juice for snack, VOICE

4) Having a Snack – VOICE, spilling snack, coming from closet, cleaning up

5) Writing a Story – Closet rattling, VOICE

6) Hiding Under Desks – VOICE, shaking, VOICE again

7) Teacher Standing Up – “Take it!”, ghost leaving, never hear voice again




A teeny tiny teacher and her students begin their school day as usual and decide to go on a walk to a park.  At the park, the teacher finds a bone and decides to take it back to the classroom to use in a science lesson.  After the class goes back to the classroom, the teacher is pouring juice for a snack when a voice whispers, “Give me my bone!”  The teacher just thinks that someone is playing a trick on her and passes out the snack for the students to eat.  Then the voice says the same thing, even louder.  The students get frightened and spill their juice and cookies everywhere.  The teacher says that someone is being too silly and does not believe the student who says that the voice is coming from the closet. 

Then, while the teacher and the students are writing a story, the closet begins to shake, and the voice says even louder, Give me my bone!”  At this point, the students and the teacher are all very frightened and hide under their desks.  Then the voice repeats the same phrase two more times, getting louder each time, while the students and the teacher are shaking underneath their desks.  Finally, the teacher can’t take it any longer, so she stands up and yells, “Take it!”  A little ghost comes out of the closet, takes the bone, gives a laugh, and leaves the classroom.  The teacher and the children never hear the voice again. 


Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

1) Wording of the beginning: “Once upon a time, there was a teeny tiny teacher who taught in a teeny tiny school in a teeny tiny town.”

2) Repetition of the words “teeny tiny” before every noun in the story

3) Phrase that the voice says: “Give me my bone!”

4) Phrase that the teacher says at the end: “Take it!”

4) Wording of the ending: “After that, the teeny tiny teacher and her teeny tiny students never heard the teeny tiny voice again.  And that is the teeny tiny end.”


Audience (why this story is appropriate for preschoolers:


This story is appropriate for 3-5 year olds for the following reasons:


1) Repetition: In Storytelling: Art and Technique, Greene says that 3-5 year olds respond well to repetition and that “the rhythm in stories for young children comes primarily from the repetition of words and phrases in a set pattern.”  This story would thus appeal to young children because of the repetition of the phrase “teeny tiny” before every noun in the story, as well as the repetition of the command “Give me my bone!” five times by the teeny tiny voice.  Klor, in “Tickle Your Storybone: Humorous Storytelling,” also mentions the important of repetition in stories for young children.


2) Short, simple, direct plot: Greene says that children of this age respond well to “simple, direct plots,” while Sawyer, in The Way of the Storyteller, says that stories for young children should not be too intricate and should be free of too many characters and plots.  This story fits both of these criteria: Its plot is simple and linear, and it only has three characters or character groups: the teacher, the children, and the voice (which turns out to be a ghost).  Also, the story is very short, which is important for this age group because preschool children have extremely short attention spans.  The story also meets three other specific criteria set forth by Greene for stories for this age group.  First, it has short dialogue.  The teacher asks the students very basic questions, the students respond with only a few words, and the ghost says only one sentence during the entire story.  Second, the story’s action builds quickly to a climax, with the voice getting louder and louder until the teacher finally decides that she must stop it.  And third, the story has a satisfying ending: the teacher ousts the ghost from the classroom forever.


3) Fantasy blended with reality: According to Greene, young children like to “blend fantasy with reality.”  For this reason, they enjoy stories that incorporate familiar, everyday experiences with unfamiliar, fantastic experiences.  Shedlock, in The Art of the Storyteller, calls this blend of familiar and fantastic “unusual activities in a usual atmosphere,” while Klor refers to stories that “blur the boundary” between fantasy and reality.  This story meets these criteria perfectly.  The story takes place in a setting that is familiar to almost all children: the classroom.  Although some 3-5 year old children have not actually entered school yet, many of them have been to preschool or daycare.  Others may have heard stories about school from older sisters or brothers.  For this reason, children of this age are familiar with the typical school day events that are mentioned in the story, such as eating a snack and writing a story.  However, in this familiar atmosphere, a fantastic story takes place, so that the boundary between reality and fantasy is blurred.


4) Humor: Klor discusses the importance of incorporating humor into stories, particularly noting that “silly humor” and exaggeration appeal to young children.  This story incorporates this type of humor and exaggeration in the voice that I have given to the ghost.  I believe that the whiney voice will make the children laugh, and that it will also serve to make the story less scary for young children.  According to Shedlock, storytellers should make sure that the stories that they are telling students of this age are not too scary, because these children tend to get frightened easily.


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants:


Versions of the traditional English tale “The Teeny Tiny Woman” or “Teeny Tiny,” upon which The Teeny Tiny Teacher is based, in which a being returns from the dead to reclaim the bone which the woman stole from its grave.


Teeny Tiny.  By Jill Bennett.  New York: Putnam, 1986.


The Teeny-Tiny Woman.  By Harriet Ziefert.  New York: Viking, 1995.


The Teeny tiny Woman: An Old English Ghost Tale.  By Barbara Seuling.  New

York: Viking, 1976.


“Teeny-Tiny” by Joseph Jacobs in A Treasury of Stories for Six Year Olds.  By

Edward and Nancy Blishen.  New York: Kingfisher Books, 1992.  p. 85-86.


British Folktales.  By Katherine Briggs.  Dorsett, 1977.  p. 107-108.


The Teeny-Tiny Woman.  By Paul Galdone.  New York: Clarion, 1984.


“Teeny-Tiny”  in Diane Goode’s Book of Giants and Little People.  By Diane

Goode.  New York: Dutton, 1997.  p. 38-39.

The Teeny Tiny Woman.  By Arthur Robins.  Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Candlewick Press, 1998.


Ghosts!  Ghostly tales from folklore.  By Alvin Schwartz.  New York:

HarperCollins, 1991.  p. 46-59.


“Cemetery Soup” in More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  By Alvin Schwartz. 

New York: HarperCollins 1984.  p. 71-73.


Read me a Story: a Child’s Book of Favorite Tales.  By Sophie Windham.  New

York: Scholastic, 1991.  p. 59-62.


Variants of this story from other cultures, in which creatures (human or animal) return from the dead to reclaim some other object:



1) Return of woman from the dead to demand the return of her stolen jewels.

“Eyes of Jade” in Tongues of Jade.  By Laurence Yep.  New York: HarperCollins

1991.  p. 177-185.



1) Return of being from the dead to demand the return of its stolen liver.


“Johnny and the Liver” in African-American Folktales for Young Readers.  By

Richard and Judy Dockrey Young.  Little Rock: August House Publishers,

1993.  p. 148-155.


2) Return of woman from the dead to demand the return of her silver coins.


“A Ghost Story” in The Last Tales of Uncle Remus.  New York: Dial, 1994.  p. 33-



3) Return of critter from the dead to demand the return of its tail.


“The Peculiar Such Thing” in The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. 

By Virginia Hamilton.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.  p. 116-120.


“Taily-po” by Stephanie Calmenson in The Scary Book.  By Joanna Cole and

Stephanie Calmenson.  New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1991.  p. 18-26.


Tailypo: A Newfangled Tall Tale.  By Angela Shelf Medearis.  New York: Holiday

House, 1996.


Tailypo!  By Jan Wahl.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1991.


“Tailbones” in The Scary Story Reader.  By Richard and Judy Dockrey Young. 

Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1993.  p. 78-80.



1) Return of being from the dead to demand the return of its guts, which are being cooked in a stew.


“Give Me Back My Guts!” in The Scary Story Reader.  By Richard and Judy

Dockrey Young.  Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1993.  p. 149-153.

(This tale is told particularly in Spanish-speaking parts of the U.S. as well

as in some other countries where Spanish is spoken.)


2) Return of being from the dead to demand the return of its big toe, which was cooked in a soup.


“My Big Toe” in Diane Goode’s Book of Scary Stories and Songs.  By Diane

Goode.  New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1994.  p. 12-13.


3) Return of being from the dead to demand the return of its liver.


“Dottie Got Her Liver” in The Scary Story Reader.  By Richard and Judy

Dockrey Young.  Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1993.  p. 128-132.



Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content:


The Teeny Tiny Woman

            The original British tale upon which “The Teeny Tiny Teacher” is based has many of the same characteristics as the newer version of the story.  For instance, it has the same rhythm, due to the same repetition of the phrase “teeny tiny” throughout the book.  However, the style of this original version is quite a bit different from the newer version in that the original tale is more intense and less funny.  For instance, while the ghost in the newer version is portrayed as a silly ghost (in the illustrations, it always has a smile on its face), the voice in the original version is portrayed as very spooky.  Because the voice calls out at night when the woman is alone, rather than during the day when the teacher is surrounded by students, the situation surrounding the hearing of the voice is much scarier.  The woman finding the bone in a graveyard is also much scarier than the teacher finding the bone in a park.  Also, because the original tale ends with the woman yelling “Take it!” rather than with the listeners finding out what the voice really was (which, in the “Teeny Tiny Teacher” version is not a very scary origin of the voice), it leaves the audience scared.  This older version of the story, while just as tellable as the newer one and even shorter in length, is more appropriate for an older audience, such as upper elementary school students.


Eyes of Jade

            The Chinese-American variant of the tale is quite different in style from the traditional English tale.  In the first place, the rhythm of the story is achieved with the use of sophisticated, poetic words, rather than the more elementary repetition of the simple words “teeny tiny.”  For instance, phrases such as “dreamed and schemed” and “gnarled, dirty fingers and ragged clothes” are used in the story.  These advanced words make the story more appropriate for an older elementary or young adult audience.  In addition, the plot of the story is much more intricate than the rather linear plot of “Teeny Tiny Teacher” and “Teeny Tiny Woman.”  It involves more characters than the other stories and involves many more changes in scenes.  It is also much longer.  Perhaps most importantly, this tale is much more intense than “Teeny Tiny Woman” in that, rather than ending with the dead person simply getting back the stolen object, it ends with the woman taking the man into the underworld.  It also deals with more sophisticated themes, such as greed and treachery, than the English tale.


Taily Po

            First of all, this African-American story, about a “critter” who demands the return of his “Taily Po” from a young boy, is different from the other stories in that the being demanding the return of the stolen object is an animal rather than the person.  Aside from this major difference in content, the rhythm in the story is different from the rhythm in the stories previously-mentioned because it is based not on particular words or a repetition of particular phrases, other than the phrase “Tailypo, tailypo, all I want is my tailypo!” but rather on the poetic sound of the African-American dialect.  A major difference in the style of this story is that, although designed in some ways to appeal to young children (some of the versions have bright, detailed illustrations), the story is extremely intense, with the creature actually attacking the boy to try to get his tail back.  It also deals heavily with one particular theme: courage and resourcefulness.  At the end of the tale, the young boy is praised for the way that he dealt with the creature.


“A Ghost Story” – Theft of Coins

            This African-American tale has a more personal, informal flavor than the stories previously discussed.  For instance, the story incorporates sentences such as, “Some folks don’t believe in ghosts, which is fine with me.  You believe what you believe.”  This informal style, plus the use of the African-American dialect, give this story a unique rhythm.  Adding to the rhythm is the story’s use of sound effects, such as “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” and “Clinkity, clinkalinkle!”  This story is similar in its intensity to and audience to “Eyes of Jade” in that the story actually involves a direct theft of an object from a corpse.  Also, the story ends with the murder of the thief by the dead person.  Thus this story, like “Eyes of Jade” is appropriate for an older audience, such as young adults.


The Theft of Body Parts From the Dead

            The stories listed in the previous section that deal with the theft of body parts from dead people are also appropriate for an older audience.  With the exception of the story about the theft of the big toe, these stories are extremely intense, with the thieves actually cutting apart the dead person’s body to remove a body part.  This is a theme only appropriate for young adults or adults.  These stories truly are “horror stories” that appeal to the listener by trying to scare him or her.  They also deal with various specific motives for the theft, such as revenge, laziness, carelessness, and poverty.  The stories about the theft of the liver also incorporate a new theme not previously covered in these stories: disobedience of parents.  These stories indirectly teach the listener not to disobey his or her parents by showing the horrid results of this disobedience.  The story about the theft of the big toe is different from the other body part stories in that the theft of the body part is an accident rather than the result of a particular motive, and that the story is not nearly as morbid as the other ones.  In its style, it is actually more like “The Teeny Tiny Woman” than it is like the more intense body part stories.  It is thus appropriate for a younger audience.