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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Teacher Guide by Anna Warfield

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Sleepy Hollow Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Include:

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving is one of the oldest American stories still regularly taught in schools. While this tale is often thought of as "scary", it actually contains a great deal of humor and thoughtfulness. Students will enjoy reading the characterization of Ichabod Crane and the origins of his legendary encounter with the Headless Horseman.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Vocabulary


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"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was first published in the early 1800s in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., so many of the words may be unfamiliar to students. Often, new words pertaining to an unfamiliar context need to be mastered before a student can understand nuances in the story. Allow students to display mastery of new words by creating a visual vocabulary board.


Here are a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Vocabulary

  • coquette
  • tethered
  • querulous
  • gambols
  • reverie
  • sojourned
  • pedagogue
  • cudgelled
  • psalmody
  • perambulations
  • waggery
  • boorish
  • lamentations
  • roystering
  • niggardly

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Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Summary


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Plot Diagram

Exposition

Ichabod Crane is the schoolmaster in Sleepy Hollow, a town beset by supernatural occurrences. A local favorite is the tale of the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a Hessian mercenary who lost his head.


Conflict

Ichabod and rival Brom Bones want to marry Katrina van Tassel, the flirtatious daughter of a wealthy landowner. After receiving the brushoff from Katrina, despite previous encouragement, Ichabod leaves a social gathering in an agitated state.


Rising Action

Ichabod goes home during the witching hour. After hearing many ghost stories at the party, again and again he imagines a ghost or goblin in almost everything he sees. Finally he sees an enormous hulk - the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.


Climax

The Headless Horseman matches Crane's pace, and finally chases him. Ichabod tries to spur on Gunpowder, a borrowed horse, to reach the bridge quickly.


Falling Action

Ichabod makes it to the bridge and turns to see if his pursuer will disappear. The Headless Horseman throws his head at Ichabod, who falls off his horse and passes out.


Resolution

The next morning, the townspeople find Crane's hat and his few belongings, as well as a smashed pumpkin, by the bridge.



(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow TWIST Analysis


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that examine Tone, Word Choice, Imagery, Style, and Theme. This activity is referred to with the acronym “TWIST”. In a TWIST, students focus on a particular paragraph or a few pages, to look deeper at the author’s meaning.



Using an excerpt from the story, students can depict, explain, and discuss the initial description of the setting of Sleepy Hollow.


TWIST Example for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions: stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole nine fold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.


T

TONE

Mysterious: Sleepy Hollow is subject to many supernatural happenings
W

WORD CHOICE

listless, drowsy, dreamy, sequestered, dreamy, bewitched, witching power, spells, reverie, trances, visions, nightmare
I

IMAGERY

"A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere"; "...spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie"; "...and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols"
S

STYLE

Irving takes great care to set the scene of Sleepy Hollow as a spot for supernatural occurrences. He mentions many inexplicable things, from the easily recognizable shooting star, to the nightmare spirit. By providing a wide variety of examples, Irving persuades the reader to be more accepting of the supernatural.
T

THEME

Sleepy Hollow has long been a hotbed for ghosts, spirits, and otherworldly forces.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Perform a TWIST analysis of a selection from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Remember that TWIST stands for Tone, Word Choice, Imagery, Style, Theme.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TWIST.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Legends

Stories seem to survive year after year in every school about previous students and teachers. People tell stories all the time and exaggeration is common. Many times the fish was "this big" at each telling, but the space between the outstretched hands always seem to grow. There are neighborhood stories about a "witch" who lives alone on the hill. A story is all it takes to start a legend.

Legends are all around us. A legend is a story that has been passed down repeatedly, usually with exaggerated information. Legends are based on a real person, place, or event, and typically involve fantastic feats of some kind. Johnny Appleseed, King Arthur, and Robin Hood all have legends associated with them. While they were real people in a fixed time period, the stories passed down about them have obvious elements of fiction and fantasy.

Legends begin as a real story - though the facts may be a bit muddy even from the start. Legends grow and change with every telling. Sometimes changes are made or exaggerated to make the tale more exciting to those who hear it, or to teach a lesson. In this story, Washington Irving relates the start of a new legend, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".


Essential Questions for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

  1. How do emotions affect our perceptions?
  2. How does the author use description to set the mood of a setting?
  3. What are superstitions? How are legends made?

Additional Activity Ideas for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

  1. Create a graphic novel version of the story.

  2. Rewrite the story from the point of view of Ichabod Crane (or Brom Bones).

  3. Compare and contrast the characterizations of Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones in a T-Chart.

  4. Create a storyboard that illustrates Ichabod's imaginativeness with evidence from the text.

  5. Explore and depict themes, motifs, and symbols.

  6. Examine Irving's use of humor in the text by creating comic strips.



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