Sarah, Plain and Tall Teaching Ideas

Activities to do with the Novel Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a short historical novel by Patricia MacLachlan. It is set in the prairie states during the nineteenth century. Sarah answers an ad from Jacob who is looking for a mother for his children after his wife passes away while giving birth to his youngest child Caleb. Sarah leaves her Maine home to travel to Jacob’s farm. She brings music, fun, laughter, and love to this family who grows to love Sarah in return.

Activities for Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall Unit Samples

Sarah Plain and Tall Novel Study

This book unit sample contains the following:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapter 1
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapter 1
  • Constructed Response Question
  • Chapter 1 Activities

Teaching Idea #1 – Homophone and Homograph Games

Sarah Plain and Tall Games

Students love playing these trail games! The games practice homophones or homographs using sentences from Sarah, Plain and Tall.

To play the games, students roll a die and move around the game board. They read the homophone or homograph [depending on the game] they land on. Next, the player covers a sentence from the book in the center of the board that uses the word.

My students love playing these games. It’s amazing to see how much they learn from this activity.

Before students play the games, make sure they know these definitions.



A homonym is a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not.


A homophone is a special type of homonym. It is a word that is pronounced the same as another but is different in meaning. It must have a different spelling.

FOCUS –> Spelling [must be spelled the same]


A homograph is a word spelled the same as another but different in meaning whether pronounced the same way or not.


A heteronym is a special type of homograph. You pronounce them differently from other words, and they are different in meaning. It must have the same spelling.

Teaching Idea #2 – Anchor Charts

Sarah Plain and Tall Character Trait Anchor Chart

Use this anchor chart over and over again by simply putting the character details on sticky notes.

Option #1 – The teacher writes the details on sticky notes. Students must sort the details by characters.

Option #2 – Students write details as they read the story. The chart can be added to as the book progresses.

Comparing Settings Anchor Chart

Here again, use sticky notes to make the anchor reusable. For this chart, students find proof from the text of the settings.

Patricia MacLachlan is a masterful writer. While looking at descriptive passages in the novel, have students evaluate the descriptions. Ask leading questions for students to see for themselves how her writing style excels in descriptions

Teaching Idea #3 – Sarah, Plain and Tall Bird Craft

Sarah Plain and Tall Bird Craft

Check out additional photos for making bird crafts at the Book Units Teacher website.

Students created these adorable birds with pom-poms, feathers, and wiggly eyes. Students constructed the nests from straw. Notice the strawflowers. These are locally grown.

See the product that inspired this post.

Sarah Plain and Tall Novel Study

Sarah, Plain and Tall Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice.  

Gay Miller

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    • Sandy on March 18, 2016 at 8:21 am

    This is one of my favorite books!

  1. What a cute game for teaching/reviewing homophones! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. You’re welcome. Enjoy!

    • Carla on March 19, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    As always Gay, I LOVE your resource. This will be perfect for my groups as we prepare for state testing. Thanks so much!

    1. Thank you!!

    • Kim on September 27, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    What’s the difference between your “book units” and your “interactive notebook and activity units”?

    1. The interactive notebook units were created as a series. They have small lessons that continue from one book unit to the next. For example, one book may teach two or three capitalization or grammar rules. The next in the series will continue and teach two or three additional rules. If you teach the entire series (There is a 4th grade and a 5th grade series), you will cover all the Common Core Language Arts skills. I found that teachers want to pick and choose the books they cover instead of sticking to a series. Because of this I am updating all the books called “Interactive Notebook Units.” I have already updated the entire 4th grade series and have removed “Interactive Notebook” out of their titles. I am currently doing the same with the 5th grade. Originally, these units focused a lot on skills and writing. As I update, I am adding comprehension questions to make them more well-rounded instead of writing and skill based. Note: Even though these books were written as a series, they work just as well individually.

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