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four pumpkins in a row


Pumpkin in the Jar:
A Riddle Story Lesson



Language Arts
Social Studies



Brief Description

Solve the riddle in this cause-and-effect folktale. Then write a riddle story of your own.


Students will

  • think critically in order to solve riddle stories/folktales from the Philippines, India, and the Congo.
  • reflect on the causes behind the events in the story.


folktales, cause and effect, riddle story, Philippines, Congo, India

Materials Needed

Lesson Plan

The Web site Stories to Grow By presents dozens of retold tales from all over the world. In one such tale from the Philippines, a farm maiden proves herself clever and virtuous enough to become a kings wife. The story is told in the riddle story format, a format that allows the reader to think critically and explain how the seemingly implausible events of the story were able to take place. Read aloud the story, The Pumpkin in the Jar and let students write their explanations of how the maiden was able to grow a pumpkin in a jar.

You might find a use for these other versions of this story from Stories to Grow By:
The Pumpkin in the Jar (storybook version/pdf)
The Pumpkin in the Jar (Readers Theater version/pdf)

Extend the Lesson
Cause and effect. Extend this riddle-story lesson with this work sheet from Education World:
The Pumpkin in the Jar" A Lesson in Cause and Effect
Challenge students to explain the causes/reasons behind six events in the story.

Solve more riddle stories. Share additional riddle stories from the Stories to Grow By" Web site. Have students write their explanations for the riddles in these stories:
All for a Paisa"
This folktale from India shares how a seemingly lazy boy is able to prove his worth -- and the worth of a paisa coin -- to his disbelieving father.
All for a Paisa (storybook version/pdf)
All for a Paisa (Readers Theater version/pdf)
Outwitting the Imp"
This folktale from Congo (Africa) explains how a very young boy is able to outwit a mean forest creature intent on taking his mother.
Outwitting the Imp (storybook version/pdf)
Outwitting the Imp (Readers Theater version/pdf)

Stories from around the world. Read more folktales from around the world from the Web site Stories to Grow By. Track the story origins on a world map.

The ultimate challenge. Challenge students to write their own riddle stories.



  • Assess students based on their written reflections/critical thinking about the riddles behind the folktales.
  • Score students efforts on the The Pumpkin in the Jar" A Lesson in Cause and Effect work sheet.
    ANSWERS: Accept these responses as well as other reasoned answers:
    1. they wanted to hunt for deer;
    2. she had only an old, crude jar in which to serve it;
    3. she smashed the jar from which he drank;
    4. she felt no one else should touch the jar after the king drank from it;
    5. he wanted to learn if she was as clever as she was virtuous;
    6. it took a few months for the pumpkin to grow.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted by Gary Hopkins




Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.


More Lesson Ideas

Find links to more language arts and reading lesson ideas in these Education World archives: