Exploring "The Cow-Tail Switch" WebQuest


                                                      Image result for image of the cow tail swith bo            Harold Courlander, Author Info, Published Books, Bio, Photo, Video, and ...   Image result for image of the cow tail swith bo


Explore the world of "The Cow-Tail Switch" by Harold Courlander on a WebQuest. Discover African folklore, meet interesting characters, and discover the cultural elements that make this story special. This WebQuest encourages creativity and connects the dots between books, cultures, and imagination. The Cow-Tail Switch is a magical element that connects the dots between the story and the cultures that inspired it.

Welcome, educators, to the "Exploring 'The Cow-Tail Switch'" WebQuest designed to enhance your students' understanding of the novel by Harold Courlander. This engaging WebQuest is tailored to promote critical thinking, cultural exploration, and creative expression.


  1. To deepen students' understanding of the novel's themes, characters, and cultural context.
  2. To encourage collaborative learning through online research and exploration.
  3. To foster creative expression and critical thinking skills.

Implementation Guide:

  1. Introduction (class discussion):

    • Kick off the WebQuest by introducing "The Cow-Tail Switch" and discussing its cultural significance. Highlight key themes and characters.
  2. Task Assignments:

    • Guide students through each task, ensuring they explore reliable sources for information. Encourage critical analysis and discussion.
  3. Monitoring and Assistance:

    • Provide support as needed. Monitor student progress and offer guidance during the research and creative expression phases.
  4. Discussion and Reflection:

    • Facilitate class discussions on the students' findings. Encourage reflection on the novel's cultural context and the creative projects it develops.


Courlander, Harold (2023), Harold Courlander, in Encyclopedia.com

Creativity Tools:

    • Recommend tools or platforms for students to use in creating their visual representations and creative projects.
    • Canva is a graphic design tool that students can use to create visual representations, such as character maps or timelines.
    • Storybird is a platform for creating visual stories. Students can use this for the creative expression task.
    • Google Maps












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                Unveiling the Magic: Your Journey Begins!

Greetings, fellow explorers! Imagine a world where the rustle of leaves whispers ancient tales, where mythical beings weave their magic under the moonlit sky, and where destiny is a thread waiting to be unraveled. Your quest has just begun, and the first magical task awaits!

Task 1: Getting to Know the Author

Task 2: Vocabulary Exploration: Enchanting Words Await! Dive into the mystical magic box of "The Cow-Tail Switch." As words come alive, so does the magic of the story. Your mission is to master the vocabulary, wield the power of these enchanting words, and unlock the secrets hidden within the novel's pages.

Embark on this linguistic adventure, where each word is a portal to deeper understanding. Ready your quills, wizards of words, for the journey into the heart of the tale begins with the magic of language!

Are you prepared to conjure up the power of words? Let the spellbinding exploration commence!

  • Review the Vocabulary List:

    • Examine the provided list of 25 words from "The Cow-Tail Switch." Pay attention to their meanings and how they might be relevant to the novel.
  • Create Flashcards:

    • For each word, create a flashcard. On one side, write the word, and on the other, write its definition. Use these flashcards for self-quizzing and reinforcement.
  • Contextual Sentences:

    • Write a sentence for each vocabulary word that demonstrates its usage within the context of "The Cow-Tail Switch." Consider how the word is employed in the narrative.
  • Illustrative Images:

    • Find or create illustrative images for a select few words. Visual aids can reinforce your understanding of the vocabulary and help you remember the words in the context of the novel.

                        Vocabulary Words

  • A fable is a short story that typically features animals as characters and conveys a moral lesson.
  • Folklore: traditional beliefs, customs, and stories passed down orally from generation to generation within a community
  • Mythical: relating to or resembling myths; legendary.
  • Tribulation: a cause of great trouble or suffering.
  • Protagonist: the main character in a story, often the one with whom the audience identifies.
  • Antagonist: a character or force in conflict with the main character.
  • Quest: a long and arduous journey undertaken in search of something.
  • Deity: a god or goddess in a polytheistic religion.
  • Enchantment - a magical spell or charm.
  • Ordeal: a painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one.
  • Forsake: to abandon or give up on.
  • Ethereal: extremely delicate and light; otherworldly.
  • Supernatural: attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.
  • Adversity: difficulties; misfortune.
  • Atonement - the action of making amends for a wrongdoing.
  • Fateful: having far-reaching consequences; decisive.
  • Sorcery is the use of magic, especially black magic.
  • Triumph: a great victory or achievement.
  • Benevolent: well-meaning and kindly.
  • Malevolent: having or showing a wish to do evil to others.
  • Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness.
  • Sacrifice is the act of giving up something valuable for the sake of something else.
  • Destiny: the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.
  • Transcend: to go beyond the range or limits of something abstract.
  • Jubilation is a feeling of great happiness and triumph.

Task 3: Book Exploration

  • Read the introduction and select one of the stories from "The Cow-Tail Switch." Summarize the story's plot, characters, and the lessons it conveys.
  • Explore the cultural and historical context of the story you chose. How does the story reflect the culture of West Africa?
  • Note any recurring themes or symbols you discover in the story.

Task 4: Characters and Their Significance

  • Choose one character from the story you've selected and describe their traits and role in the narrative. Explain the character's importance in conveying the story's message.

Task 5: Cultural Elements

  • Research and present a cultural element featured in one of the stories. This could be a specific custom, tradition, or belief from the West African culture.
  • Develop a visual presentation (power point or poster) summarizing key concepts of African folklore and customs depicted in the story.

Task 6: Lesson Reflection

  • Reflect on the lessons and morals from the stories you've read. Choose one lesson that resonates with you the most and explain why it's important in today's world.

Task 7: Creative Expression

  • Create a piece of art, writing, or a short video inspired by the story you chose. Express how the story impacted you and what message you want to convey.

Task 8: Bahamian Storytelling Connection

  • Research and explore the storytelling traditions and folklore in The Bahamas. Look for Bahamian folktales, legends, or oral traditions that have similarities to the West African stories in "The Cow-Tail Switch."
  • Identify any common themes, characters, or moral lessons that are shared between Bahamian and West African storytelling traditions.
  • Reflect on the cultural and historical context of Bahamian storytelling. How have African heritage and other cultural elements influenced Bahamian storytelling?
  • Create a visual or written presentation that highlights the connections between Bahamian and West African storytelling. Use examples from both traditions to illustrate your points.
  • Consider how understanding these connections can promote cultural appreciation and understanding.

Task 9: Exploring the Geographical Context

  • Select one of the stories from "The Cow-Tail Switch" that provides a clear geographical setting or description.
  • Research and locate the geographical region or location mentioned in the story. This may include West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, or Mali.
  • Using maps, atlases, or online resources, identify the specific geographical features, landmarks, and cultural elements of that region mentioned in the story.
  • Explore the climate, vegetation, and natural resources of the geographical setting. How might these factors have influenced the characters' lives and the events in the story?
  • Reflect on the relationship between the story's geographical context and the cultural aspects presented in the narrative. How does the setting influence the characters' actions and the story's themes?
  • Create a visual presentation or report that showcases the geographical context of the selected story. Include maps, images, and descriptions to help your audience understand the connection between the story and its setting.


                    African Folktale Story of the First Banana Tree on EarthAfrican Folktale Story of the First Banana Tree on Earth      African Folktale Story of the First Banana Tree on EarthAfrican Folktale Story of the First Banana Tree on EarthAfrican Folktale Story of the First Banana Tree on Earth


Picture an inviting gateway, adorned with the promise of adventure, where the introduction beckons with the allure of discovery. Here, the story of "The Cow-Tail Switch" unveils its cultural tapestry, inviting you to explore the themes, characters, and rich context within.

Task 1: Getting to Know the Author, Harold Courlander

A. Research the Author

  • Explore Harold Courlander's background, life, and literary contributions.
  • Investigate the reasons behind Courlander's interest in collecting and sharing West African stories.

B Utilize Resources

Task 2: Vocabulary Exploration—Enchanting Words Await!

A. Review the Vocabulary 

  • Examine the list of 25 words from "The Cow-Tail Switch."
  • Consider the meaning and relevance of each word to the novel.

B. Create Flashcards

  • Craft flashcards for each vocabulary word, noting the word on one side and its definition on the other.
  • Use the flashcards for self-quizzing and reinforcement.

C. Contextual Sentences

  • Write a sentence for each vocabulary word that showcases its usage within the context of "The Cow-Tail Switch."
  • Consider the word's application in the narrative.

D. Illustrative Images

  • Find or create visual representations for selected words to enhance understanding.
  • Use these images as aids to remember the words in the context of the novel.

 Task 3: Book Exploration

A. Read and Summarize

  • Select one story from "The Cow-Tail Switch."
  • Summarize the story's plot, characters, and conveyed lessons.

B. Explore Cultural and Historical Context

  • Investigate how the chosen story reflects the culture of West Africa.
  • Uncover historical elements woven into the narrative.

C. Identify Themes and Symbols

  • Analyze the story for recurring themes and symbols.
  • Recognize their contribution to the cultural and literary significance of the narrative.

 Task 4: Characters and Their Significance

A. Choose a Character

  • Select one character from the chosen story.
  • Describe the character's traits and role in conveying the story's message.

 Task 5: Cultural Elements

A. Research and Presentation

  • Research a cultural element from the selected story (custom, tradition, or belief).
  • Develop a visual presentation summarizing key concepts of African folklore and customs depicted in the story.

 Task 6: Lesson Reflection

A. Reflect on Lessons

  • Ponder the lessons and morals from the stories.
  • Choose one lesson and explain its significance in the modern world.

 Task 7: Creative Expression

A. Create Art, Writing, or Video

  • Select a medium for artistic expression that draws inspiration from the chosen story.
  • Convey how the story impacted you and the message you wish to share.

 Task 8: Bahamian Storytelling Connection

A. Research and Explore

  • Investigate storytelling traditions and folklore in The Bahamas.
  • Identify connections and commonalities with West African stories.

B. Create a Visual or Written Presentation

  • Develop a presentation highlighting connections between Bahamian and West African storytelling.
  • Illustrate points with examples from both traditions.

 Task 9: Exploring the Geographical Context

A. Select and Research

  • Choose a story with a clear geographical setting.
  • Research the specific region mentioned in the story using maps, atlases, or online resources.

B. Map the Story's Geography

  • Unfold the geographical features, landmarks, and cultural elements mentioned in the story.
  • Explore the impact of the setting on characters' lives and narrative events.

C. Create a Visual Presentation or Report

  • Translate geographical exploration into a visual presentation or report.
  • Use maps, images, and descriptions to illustrate the connection between the story and its setting.










  • You will be assessed based on your grasp of content, evaluating the depth of understanding demonstrated in tasks related to the author, vocabulary exploration, book exploration, and cultural elements.
  • Creativity will be a focal point, with the assessment of inventive outputs such as flashcards, illustrative images, and the final creative expression project.
  • Research skills will be scrutinized in tasks requiring investigation into the author's background, cultural elements, and geographical contexts.
  • Presentation skills will be a key factor in assessing the clarity and effectiveness of visual presentations or reports.
  • Critical thinking will be measured through the analysis of characters, themes, and lessons derived from the chosen story.
  • Additionally, peer evaluation will be incorporated for collaborative tasks, fostering a sense of responsibility and accountability among students.
  • Rubrics will be provided for each task, delineating criteria and corresponding levels of achievement to guide both students and educators in the evaluation process.

The Cow-Tail Switch | Harold Courlander | MacmillanThe Cow-Tail Switch | Harold Courlander | Macmillan             The Cow-Tail Switch | Harold Courlander | Macmillan     The Cow-Tail Switch | Harold Courlander | MacmillanThe Cow-Tail Switch | Harold Courlander | Macmillan



Conclusion: Congratulations! You've delved into the captivating world of West African folklore through "The Cow-Tail Switch." You've learned about the author and explored tales, characters, culture, and valuable life lessons. Your creative expression is a testament to the impact of these stories on you and your understanding of this rich cultural heritage.


                                                          No photo description available.

                                                        Ms. Sally Johnson

                                                    Curriculum Developer


The creation of this web quest draws profound inspiration from the timeless narratives woven within 'The Cow-Tail Switch.' Just as the characters in the stories embark on transformative journeys, seeking wisdom and facing trials, this educational exploration invites students to embark on their own intellectual odyssey. The rich cultural tapestry of West African storytelling, as exemplified in the tales collected by Harold Courlander, serves as a guiding light, illuminating the importance of preserving and appreciating diverse traditions. As the characters in the book navigate through adversity with resilience and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, so too does this web quest aspire to foster resilience, critical thinking, and a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of our global heritage. May the spirit of 'The Cow-Tail Switch' inspire a generation of learners to embrace the magic of stories and the wisdom embedded within them."

Teacher Page
Criteria Exceptional (4) Proficient (3) Basic (2) Limited (1)
Task 1: Getting to Know the Author        
Research on Harold Courlander 4 3 2 1
Task 2: Vocabulary Exploration        
Flashcard Creation 4 3 2 1
Contextual Sentences 4 3 2 1
Illustrative Images 4 3 2 1
Task 3: Book Exploration        
Story Summarization 4 3 2 1
Cultural and Historical Context 4 3 2 1
Themes and Symbols Analysis 4 3 2 1
Task 4: Characters and Their Significance        
Character Description 4 3 2 1
Task 5: Cultural Elements        
Research and Presentation 4 3 2 1
Task 6: Lesson Reflection        
Reflection on Lessons 4 3 2 1
Task 7: Creative Expression        
Artistic, written, or Video Creation 4 3 2 1
Task 8: Bahamian Storytelling Connection        
Research and Presentation 4 3 2 1
Task 9: Exploring the Geographical Context        
Geographical Exploration 4 3 2 1
Visual Presentation or Report 4 3 2 1
Overall Participation 4 3 2 1

Total Points: [Insert Total Possible Points]

Grade Scale:

  • 36–40 points: A
  • 32-35 points: B+
  • 28-31 points: B
  • 24-27 points: C+
  • 20-23 points: C
  • 16–19 points: D+
  • 12–15 points: D
  • 0-11 points: F

                                                        Adaptive version of a tail from Cow Tail Switch


                            The Deer and the Hunter

Once upon a time, in a dense West African forest, there lived a wise and noble deer named Kofi. Kofi was renowned for his sharp wit and keen insight, which made him a respected figure among the animals.

One day, a skilled hunter named Amadi entered the forest, armed with a bow and arrows. Amadi was known for his cunning and relentless pursuit of prey. The animals, fearing for their lives, gathered to seek Kofi's guidance.

Kofi, sensing the impending danger, called for a meeting among the animals. He proposed a plan to outsmart the hunter and ensure the safety of the entire forest community.

The animals decided to send the clever tortoise, Tunde, as an emissary to negotiate with Amadi. Tunde approached the hunter, speaking of the importance of harmony between humans and animals. Amadi, amused by the talking tortoise, agreed to a truce, but with a condition: the animals must provide him with a cow-tail switch, a rare and magical item.

Undeterred, the animals sought Kofi's counsel again. Kofi revealed that the cow-tail switch was hidden deep within the enchanted Baobab tree at the heart of the forest. To retrieve it, they needed the bravery and agility of the monkey, the strength of the elephant, and the stealth of the panther.

In a daring quest, the monkey swung through the trees, the elephant uprooted obstacles, and the panther prowled silently. Together, they reached the Baobab tree and obtained the coveted cow-tail switch.

Presenting the magical switch to Amadi, the animals demonstrated their unity and resourcefulness. Amadi, moved by their efforts, made a commitment to give up hunting and live in harmony with the forest.

From that day forward, the deer, the tortoise, the monkey, the elephant, and the panther became symbols of cooperation and resilience in the West African forest. The tale of "The Deer and the Hunter" echoed through generations, teaching the importance of unity in the face of adversity.

Please note that this is a creative adaptation, and the original tale may have variations in different retellings and regions.

                                                                       Reference List

An Evening in Guanima: A Treasury of Folktales from The Bahamas | ShareGoblin

Bahamas Myths and Legends For Kids (bahamas4kids.com)

Bing.com/maps (Africa)