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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in stories

Posted by on in Early Childhood

Many years ago, teaching pre-k students about stories, and story structure, it occurred to me that since my students sang their made-up songs in dramatic play, I should share the grown-up version of stories that are sung. That is how teaching opera to young children was born in our classroom. The opera by Englebert Humerdinck, Hansel and Gretel, was one I’d sung in the past. It is usually performed during the holidays, ostensibly for children (though I defy any adult to fall asleep while watching it). The story itself is problematic for early childhood classrooms. A mother/step-mother who wants her children to die so that the couple has enough to eat? A witch who turns children into cookies? The original tale is a typical Brothers Grimm tale, based on many word-of-mouth versions going back to a famine in fourteenth century Germany. To our modern sensibilities, it is a terrifying story. The wonderful James Marshall’s comic version is one children enjoy, but at the end, the step-mother is still dead. Reading this version to children one year, a boy pronounced this turn of events, “Good!” (Good riddance to a bad mommy?). Older school-age children will enjoy comparing all of the versions, but for preschool, Beni Montresor’s version is best. And it is identical to the opera libretto.

Here is a very brief synopsis: A poor mother sends her children out to pick wild strawberries because of their need for food. The children get lost and sleep in the forest, protected by the friendly animals (children in costume), and angels. Here is the scene in the opera which will illicit conversation about feelings of sadness, loss, and how we sometimes need a good sleep to overcome these feelings. Hansel and Gretel find the witch’s delicious house, and meet the old, seemingly friendly woman who owns it. The story proceeds from there as it usually does.

The witch’s character is usually played for comedy, sometimes in even in drag, softening the horror of a witch who eats gingerbread children. After Gretel pushes the witch into her own oven, the other children that were liberated from witch enchanted cookie forms (played by the Met Children’s Chorus in my recommended DVD), and Hansel and Gretel, celebrate, singing and dancing with gusto. The mother and father sing themselves in from the wings, and they joyously reunite with Hansel and Gretel. There couldn’t be a more satisfying ending, provided you don’t mind the children’s chorus ripping the witch/cookie apart and pretending to eat her. Our children loved this part! The storybook and opera prepare children for the themes of overcoming hardship with ingenuity, and the ultimate triumph of love over adversity.

I have always shown the DVD (VHS years ago) in twenty minute installments, making sure to pause and discuss what is happening, and listening to comments and questions. Children have amazing observations to express and discuss.

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Posted by on in General

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When you look at this photo what do you see?

Are you sure?

What if I were to tell you that at the moment this photo was taken my daughter had a terrible migraine and my son was as happy as could be? It may seem hard to believe, but it’s true.

We oftentimes make judgements based on what we see. And that can be dangerous. But sometimes that may be all we have to go on. So we do the best we can. Then later we find out that we were off. Way off.

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Posted by on in General

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You probably would not expect it.

But then again, why wouldn’t you?

The story I am about to tell you is about two brothers. One big and one small.

It all began one morning before school. Two brothers rode their bikes to school. I may be wrong, but I couldn’t recall them ever riding their bikes to school before. Neither wore a helmet and neither one seemed as if they realized that they were riding in the bus zone. I was just arriving to school and I paid them a good morning and made sure to remind them that the buses would be pulling up soon.

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Tagged in: stories uncovering
Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

storytelling

My husband is a master teacher and people often ask him what it is that he does that gets such great results. I think it is his storytelling ability that garners him such success, both with student achievement and also found within the relationships he builds with his middle school students.

Parents often remark to him that their children come home and the nightly dinner table conversation is in regards to what stories were told that day in math class. They go on to say that their children can recall every minute detail and that they, the entire family, feel as if they have known us their entire lives.

When you have taught as long as he has there is a story to tell for virtually any topic that would ever come up in class. And really, if he does not have one, then he just makes one up. The students are served a daily regimen of storytelling in his class and they love it!

Storytelling is an excellent way to build language. New words and colloquialisms can be heard by the students. When you tell stories in your classes you are modeling how to recall sensory details. Another reason to use storytelling in your classroom is that it models presentation skills for students to use in the future. Eye contact, movement, dramatic pauses, voice intonation and gesturing are some of the tactics that can be seen when a teacher tells stories.  Finally, students who listen to storytelling get oral models for writing.

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Posted by on in General

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My daughter and I took a "Photo Walk" today. With camera and iPhone in hand we did our best to capture the world around us. Sometimes I see more when I am moving. Sometimes I see more when I am not. We were successful in capturing many of Nature's majestic beauties. From butterflies to flowers to palm trees to the occasional lizard.

But one scene in particular grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. The thing is, I had walked past it many times before this day. And while it was always worthy of a glance, it had never gotten me to stop and stare as it did on this particular day.

I sat down beside it to get just the right shot. My daughter was forced to wait. Contrary to what the photo depicts, she survived.

The photo of the chess board above was what stopped me in my tracks. It wasn't the size of the pieces that caught my attention. I had seen large boards before. It was the color of the pieces that provoked me (I am aware that they are almost always black and white. But this was different).

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Tagged in: listening Race stories