Children are natural storytellers. They are drawn to the magic of stories and they almost always turn play into an opportunity to develop narrative.
This week we have expanded upon their love of Greek Mythology and have begun an investigation of folklore, mythology and legends from around the world. Exposing children to a diverse range of literature allows them to learn about other cultures and traditions. Through this exposure, children develop respect for traditions different from their own and recognize commonalities between global communities. As we learn about other cultures, we build empathy and expand our perspectives.
We noticed that in many cultures, stories often feature imaginary creatures. This served as a perfect entry point for our imaginary creature-obsessed Beavers! We began the week by reading West African folklore, specifically stories associated with Anansi the Spider. Anansi is known as the “keeper of all the stories of the world.” Stories about Anansi are told throughout West Africa and the Caribbean, however orginate from Ghana and the Ashanti people. Anansi is known as the “wise trickster.” We read Anansi the Spider, Anansi and the Talking Melon, and Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock. The children loved these trickster tales and relished the humor.
From Native American folklore, we learned about the Raven. The Raven is a mythological creature that is central to stories derived from the Haida and Tlingit, both first-nation tribes on the west coast of Canada. The Raven is another character known to for his trickster ways, however unlike Anansi, the Raven uses his clever nature for good. We read the legend associated with how daylight came to be. After tricking the selfish Sky Chief who is hoarding all of the light for himself, the Raven captures back the light and spreads it around the world for all to enjoy. We will continue to explore folklore, evaluating common themes and characters across stories.
In addition to exploring story through books, we have started to think about different forms of storytelling. Specifically, we have been thinking about ways a story can be brought to life. When asked to share their ideas, your children immediately started talking about plays, movies and favorite T.V shows. The Beavers identified that it is the actors who do a lot of the storytelling in plays, movies and television, but we were eager to find out more about how stories are told in a theater. To answer some of these questions, we set out on an in-school field trip to visit the Pratt Theater. While there, we had the opportunity to meet middle and upper school students who are part of this year’s production of Our Town. Packer students explained some of the things they do to bring depth to their storytelling. They discussed the importance of makeup, costumes, sets, lighting and sound. We were fascinated to learn that actors need to wear a lot of make up because of the bright lights on stage. We loved seeing before and after photos of actors made to look older with “age makeup.” The students shared how they think about their voice and their body expressions when taking on the role of a new character. We had the chance to try on masks and hats and practice changing our voices and movements to reflect our role. Throughout the conversation there was a big emphasis on the teamwork that goes into putting on a show. The actors talked about how plays would never be made possible if it weren’t for all of the people working behind the stage. We talked to the stage managers about set design who shared how props, sets, lighting and sound are integral to storytelling. The Beavers related the team work that goes into putting on a play to the team work that goes into forming our classroom community. After our student interviews, the Beavers were lucky enough to get to explore backstage. We visited the brightly lit dressing room, seeing hats, shoes, clothing and special props ready for their production of Our Town. As a plug, Our Town opened last night and has matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday!
Throughout the week, we used what we learned on our visit to the Pratt to inspire our storytelling. Back in our classroom we have begun acting out our personal imaginary creature stories. Using their stories in their Writer’s Notebooks as the script, friends called on their peers to take on various parts in our dramatizations. As the teacher narrated the story, the Beavers became the actors, using their voices and movements to express their character. Your children have loved bringing their stories to life and we’re excited to continue with dramatizations next week. We know our visit to Puppetworks next Thursday will be a highlight as we see a production of Beauty and the Beast, and observe how puppeteers bring a story to life.
Here are some pictures of one of our dramatizations: