Thursday, April 24, 2008

Storytelling Trip: Day 2

Baldwin Elementary!

What a school--many ESOL students, a library that is run by one of my best friends from high school, a beautiful made for a good experience all around. The plan for the day was stories from around the world, a fitting choice since the children at this school come from a variety of backgrounds.

Here Raccoon works his magic on a large group of K-1 students. He can always be depended on to do a good job. He's so good, in fact, that I have a body double for him! Just in case something should happen to him, you know.

A lively bunch of volunteers works with me on another stand-by story: Uwungalema. What is it about those clip-on tails that kids love so much?
Later the librarian told me that these students were in the ESOL class. They did a fantastic job. Their teachers should be proud.

A dragon with attitude! The dragon helped tell the story about the man who loved dragons (from China).

Anansi is in trouble again in the story of Anansi Steals Wisdom. The thumb piano, or mbira, is used in the story to illustrate his climb up--and fall back down--the tree, and for some other sound effects. I have had this instrument for 10 years, and it's been dropped, played with and lugged around in suitcases regularly It's made from a gourd on the bottom, wood top with soundholes, and metal pegs that make the sounds when plucked with you thumb. This one has a lovely sound.

And below, my #1 fan watches from the lunch table. The library staff prepared a delicious lunch for us, and I enjoyed being able to talk with them while we ate.

Storytelling works well with children whose English is limited because a teller can modify the story to include definitions of unfamiliar terms as part of the story ("Anansi put the wisdom in a calabash--a gourd like this one my thumb piano is made from--and tried to climb the tree."). Within the context of a story, the unfamiliar words can be understood. A teller can opt to replace difficult words with simpler ones, and often the teller's gestures, facial expressions, and movements can aid in understanding the vocabulary and the story's action.

I have found that even children classified as ADHD can be good story listeners. I believe it is because they are very good at creating the mental images of the story as they listen. They probably add a lot more detail than other children because they are so active mentally. So for the them the story experience can be very rich. Many times these children can tell the story back to you days, weeks or even months later. I wonder if ADHD children might be excellent aural learners, but need more physical activity to keep learning on track.

I was tired by the end of the day (5 presentations of 45 minutes each) but I cannot describe the "high" that comes from a day when the stories flow, the audience responds, and we all enter the magic land of storytelling together.


City Mouse said...

Awesome hearing about your storytelling adventures! Gorgeous snaps of the trip too - I have a thing for water and rocks, so I especially appreciated those pics. I love that mule!

Granny Sue said...

I only posted a few of the many photos I took along the river, CM. It is so lovely there. Some of your photos of NY state remind me of our mountains--but, then it's the same chain, so why not?

Robbyn said...

OK I'm still so excited to find a REAL storyteller...and you get to do it in "real life," too! My sister and I, too, made up ongoing tales and games all the time, and had fashion parades using lampshades as exotic hats...and my Grandma's girdle and 18 hour bras as a base for some wild accessorizing...over the clothes we were already wearing, of course, ha!
I think no matter what age I am, there is nothing quite like being told or read a story.

And you're completely right about the whole ADHD thing...there used to be a lot more physical activity and problem solving in past decades assosiated with just life in general, including school, and I think these are some of our brightest and best students who are having to sit still far too long and do workbook pages. It's just too artificial and sort of anti-childhood for that many hours of day for many of those kids. I remember as a child growing up in Mississippi being stuck in the classroom, finished with all my work in the first part of class and with nothing to do but stare out the window and feel sad because there was all that outdoors sitting there to be explored, and there I was having to be still at a desk all day. I remember that clearly!

I cheer on your storytelling...what a great great gift!

MK Stover said...

Robbyn beat me to the agreement with your assessment of ADHD children. I have to second the agreement. Absolutely! YES! More physical activity and interaction for all -especially 'hyperactive' children. There's nothing wrong with not being able to sit still for most of the day, it's just wrong because 'sit still' is what we want them to do.
Everyone learns differently. If a child is a 'good learner' it just means he is able to learn in the way it's typically presented in a classroom.
Each child deserves to learn and each child will learn best when taught in the way he processes information best.
Here's to more storytelling and participation!
Go Granny Sue!

Granny Sue said...

I had first hand experience with ADHD with my grandson, Robbyn, and that was how I learned how storytelling works with them. He could remember my stories word for word, and would correct me if I changed anything! I've noticed that other ADHD children react the same way. They're great listeners--usually the ones teachers point out as likely to give me problems turn out to be the best listeners.

MK, you're dead on the money. I had boys. Boys like to move, do things hands-on. They want to know why. The typical classroom setting doesn't work for most of them. Schools are really set up for the way girls interact, I think, and not for boys.

I once went to a conference where a presenter talked about the differences in boys and gorls learning styles. I discovered why my library programs attracted so many boys--they got to DO stuff, not just listen.

So when I'm telling stories, I try to make sure the audience has something to do--either direct participation via puppets/roles, singing, chanting, answering questions, etc. Of course not every story can be like that, but if I include enough they stay with me and retain what I say.

I know this for a fact--when I get to day 5 of our trip (or was it 6?) I'll explain.

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