by Teresa Love
Drama /Theatre Specialist, Fullerton School District
All the Arts for All the Kids
This set of lessons explores dramatic work as one learns to express a story. Since drama can be defined as “an actor with a conflict” and, in most theatre, drama is contained and expressed through story, story literature and character archetypes from six different cultures are explored.
The lessons are linked both to theatre arts standards and history/social science and language arts curriculum standards.
Emphasis is placed on expressional fluency, critical thinking, divergent thinking, cooperative learning, creating solutions to problems, and comparing and contrasting cultures and style.
Students participate in acting exercises, games and playmaking.
Title: The Storyteller’s Art
Overview: Storytellers have existed throughout time, with the necessary consent and participation of their audiences. Storytellers’ audiences range from the nursery to political gatherings, religious disciples to the farmers’ hearth, the royal court, to the lecture hall. Storytelling exists to teach, explain, demonstrate devotion, entertain or all of the above.
Storytellers learn to engage their audiences, with their material and their manner of presenting the material. Unless an audience listens, the story stops and the goals of the storyteller fail. Audiences learn to support the story teller through social and cultural mores. (For example, some cultures listen in respectful silence. Some cultures respond verbally to cues, becoming integral to the performance.)
1. Children will participate in sound and motion stories, responding to appropriate cues.
2. Children will, through their participation, demonstrate the concept that as a storyteller cooperates with an audience, the audience cooperates with the storyteller.
(Note: In this lesson, as in subsequent lessons, stories and books will be suggested. However, other stories and books can be substituted depending on teacher choice.
The teacher can choose a different Hero, Villain or Fool story. There are plenty of these stories in every country and culture. It is important that the teacher be excited about the story, and prepare to tell the story in as an exciting and engaging manner as possible. The storyteller’s art is one of the dramatic arts! So, in looking for substitute stories, chose a story you really enjoy telling.
· How I Spent my Summer Vacation, by Mark Teague, Dragonfly Books, published by Crown Inc., a division of Random House, 1995;
· Tasty Baby Belly Buttons, by Judy Sierra, Illustrated by Meilo So, a Borzoi Book, Albert Knopf, publisher, 1999.
· White board and markers (or prepared word strips “The storyteller’s job is to make the story interesting.”, The audience’s job is to have Open Ears, Open Minds, and Open Hearts.”, “ Stories Teach, Warn and Entertain.”
· World map
Optional: (To be used in every lesson, if desired.)
· A potted live or silk plant or tree, large enough to support “ornaments.” Use these ornaments to represent various characters and items in the various stories. The ornaments can be placed on the “Storytelling Tree” as a review tool, or as items to pique interest about the story the students will hear during the lesson.
The following are a list of items I have used. These “ornaments” will be noted in the following lessons as optional materials, and the teacher can make his/her own choice as to which items to use, if any. Also, naturally, as the choice of stories and books will vary depending on teacher choice, so will the ornaments. That said, here is a list of ornaments and their corresponding story.
· small wrapped gift box (“a story is like a present…”)
· Dog, bird, monkey: Tasty Baby Belly Buttons
· Egg: Horton Hatches an Egg
· Mortar and pestle, dog, cat, comb: “Baba Yaga”
· Artificial mini lettuce head: “Magic Field”
· Miniature broom: Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like
Vocabulary: (as grade appropriate) Note: Vocabulary listed will match with the suggested stories. If the teacher makes other choices, substituting a different story, the vocabulary will, obviously be different.
stampede, cattle, wrangler, matador, buckaroo, oni, millet, dumplings, pheasant, minuscule, storyteller, cooperation, cue
Have a short discussion with the students regarding their last vacation, or school break. Ask them to shut their eyes and make a “remember picture” in their mind of the best thing they did during that vacation or break. Remind children of various activities they might have experienced. (“Did you spend time at your grandma’s home… did you go someplace fun with your family… did you stay at home and read a million books… did you play outside with your neighbor…?” etc.) Ask students to share with you their memory, or “remember picture.”
Choose a few students and listen to their stories. Draw students out, asking for details, being delighted that they will share with you. Thank each student for telling you his or her story. Use and emphasize the words story and storyteller.
Tell the students you liked their stories so much you might go share their stories with someone you know. (“ At dinner tonight I might say to my daughter that there was this child in my class today, and he had such a great time when he went to the mountains with his Dad and Mom,” etc.) Honor the fact that the students shared with you. Demonstrate that you were a good listener. Repeat specific details of the stories as you speak, so that the students will notice how closely you paid attention.
Tell the students that you feel as if you received a gift, a present, today, when they told you their stories. Tell them you are going to pass the present along when you share their story with someone else. (“A story is like a present. You give someone a gift when you share a story.”)
1. Invite students to listen to a story about a boy and what he did on his summer vacation
2. Present How I Spent My Summer Vacation, by Mark Teague.
3. Help the children discover all the storytellers involved. Discuss the fact that Wallace Bleff shared his story with his class. Also, a man named Mark Teague made up the story and pictures of the book. Then point out that you (the teacher) were a storyteller also, because you told the story to your students.
4. (“In the next few drama lessons we have we’re all going to learn about stories and how to express stories—share stories , with other people.)
5. Using prepared word strips, or writing on the white board, discuss the following concepts in light of the story you just read. Refer to illustrations as examples of these concepts.
· Stories Teach, Warn and Entertain (“Did Wallace’s story warn us of anything?” etc)
· The Storyteller’s job is to make the story interesting. (“How did Wallace make the story interesting?”)
· The Audience’s job is to have Open Ears, Open Minds, Open Hearts. (“What does it mean to have open ears?” etc.) Students will have many ideas regarding these concepts. You may want to note that open ears can mean listening well, and open mind may mean using one’s imagination. It can also mean not deciding before you hear a story whether or not you’ll like it. Having an open heart can mean letting oneself be touched emotionally by a story.(“So if the story is supposed to be funny, go ahead and laugh. And if the story is supposed to be a little scary, go ahead and feel a little afraid. And if the story is a little sad, go ahead and …that’s right, feel a bit sad.)
5. Prepare to presentTasty Baby Belly Buttons, by Judy Sierra. Tell students that in Japan(refer to map) the audience is invited to help tell the story. Tell students that when you give them a signal, or cue, students are invited to follow what you do and or say. Review vocabulary students may need to know to understand the story. (dumplings, millet, oni, pheasant, etc.)
6. Each term noted in italics in the text can be accompanied by a motion as you say them. Share the story as described. (”One morning , as the old woman was washing clothes in the river, a melon came floating along, tsunbara, tsunbara” Using your hand, imitate a melon floating down the river, and say “tsunbara, tsunbara, tsunbara,” inviting and indicating the students to do the same. You might even say, “This is your part!” if students don’t join in right away.
7. Other opportunities for sound and motion, for yourself and students:
· “Zushin, zushin!” Sway back and forth as if you are a monster marching.
· Chant “Belly buttons, belly buttons, Tasty baby belly buttons!” in a monstrous voice. (Make sure students chant with you.)
· Walk your fingers in your palm as you say “Tontoko, tontoko.”
· Use a high pitched voice for the pheasant as you say “Ken, ken, ken, ken, I smell millet dumplings!”
· Use a goofy monkey voice as you say “Kya, kya, ,kya, kya, I smell millet dumplings.”
· Use your hand to toss the dumplings to the pheasant and monkey.
· Knock on the castle door, using a deep voice, “Don, Don, Don!”
· Cry like a baby, rubbing your eyes for “Boro,boro,boro,boro!”
· Pretend to get your toes nipped, knees knocked, and head bopped as the animals attack the monsters.
· Use a swift sword motion and sound to cut the rope tying the babies.
8. Praise the students for their work. Discuss how they did their job as an audience. Thank them for their help in making your job easier as a story teller, by helping to make the story interesting. Ask, did the story teach us? How? Warn us? How? Entertain us? How?
9. If you are using the Storytelling Tree, invite students to put representative items on it. Include the present to remind everyone that sharing a story is a wonderful gift. Tnank the children again for their stories with you.
· Did the students participate in sounds and motions?
· Did the students demonstrate their responsibilities as audience members demonstrating open ears, open minds, and open hearts– criteria you discussed and decided together?
· With young children, bring in some millet (pet stores have it) and pass it around. Bring pictures or actual dumplings. Discuss how many different cultures have a special type of “dumpling” in their cooking.
· Set a movement pneumonic for Open Ears, Open Minds, Open Hearts. (For example, point to ears, brain and heart, each time you mention the Audiences’ job.)
· Ask students to draw or write a version of their own summer vacation. However, they must have an open mind, and extend their thinking and add some fun exciting new fictional details to their stories. Have the students read or tell their stories to classmates. Classmates may guess what is “real” and what is fictional.
· Sing some story songs: “The Cat Came Back”, “The Ship Titanic”, “On Top of Spaghetti”, “Found a Peanut”, etc.