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: Laughing Helps Us Learn: The Fool Story
Fool stories delight us for so many reasons. One way these stories delight us seems especially relevant to children. This is when the Fool is more lazy, more clueless and more out of control of his life than we are.
Adding physical comedy to storytelling helps captivate the audience.
· Students will exaggerate physical movements in order to create humor.
· Students will begin to identify the who, what, when, where, why of a story.
· Students will identify a moral to the story.
· World Map
· Poster of classic fool characters from folk and fairy tales, and popular culture.
· small artificial of head of lettuce (You could use real baby lettuce.)
· “Buried Treasure, a Story from Italy,” Usborne Stories from Around the World, Retold by Heather Amery, Usborne Publishing Ltd., London, 2000; or other Fool story, teacher’s choice.
· A folk nonsense song, grade appropriate, such as “John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmit,” “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” etc.
Noodlehead,, numbskull, bumpkin, silly, bobo, fool. Younger students may also need to know: hammock, fertilizer, merchant.
If you are using the Storytelling Tree, note the ornaments to review the stories that have already been told, and the character archetypes represented.
Tell the students that since they have learned so well about “good guys”, (heroes, protagonists,) and “bad guys” , (villains, antagonists), now they going to have a little fun. But first! A song!
Sing a nonsense song the students enjoy, such as John Jacob Jingle Hiemer Schmidt. Enjoy yourself too. This lesson needs a light touch, and a bit of silliness. The song and singing can set a nice atmosphere for fun. As the saying goes, comedy Is hard, but it should also be fun!
1. Display the poster of fool characters, along with the vocabulary words. Have the students read aloud all the vocabulary wards. Note for them that there are many ways to describe the “funny guys” in a story.
2. Ask the students to identify the various characters. Briefly discuss them. (For example: “That’s right! That’s Daffy Duck. Daffy never does seem to learn his lesson does he? He’s always as silly at the end of the story as at the beginning.” ) Whatever Fools you choose, the discussion can cover how Fools make us laugh, how sometimes they seem wiser than their more clever, meaner cohorts, how sometimes they actually wise up by the end of the story, etc. Mostly, this discussion should get the students actually thinking about the role of humorous characters,
3. Write on the white board Who, What, When, Where, Why. Ask the students to keep in mind these words as you share with them the next story.
4. Share “Buried Treasure.” Instead of “manure” you may want to say “fertilizer.” Keep the lettuce concealed until the last minute, so that the students discover the lettuce at the same moment as Mario. (Place the artificial lettuce as an ornament on the story telling tree.) If the students are young, you may add sound and motions as you did in the other lessons.
5. Ask the students to identify the 5 W’s. This should be brief.
6. As in lesson three, ask students to find a space in which they can work, in the classroom. They need to be near no one else and not near equipment, furniture, etc. Ask them to get into a “small ball.” Ask them to make a picture in their brains of Mario pulling weeds. And they should remember that Mario has never pulled weeds before, so he probably didn’t know how and wasn’t very good at it. He probably looked pretty funny.
7. Instruct students to “grow” into Mario pulling weeds and to pull the weeds in slow motion. Count as before. After “10,” say “Freeze!” Be amused, at their efforts.
8. Encourage them to go beyond their first efforts, by being specific in their pantomime, and exaggerating their movements. (For example, demonstrating as you talk: “ You all looked pretty funny, but I bet you could be even funnier. First, be really precise in your movement. A better choice than just pulling the weeds kind of fast, would be to exactly use your fingers to pull one weed. Only, it seems to be a really long weed. Now, exaggerate this motion as you become more and more amazed at how tough this little weed is to get out of the ground, and then suddenly, Bump!–you’re sitting flat on your behind!”)
9. Try the techniques with pulling weeds, digging up a cloud of dust, spraying water and spreading fertilizer. Each time, encourage students to first, be specific in their pantomime, and then exaggerate the motion to make it funny.
10.Last of all, let the students show you how Mario looked the first time he saw all those rows of lettuce appear as if by magic.
11.For a cool down, ask students to lay down on the floor, as if they were laying in Mario’s hammock, in the warm sun. Have them breathe as was described in Lesson Three.
12.Before students return to seats, ask them to think about what the story was meant to teach. Focus students’ thinking on what Mario has learned. Write the word moral on the white board. Remind the students that stories tend to Teach Warn and Entertain. (See Lesson One.) Have a quick discussion on the purpose of this story.
Note: Steps #3 and #12 should be brief. They serve only as introductions to the concepts. Follow up occurs in the next two lessons.
· Did the students exaggerate their specific pantomime, achieving humor in their work? (Did they make you laugh? Each other laugh?)
· Did students identify the 5 W’s and the moral of the story?
Note: Discretion must be used to make sure that a discussion on “Fool’ characters does not give students the impression that it is in any way acceptable to make fun of “slow thinkers” or the less experienced among us. Always ask, “Did the story teach, warn or entertain us?” , and ask the students to note the moral of the story. This should keep the discussion on the right track.
· Invite students to find a “fool story” from at least three different countries or cultures. You may direct them to the “Jean Sot” stories of the American South, “Bobo” stories from Mexico, “Chelm” stories of European Jewish culture, etc. Fool characters also co-exist with “Trickster” characters such as Navajo “Coyote” stories, African “Anansi” stories, and from the American South, Brer Rabbit stories . Modern examples include the picture book series featuring The Stupids. Even the Amelia Bedelia stories are gentle “Fool” stories. Encourage students to retell the stories to the class.
· The Grimm’s fairy tale “Jack and the Golden Goose” (it goes under many titles) is a classic Fool story. The bumpkin character of Jack is endearing, and the other characters in the story end up appearing much more foolish than Jack. Read the story to children. Encourage them to act out the part where the towns people who try to steal the goose end up sticking to each other. Remind them to be specific and then exaggerate in order to create the humor.
· U. S. Television cartoons very often use the fool character. Have the students make a list of these. (The list might include Daffy Duck, Shaggy in Scooby Do, Pinkie in Pinkie and the Brain, Disney’s Goofy and Donald Duck.) Have students identify why the characters are enjoyable to watch. (“They are funny!” is not a specific enough answer!)