Old Mother Goose
When she wanted to wander,
Would fly through the air
On a very fine gander.
SAI was approached by a Kindergarten teacher. “Could we teach her Kindergarteners to tell stories?”. We met, professional teacher and professional storyteller and collaboratively and came up with a plan.
Personally, I have taught many students to tell stories, both children and adults and decided to follow the same format using many of the same exercises I use for everyone. Together, the teacher and I decided to use Mother Goose rhymes as the stories the Kindergarteners would learn.
Why Mother Goose?
I once heard Iona Opie say that nursery rhymes are the child’s first narrative. I have always remembered that. Peter and Iona Opie were collectors and scholars of childhood rhymes of England. Another academic, Halliwell, was one of the first to study nursery rhymes as literature. “The nursery rhyme is the novel and light reading of the infant.” (preface to The Nursery Rhymes of England) And Delmar in her Mother Goose From Nursery to Literaturewrites, “Here in Mother Goose literature is the world. Her works run the gamut from sense to nonsense. There’s simple truth humanity- good and bad, fact and fantasy... Children who have been exposed to Mother Goose have learned not only the basics of life, but have had their minds stretched to outer limits.” What’s more, these rhymes are fun and catchy and there are many beautifully illustrated collections to pore over.
Working in a five day residency meant that the project would be focused and concise. The teachers were an integral part of this project. Four classes of Kindergarteners would choose rhymes, learn rhymes and share them with an audience for a great celebration.
The structure of the residency was explained and rhymes explored. The teachers’ main job was to help students choose appropriate poems. They decided to have Mother Goose rhymes be their reading workshop for the following two weeks. Students would read many rhymes at home and at school and at the end of the first week choose the one poem they wanted to learn. The teachers would read Mother Goose rhymes to their classes and follow up after the model lessons and most importantly find time for students to practice.
I told stories. Only one teacher had heard storytelling. None of the other teachers and none of the students had participated in a storytelling session previously. We discussed what they noticed: facial expression, voice, gestures and more. They would try to incorporate these techniques into their own storytelling. They would tell their poems, not read them. They would start looking for the rhyme they wanted to learn.
Second workshop (one week later)
Every story takes place somewhere. We worked on the setting of their rhyme. I told a story with vivid setting and we visualized the setting, using our imaginations. I used one rhyme to model for the rest of the sessions. I worked with ‘The North Wing Doth Blow.’ We made tableaus of their poems and then they drew the setting of their rhyme in their reading journals.
Characters and character traits came to the forefront. Using my poem as a model we discovered that poor robin was the main character and that she was cold and worried. Everyone found their own character and tried to describe them and make a statue of them. That day pictures of their characters where drawn in their reading journals.
Gestures make a story come alive. Everyone tried to find a gesture to add to their telling. We spent the majority of this session practicing knee-to-knee. The students were a bit shocked to learn that they couldn’t look at their papers. This is the same reaction I get from teachers when they learn to tell stories.
The Celebration! Buddies from older grades were invited to be the audience. The Kindergarteners were in groups of four with their buddies as listeners. The rhymes were so short that groups got to shift two or three times. As I went around and listened, I saw the Kindergarteners grow as storytellers with each telling. They became more confident, their voices stronger and their tellings smoother.
This residency was a true collaboration of teachers and storyteller. The teachers were the ones who scheduled and organized everything... even down to the cookies. Quickly grasping the concepts of storytelling they helped and guided their students to success.
I had such fun living with Mother Goose rhymes in the weeks leading up to this residency. I had stacks of collections around the house and compared illustrations. Two invaluable resources are listed below.
Delmar, Gloria. Mother Goose From Nursery to Literature
Thistle, Louise. Dramatizing Mother Goose.