Do you know the story of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff?” We do. We know it and tell it a lot. I mean A LOT, a lot. Young children plus a bridge on the playground equals goats and trolls, right? Reenacting this tale is quite popular at the beginning of the year. Now, with our current look at “good guys and bad guys” in classic tales, the story has resurfaced.
The children have been making masks and puppets over the last few weeks. Each chose their own character(s). Some characters are familiar such as a goat, a wolf and a pig. Others are characters from as yet untold tales. The children decided that they wanted to test their masks out on “The Bridge Game.” Each child’s character bloomed and evolved on the spot. There is not a script and no one practiced. Without further ado…
If you happen to watch a large group of 4-6 year-olds play long enough, you’ll begin to see this age groups’ fascination with all things “bad” and “evil”. One of the favorite themes in play every year is to be the bad guys or the evil (unicorn, horse, Batman, fairy, fill-in-the-blank). Young children are drawn to this type of play. Battling the bad guy allows children to enact control over their fears and anxieties about what they perceive to be good and evil in the world around them. Being the bad guy lets them play with the power they imbue on villains. This type of play lets the children work through their fears and impulses in a safe environment, where they know that they and their friends are not really bad, but only acting.
When we noticed that good guy, bad guy play had become a prominent theme both indoors and out, we realized it was time to start a new study.
Our question for the children is:
How can you tell if someone is a good guy or a bad guy?
(another version is: What are the clues that it is a good/bad guy?)
We began the study by asking the children to draw their vision of each on separate pieces of paper.
It was interesting that almost all of the bad guys were identified as Darth Vader, a character in a movie that many of them have not seen.
In our quest to understand Villains and “Good Guys” this week, we’ve been focusing on versions of “The Three Little Pigs”. We’ve read the classic tale, as well as “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig”, by E. Trivizas and “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs”, by J. Scieszka. After reading the original story, it was quite obvious who the villain and good guys were. The second tale, though a complete opposite of the first, was also easy to categorize with the pigs now being the villains. The final story, however, took a little bit more thought. If you haven’t read it already, it is a retelling of the original, but from the wolf’s point of view. He claims that he was never big and bad, but instead simply had a cold. Supposedly he visited the pigs looking for a cup of sugar for his “dear, sweet granny” and accidentally sneezed their houses down. In this story, the pigs weren’t truly “bad”, but they weren’t very nice either.
For one of this week’s activities, the children were charged with the task of recreating the three houses from the original tale of “The Three Little Pigs”. The first groups attacked the problem of building a straw house. Mrs. Pless and I envisioned how this structure might come together, but as usual, the first group of children’s ideas diverged completely from the adults. Their plan was to form a square frame using four straws and tape. They then filled in the center with additional straws laying side-by-side. The second group considered the first set of walls and decided to continue in this manner. One boy began making a much larger rectangle, but changed his mind when he decided that it would end up using all of the straws. (The problem solving going on during this project was amazing to behold.) The final group connected the four walls and attempted a few roofs before settling on a completed design.
A separate group of children worked on recreating the stick house. For this project, we introduced a large version of connecting logs. It took a bit of experimentation to figure out how to stack the logs in a stable fashion. Once they realized that they needed to place the long logs and the short logs alternately, it came together rather quickly. When they reached the problem of designing a roof, they knew that they wanted to include the triangle blocks they had found, but weren’t sure how to use them. They decided that a flat roof would be sufficient and placed the triangles on top to represent a chimney instead.
Our block house was built today. This final group used Duplo blocks represent the brick building. When they began, the structure came together a bit like a mountain with spires of blocks jutting off on all sides. Eventually, someone noticed that there was not a space on the inside to house the pigs. Down came the house and a new plan was drawn up. The bricks were rearranged into a hollow rectangle with more traditional walls sprouting up the sides. At first there were many holes in the structure that required filling as they went along. Later, once they became more accomplished at fitting the pieces together, there were fewer gaps. When they were ready to make a roof, the sides needed to be adjusted since each person’s side was of a different height. Luckily it came together in the end.
Hopefully, we’ll find a way to display all three houses in the main entrance of the school so you will be able to check out these construction endeavors.
When comparing the three renditions of “The Three Little Pigs”, we wondered which story seemed to be the most believable to our young listeners. We posted a Morning Message that asked, “Who do you believe, the wolf or the pigs?” Surprisingly, the majority of the children chose the wolf as the teller of truth. I’m wondering if this might be related to this age groups’ fascination with all things “bad” and “evil”.
If you happen to watch a large group of 4-6 year-olds play long enough, you’ll see what I’m talking about. One of the favorite themes in play every year is to be the bad guys or the evil (unicorn, horse, Batman, fairy, fill-in-the-blank). Young children are drawn to this type of play. Battling the bad guy allows children to enact control over their fears and anxieties about what they perceive to be good and evil in the world around them. Being the bad guy lets them play with the power they imbue on villains. This type of play lets the children work through their fears and impulses in a safe environment, where they know that they and their friends are not really bad, but only acting.