One of the students came in very excited about a story she made up at bedtime the night before. We read The Three Little Pigs the previous morning and she had been quite inspired. After telling us a bit of her story, we encouraged her to write it down to share with the class. This is a page from her tale of The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark.
Just in case your kid-reading is a bit fuzzy, allow me to translate:
Once upon a time, there was three little fish. First they made a house out of…
The writing above uses one of the kid-writing strategies we introduced a couple of weeks ago. When you are sounding out a word and you come to a sound you don’t know how to represent, use a dash instead. This shows the adult reader that the child can identify that a separate sound is represented, but that it is not in their repertoire, yet. Teachers and families can use these dashes to reinforce sound connections that are still progressing.
Last week our villain exploration led us to analyzing slightly more ambiguous bad guys. We began with the traditional tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Separating the characters in the story was easy enough, but when it was time to choose who the bad guy was, the class could not make a unanimous decision. Most recognized that a girl coming into your home when you are not there, and then damaging your things, makes for a not very nice girl. However, a couple of children held out to the bitter end that our blonde antagonist was the victim in the tale.
Many of the centers for the week focused on parts of Goldilocks. Using their grey matter and retelling skills, the children worked as a team to recreate the story for a class book. Each child illustrated and recalled a different portion of the story. Once it has been compiled and bound, it will be available in our book box for the children to read.
Another group explored the concepts of big, medium, and little while building with magna-tiles. They were instructed to design a home for each of the three bears according to their size. Although we have had many experiences with these blocks, it was surprisingly difficult to construct three separate sizes. Most of the children built only two sizes while a few built three homes of the same stature.
Last month Mrs. Hanczar, the music teacher, taught the children a song and dance about Thorn Rosa. This version of Sleeping Beauty has been a topic for play since. The class was already enamored with fairies and royalty, so this new tale spun them off into happily-ever-after. Taking their lead, I’ve been collecting traditional and re-written fairy tales for us to read and compare. We began our study by listing all of the people, places, things we could think of that can be found in fairy tales.
Where We Find Them
In Magical Lands
Our first in-depth study was of “The Princess and the Pea“. Numerous readings showed us that sometimes stories can be told in different ways. For instance, in some versions there were 20 mattresses stacked on the Princess’ bed and in others there were 100. Our retelling included only 6 since that was the space limit for our paper creations.
The bed frames were crafted out of sticks we collected on the playground. As a class, the children decided how we could create a frame. Each child then took those ideas and adapted them to fit their designs. Although I, of course, imagined that the beds would look like a traditional side view of a bed, they had other plans. Many of the designs feature a large rectangle surrounding the paper. Think of this as a view from the top of the bed. Others boast complicated designs with ladders and stairs that I can only assume are inspired by bunk beds or the need to climb up all of those mattresses.
During our discussion of characters, the class decided that there should be four actors in our story: The Queen, The King, The Prince, and The Princess. We drew these with permanent marker on watercolor paper and then painted in the color details. We taped a piece of embroidery floss on the back of each and then taped it to the back of the picture so we wouldn’t lose our puppets.
Retelling stories helps us understand more about how stories are crafted. As we remember the tale and share it with others, we explore setting, characters, plot, and voice. The more we know about how stories are constructed, the easier it is to make up and write our own. This activity also helps us with comprehension as we grow older and read stories independently. We become used to the conventions of a story and can identify when we’ve misread a word that sets the tale in a spin. Retelling also gives us confidence as owners of knowledge. Each child is assured that they are the experts with this tale and can share it with others.